Red apple with one heart-shaped piece on wooden surface
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The Truth About Apples and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

You’ve heard ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but what if you have diabetes? Do apples and diabetes mix? I’m diving into the research so that you can feel confident eating apples on a diabetic diet.

Red apple with one heart-shaped piece on wooden surface

There’s just something about a juicy, crispy apple that’s irresistible, but should you be resisting it if you have diabetes? Just like other fruit, apples are a source of carbohydrates and natural sugar fructose.

The carbohydrates in apples do impact your blood sugar, but apples also have exciting health benefits for people with diabetes.

In this article, we’ll cover the health benefits of apples, how apples affect your blood sugar, and how you can incorporate them into your diabetes diet. 

Apple Nutrition

Like most fruit, apples are packed with essential nutrients.  One medium apple contains: 

  • Calories: 95
  • Protein: 0.5g
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 25g
  • Fiber: 4.5g
  • Vitamin C: 8.5mg (9% DV)
  • Antioxidants and polyphenols

Apples contain 4-5 grams of fiber with 1-2 grams soluble fiber and 3-4 grams insoluble fiber. The National Institute of Medicine fiber recommendations are 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. 

While both types of fiber are beneficial, soluble fiber has benefits specific to diabetes. Soluble fiber has been shown to help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can lead to better blood sugar management for people with diabetes. 

Other foods high in soluble fiber include carrots, broccoli, flaxseed, oats, and berries. 

Health Benefits of Apples For People with Diabetes 

Hand picking up an apple form a tree

Besides tasting delicious, apples have a few key nutrients that are beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. 

How Apples Impact Blood Sugar

Apples contain 25 grams of carbohydrate in 1 medium apple, which is almost 2 servings of carbohydrate, if you’re counting carbs. But even though they have a higher amount of carbs, the effect on your blood sugar is less than some other foods with the same amount of carbohydrate per serving due to their glycemic index

One way to measure how apples affect blood sugar is by looking at their glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) helps to rank food by how quickly it will cause a rise in blood sugar. The rankings range from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (pure sugar).

The GI of apples is 36, which is considered a low GI food. This means, compared to other foods with a moderate or high GI, apples will result in a smaller rise in blood sugar.

Apples and Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is something that often occurs in type 2 diabetes. This is when your cells resist insulin, which leads to less glucose moving into the cells.  When glucose can’t get into the cells to be used as energy it gets stuck in the bloodstream and results in higher blood sugar. 

A recent animal study found that polyphenols extracted from apple skins resulted in an increase in insulin sensitivity. The cells became more accepting of insulin, which increases the amount of glucose moved into the cells and out of the blood. 

Apples and Diabetes Prevention

Several components of apples can benefit blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes, but what about reducing the risk of developing diabetes? A 2002 Finnish study of 10,000 people discovered an association between apple consumption and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.  

Quercetin, a potent antioxidant found in apples, as well as many other fruits and vegetables, could also play a role in diabetes risk. In the same Finnish study, higher intakes of quercetin were associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk. 

Can Diabetics Eat Apples?

Woman holding glucometer in one hand and paper with smiley in other hand

If you’ve newly been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re likely confused about which foods you can, can’t, should, or shouldn’t eat. But don’t worry, I’m here to help!

Apples are a great choice for anyone, even people who have diabetes. With their high fiber content and potent antioxidants and polyphenols, they can be a healthy and delicious part of a diabetes diet. 

It’s better to eat apples with the skin on instead of apple juice or applesauce. The skin of the apple contains a considerable amount of the fiber and polyphenols, so you’ll miss out on a majority of health benefits without it. 

How to Eat Apples with Diabetes

Even though apples are nutritious, you’ll want to consider a couple of things when eating them to best manage your blood sugar. 

  1. Your portion. A medium apple has 25 grams of carbohydrate. Eating more than that in one sitting could result in a blood sugar spike. Consider this when buying your apples.

    Look for apples that your hand can or can almost fit around. The big Honeycrisp apples that hit the shelves every fall will have considerably more carbs and sugar in them than a small Fuji, Gala, or Granny Smith. 
  2. What you’re eating with your apple. Eating an apple by itself may result in a higher blood sugar than if you paired it with another food that contains fat and protein. Fat and protein help to slow down the digestion of your meal or snack, helping the sugar to hit your bloodstream more slowly than if you eat a carbohydrate by itself.

    Pairing even a small apple with something like caramel sauce or a sweetened fruit dip will likely lead to blood sugar spikes. Pairing a high carb fruit with a high carb dip generally results in a high blood sugar. 

Try this simple apple dip for a satisfying and delicious diabetes friendly snack!

Mix together: 

  • ¼ cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • ½  teaspoon cinnamon

You’ll digest the carbs from the apple more slowly with the added protein and fat from the yogurt and peanut butter. Plus, you’ll benefit from cinnamon and its blood sugar lowering effects!

Wondering what other foods are good for diabetes?

Red apple with cinnamons sticks beside and walnuts with and without shell sprinkled around, with a white cloth in the background on wooden surface

Final Thoughts

If you have diabetes, apples can be a healthy and delicious part of your diet. The fiber, polyphenols, and antioxidant content promote a slowed release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream and improve insulin sensitivity. 

Remember that each of us is unique and that foods can affect us differently. Check in with your diabetes management team if you’re concerned with your blood sugars or have questions on how to make apples fit into your meal plan. 

The bottom line is that you can absolutely enjoy apples if you like them. They have potential health benefits for diabetes and make for a perfectly delicious snack any time of year. 

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