The Scoop on Fruit

Determining how much fruit to consume is complicated for many people with diabetes. Because fruit is a source of naturally occurring glucose, some people with diabetes believe — either from their own experiences or from sources of dietary advice — that it can raise their blood glucose levels. Fruit is, of course, also a source of fructose, which has been associated with negative health effects even though it tends not to raise blood glucose levels very much. Until recently, though, there was very little reliable data on the effects of fruit in people with diabetes.


Earlier this month, a study on fruit consumption in people with diabetes was published by Nutrition Journal. The study was small, involving only 63 participants with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes. It was, however, randomized, meaning that some participants were randomly selected to be told to eat at least two pieces of fruit daily. The other participants were told to reduce their fruit consumption. As noted in a post on the study at the New York Times blog Well, all participants in the study were given individually appropriate medical care and counseled on other aspects of their diet and lifestyle, which included advice to limit their calorie intake. The high-fruit group ended up increasing its daily fruit consumption by an average of 125 grams, while the low-fruit group reduced its average consumption by 51 grams, compared with just before the study. The result was a daily average fruit consumption of 319 grams for the high-fruit group but only 135 grams for the low-fruit group, which is about the equivalent of a single orange or banana.

Perhaps surprisingly, this stark difference in the amount of fruit consumed had no measurable impact on blood glucose control, nor on body weight or waist circumference. Both groups saw improvements in each of these areas, most likely the result of both lifestyle changes and the medical care they received. While the high-fruit group saw a greater drop in HbA1c — 0.48%, versus 0.29% for the low-fruit group — the end result was nearly identical, with an average HbA1c level of 6.26% in the high-fruit group and 6.24% in the low-fruit group. The researchers concluded, based on this evidence, that advising people with newly diagnosed diabetes to reduce their fruit consumption would be misguided.

Like any study, though, this one has its limitations. In addition to its small size and likely lack of ethnic and racial diversity (it was conducted in Denmark), the study did not examine the effects of moderate versus very high levels of fruit consumption. This leaves open the possibility that there is an upper limit for safe fruit consumption for people with diabetes. The study also did not examine the health effects of different fruits, which vary widely in levels of sugar, fiber, and other nutrients. Eating half a pound of apples each day (high in fiber) may not yield the same results as eating half a pound of watermelon (low in fiber, high in sugar).

What do you think — is eating fruit a good idea for people with diabetes? Have you experienced better or worse blood glucose control as a result of changes in the amount of fruit you eat? Are some fruits fine, while others lead to blood glucose spikes? Have you noticed a difference between whole fruits and fruit juices? Leave a comment below!

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  • JohnC

    The study sure doesn’t agree with what my glucose meter has always told me. I eat some fruit but only a few slices at a time and work it in to not raise my blood sugar too much. Of course berries are the best choice.

    Thought I was reading science fiction 🙂

    “63 participants with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes” .. maybe that’s a clue. Most likely anybody with insulin dependent diabetes is shaking their head. Well anybody who actually uses their blood glucose meter anyway.

  • Pam Schmidt

    For the past 2 years I have been following the Weight Watchers Points plan. I’m a type 2, diagnosed about 7 years ago. Weight Watchers does not restrict fruit at all, giving it a value of 0 points. This plan has worked well for me and has helped me not only to keep my weight down, but to better manage my blood sugars. Of course, I never go “hog wild” and eat tons of fruit, but I find I can incorporate several servings of fruit per day into my diet with no adverse effect on my blood sugars. I’d much rather get more of my carbs from fresh fruit than from bread, rice, pasta & the like. Fruit satisifies my sweet tooth as well so I’m not so temped to indulge in sugary snacks & desserts. I say friut is a great choice for type 2 diabetics!

    Pam Schmidt
    Selah, Wa

  • John. Szewc

    I eat at least 4 or 5 pieces oh fruit a day and find my glucose level stay the same on the days that I eat only eat 1or 2 pieces. Carbohydrates are what effects me the most. Rice products are the worst.

  • Suzanne

    Isn’t fruit a carb?

  • Cris Hughes

    My daughter,who is studying a raw food diet, just told me last night that eating raw fruits & veggies can reverse diabetes. I was diagnosed 3 years ago & have been trying to control diabetes with diet & exercise. My goal is no medication & reversing it. Diabetes type 2 does run in my family. Hopefully more studies will help us to improve our health & lives, possibly eliminating diabetes! It doesn’t hurt to try it- less processed food – more natural raw foods & exercise.

  • Onoosh

    I’m a LADA or “1.5” diabetic, so perhaps that skews my results: but anything beyond one cup of mixed berries per day, at breakfast, raises my blood glucose too high for fruit to be a good choice for me. 🙁 This has been very sad, since I love fruit, and miss the fiber. But oh, well. Some day, when my body has destroyed all its own beta cells and I have to use fast-acting insulin as well as my nightly Levemir–a day I want to delay as long as possible–I suppose I will be able to adjust for a piece of fruit now and then. Until then, I’ll just be glad I can eat my breakfast berries.

  • Phil Watts

    I’m 45 and was diagnosed with type two a couple of years ago. I immediately cut out the sweets, sugary drinks and sugar in coffee, which had an effect, but did not get it completely under control. About three months ago I decided to dramatically change my diet. I cut down the huge portions of bread and pasta and dramatically increased my fruit and veg intake. I now have four portions of fruit a day (apple, banana, grapes and cherry tomatoes) and with a few veg I easily hit my ‘five a day’. In two to three months, I’ve lost three stone, my cholesterol has dropped to a very low level and my diabetes has gone from a HbA1c reading of 55 to 38. I’ve also recently started going to the gym to try to build muscle and would be interested in experiences of the impact of whey supplements on diabetes.