In this article, we look at what diabetes is, whether eating too much fruit can cause it, and the medical guidelines for how much fruit to eat.
Excess fruit and diabetes risk
Fruit is safe for people with diabetes to eat in moderation.
Eating too much sugar can contribute to weight gain, which may lead to higher blood sugar levels and prediabetes.
These are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Fruit contains many vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but they also have a high natural sugar content. However, this makes them great as a replacement for artificial sweeteners and table sugar as a supplement for sweetness.
Generally, eating fruit as part of a healthful diet should not increase the risk of diabetes. A diet that is high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats is likely to be more of a risk.
However, consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of fruit may add too much sugar to the diet.
Choosing fresh fruit rather than dried fruit, and limiting the intake of fruit juice or smoothies can help reduce a person's overall sugar intake.
Fruit guidelines for people with diabetes
The right amount of fruit depends on a person's age, sex, and how much exercise they do.
For people who do less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, the United States Department of Agriculture recommend the following:
|Age||Recommended amount of fruit per day|
|Children||2–3 years old||1 cup|
|4–8 years old||1–1.5 cups|
|9–13 years||1.5 cups|
|Girls||14–18 years||1.5 cups|
|Boys||14–18 years||2 cups|
|Women||19–30 years||2 cups|
|over 30 years||1.5 cups|
|Men||over 19 years||2 cups|
Examples of 1 cup of fruit include:
- 1 small apple
- 32 grapes
- 1 large orange
- 8 large strawberries
- 1 cup of 100-percent fruit juice
Dried fruit contains more sugar than fresh or frozen fruit. For example, half a cup of dried fruit has an equivalent amount of sugar to 1 cup of fruit in any other form.
People who do more than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day may be able to eat more fruit than those who do not.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes leads to blood sugar spikes that are difficult to control.
Diabetes causes a person's blood sugar, or glucose, levels to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. It can occur at any age, but it usually develops later in life. In people with type 2 diabetes, the cells do not respond appropriately to insulin. Doctors call this insulin resistance.
Insulin causes sugar to move from the bloodstream into the body's cells, which use it as an energy source.
When a person eats, their digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose. If there is not enough insulin in the body, or the cells are not responding correctly to the insulin, sugar can accumulate in the bloodstream and lead to a range of symptoms and health complications.
A person cannot always prevent type 2 diabetes, but often, making lifestyle and dietary changes can reduce the risk of developing this condition.
Eating a healthful diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise can reduce blood glucose levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Should people with diabetes eat less fruit?
People who are overweight are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One of the main causes of weight gain is eating more calories than a person burns off. Sugary foods and drinks are usually high in calories.
Staying within the recommended allowance for fruit should not increase a person's risk for diabetes. Fruit juice is particularly high in sugar. Drinking no more than 1 cup of fruit juice per day can help keep sugar intake within healthful limits.
Many processed or baked foods, such as biscuits and ketchup, contain added sugar. Eating less of these foods can help a person reduce their calorie and sugar intakes.
People with prediabetes have blood glucose levels that are high, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Having prediabetes does not mean that a person will definitely develop diabetes, but it does increase the risk.
By lowering their blood glucose levels, a person with prediabetes may be able to prevent it from developing into type 2 diabetes. Losing weight and engaging in moderate daily exercise can help reduce the risk.
Also, certain medications can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Can people with diabetes eat fruit?
Fruit can play a key role in a balanced diet.
Maintaining a healthful diet is an important part of managing diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommend eating fruit, but people with diabetes often need to plan their meals. They may need to monitor the amount of sugar in their diet or avoid eating too many carbohydrates.
Fruit contains carbohydrates and sugars, and a person with diabetes may want to consider this when putting together a meal plan. Fruit is also high in fiber, and foods that contain fiber take longer to digest, so they raise blood sugar more slowly.
All foods that contain carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels, and some foods raise these levels more than others. As a result, some people use the glycemic index (GI) to plan their meals.
The index measures the extent to which a type of food raises a person's blood glucose levels. Foods with low GI scores affect these levels less than those with high GI scores.
Most fruits have low GI scores, but melons and pineapple are in the high range. Processing food increases its GI ranking, so fruit juice has a higher score than a whole piece of fruit. Ripe fruit also has a higher GI score than unripe fruit.
Combining a fruit that has a high GI score with low-scoring foods can be a healthier choice. This might involve, for example, pairing ripe melon slices with whole-grain toast.
Dried fruit, fruit juice, and certain tropical fruits, like mangoes, tend to contain more sugar. It may be a good idea to limit portions or eat these foods less often.
Some canned fruit has added sugar or is packaged in syrup. A person may benefit from choosing fruit canned in juice or low-sugar syrup instead.
Eating fruit to reduce diabetes risk
A 2017 study, conducted with data from a Chinese biobank, found a significant association between eating fresh fruit and having a lower risk of diabetes. Participants with diabetes also tended to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular problems if they ate more fresh fruit.
However, the study's authors did not determine a specific cause for their findings. It could be that people who regularly eat fresh fruit tend to have a more healthful diet overall.
Eating fresh fruit may not be enough on its own to reduce the risk of diabetes.
Being overweight or having high blood sugar are both risk factors for developing diabetes. The causes of diabetes are complex, but a person is very unlikely to develop the condition solely from eating too much fruit.
Eating fruit in moderation is an important part of a healthful diet. Limiting the amount of dried fruit and fruit juice in the diet can help reduce the overall intake of sugar.