Type 2 Diabetes and Fruits: The FAQs

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“Can I eat fruits?”
“Will eating fruits cause my blood sugar level to increase?”
“Which fruit has more sugar (that I need to avoid)?”
“Can I eat banana or mango?”

These are the common questions people would ask when it comes to fruits and blood sugar. Many people, especially those with diabetes or high blood sugar, are afraid to eat fruits because they are worried that eating fruits will increase their sugar level.

Can people living with diabetes eat fruits?

Yes! Fruits are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibres. They should be included in your daily diet. Nevertheless, fruits contain carbohydrates. Over consumption of fruits would lead to an increase in the blood sugar, which is the same as other sources of carbohydrates such as rice and bread. So, mind your portion and include fruits in carbohydrate counting.

Is it true that sweeter fruits tend to raise blood sugar easily?

It is not exactly the case! Sweetness does not truly reflect the carbohydrate content of a fruit. The sweetness is mainly contributed by its natural sugars (referring to mono- and di- saccharides) i.e. glucose and fructose. These sugars are derived from starches (referring to polysaccharide and it has minimal sweetness) in fruits as it get ripened. Both the natural sugars and starches are part of carbohydrates and hence could have an impact on your blood sugar. Sweeter fruits could have higher proportion of natural sugars whereas those with minimal sweetness could have fewer sugars but higher proportion of starches. One serving of any fruit, regardless of its sweetness, should contain about 15 g carbohydrates and the effect on blood sugar is about the same among all fruits in one serving.

What is the best fruit for people living with diabetes?

All fruits are not created equal and each one of them has its own unique nutritional profile especially their health-enhancing phyto-chemicals. Consuming a variety of food including different types of fruit helps to fulfil your daily nutrient requirement. Generally speaking, all fruits are good for you as long as you consume them within your carbohydrate budget. Fruits with added sugar, such as canned fruits in syrup or dried fruits coated with sugar, and commercial fruit juices/ drinks/ punches are not advisable to be consumed as they tend to have higher carbohydrate content and less stomach-filling than natural and whole fruits. Your carbohydrate could also be exceeded easily if you do not control the portion of the food intakes.

I heard that some fruits, e.g. watermelon, raise blood sugar more than the others. Do I have to avoid these fruits?

You do not need to limit your options in the type of fruits that you can consume even though there are some evidences showing that certain fruits tend to raise blood sugar more than the others. ‘Glycaemic Index’ (GI) is the system used to classify carbohydrate-containing food according to its potential in raising blood sugar. Food with a high GI raises blood sugar more than food with low and medium GI. However, the same type of food can have different GI values as many factors such as ripeness, processing, food combination, soluble fiber, and acidity, can alter the GI value. In addition, there is still lack of consistent and convincing evidence showing the efficacy of applying GI in blood sugar control. Instead, monitoring total carbohydrate intake remains as the key strategy in the dietary management of diabetes. Yet, GI may be helpful for you in fine-tuning your diet plan.

How much fruits can I eat if I have diabetes?

Recommended intake of fruits for adults is 2-3 servings daily. It is important to be sure that your fruits intake is counted as part of your carbohydrate sources and it is within your carbohydrate budget. One serving of fruit should contain about 15g of carbohydrates and the table below shows the examples of the one serving:-

Type Serving size Type Serving size
Orange 1 Medium Papaya 1 slice
Apple Pineapple
Custard apple Watermelon
Star fruit Soursop
Pear Pomelo 5 slices
Peach Duku langsat 8 pieces
Persimmon Grapes
Sapodilla Langsat
Kiwi Longan
Banana 1 small (60g) Water apple, small
Guava ½ fruit Lychee 5 pieces
Mango ½ small Cempedak 4 pieces
Mangosteen 2 small Jack fruit 4 pieces
Plum 2 small Prunes 3 pieces
Durian 2 medium seeds Dates, dried 2 pieces
Rambutan 5 whole Raisin 20g (1 tablespoon)

Adapted from Medical Nutrition Therapy Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (2nd ed)

Take home message

Fruits are delicious and nutritious. They should be part of your healthy diet and there are no reasons to avoid them. However, you should remember that moderation is the key, as controlling carbohydrate intake is part of diabetes management. Do not hesitate to consult a dietitian should you face any difficulties in diet plans and modifications for diabetes management.

Lin Eng Yan
Dietitian from HealthScan Malaysia

Ng Kar Foo
Corporate Dietitian