Can diabetics eat apples? Yes, diabetics can eat fresh apples safely with their condition, provided intake is limited to amounts small enough so they don’t raise blood sugar levels too much too fast. Depending on how well managed the metabolic condition is or isn’t, intake may differ slightly between diabetic patients, but should remain low nonetheless. Ideally, everyone with diabetes should see a doctor or dietitian and receive a personalized eating plan that centers around a maximum daily recommended intake of carbohydrates and sugars. Then based on their individual nutritional requirements, diabetics should plan meals ahead so that they remain within the recommended intakes.
When deciding what to eat with diabetes, there are several nutritional factors to take into account. For example, with apples, it’s all about total carbohydrate content, sugar content and glycemic index and glycemic load. The lower the total carbohydrate, sugar, glycemic index and glycemic load, the better the food for diabetes and the less likely the spikes in blood sugar levels, provided intake is moderate. Other nutritional aspects such as vitamin, mineral, antioxidants or fiber content may provide further benefits for the condition.
Apple carbohydrate and sugar content. Despite there being a wide range of varieties, for the most part, nutritional profiles are similar.
100 g of fresh apple with skin has 13.8 g of total carbohydrates, of which 10.4 g are sugars and 2.4 g dietary fiber.
One larger fruit with skin, weight estimated at 223 g, has 30.8 g of carbohydrates, of which 23.17 g are sugars and 5.4 g dietary fiber.
One small fruit with skin, weight estimated at 149 g, has 20.58 g of carbohydrates, of which 15.48 g are sugars and 3.6 g dietary fiber.
Since values are not excessive, some diabetics may be able to eat half of or a whole apple without any side effects and a minimal effect on blood sugar levels.
Apples glycemic index (GI): 39 (low). The glycemic index is a scale that measures how fast the carbohydrates in a plant food raise blood sugar levels, compared to the effects of pure glucose. Below 55 is a low GI. Between 55-69 is a moderate GI. Between 70-100 is a high GI. Diabetics are generally advised to choose fruits on the lower GI scale such as apples. This is because low glycemic index foods tend to raise blood sugar levels more slowly, more steadily, reducing the likelihood of fluctuations that could be a source of side effects.
Apples glycemic load (GL): 5 (low). The glycemic load measures how fast a serving of a certain plant food raises blood sugar levels. The GL value is calculated by dividing the glycemic index of a food by 100, then multiplying it by the grams of carbohydrates in a serving size.
A glycemic load of 10 or less is low. Between 11-19 is moderate. Over 20 is high.
Fresh apples have a glycemic index (GI) of 39 (low) and 13.8 g of carbs per 100 g of fruit. Based on the formula, the GL is: 39/100 X 13.8 = 0.39 X 13.8 = 5.38 (estimated at 5).
When it comes to eating for diabetes, the glycemic load of foods is sometimes seen as a more accurate value because it takes into account portion size and is thus believed to better predict the effects of various foods on blood glucose levels.
But does eating apples affect diabetes and blood sugar? Yes, it does. Apples and other fruits have simple sugars and digestible carbohydrates that are broken down into simple sugars following digestion. Therefore, eating them contributes to blood sugar levels. But to what extent apples affect blood sugar can only be determined by intake. A moderate intake of the fresh fruit provides a steady increase in blood sugar levels, while an excessive intake causes fluctuations (highs and lows) that are bad for diabetes. When you eat apples with diabetes, the general recommendation is to keep intake low enough so that you don’t experience highs and lows that could be a source of side effects.
This can be achieved with the help of smart eating advice such as:
1) Avoid eating fresh fruits on an empty stomach, before a meal.
2) Limit intake to one serving a day. If needed, spread that one serving over the course of an entire day.
3) To further reduce impact on blood sugar levels, it helps to have a serving of apples after a light protein, low fat, low carbohydrate meal. Protein and fat help delay digestion and sugar absorption.
4) Combine fresh apples with a bit of unsalted peanut butter, a few raw walnuts, almonds, a bit of cottage cheese, plain yogurt or other healthy sources of fat and protein to slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream.
5) Remember that not everyone reacts the same way to the same foods. If you tolerate apples well, then you can continue to eat them with moderation with diabetes. But if you feel sick after eating apples with the condition, it’s best to discontinue consumption and see your doctor for advice.
How many apples can a diabetic eat per day? Such a recommendation doesn’t exist and it probably never will. Why? Because not all diabetics react the same way to the same fruit or the same amount of certain fruits. Most diabetics can eat almost any fruit in moderate amounts as long as, at the end of the day, they haven’t exceeded their maximum recommended intake of carbohydrates and sugar. This is enough to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels and complications of the condition. Depending on a diabetic patient’s individual nutritional requirements for carbohydrates and sugar, type of diabetes and level of control over symptoms and evolution of disease, anything from half an apple to one small or medium apple a day may be fine. Ideally, intake should be determined by an expert dietitian.
Other benefits of apples for diabetes:
1) Low energetic value (52 kcal/100 g of fruit with skin), low-fat (0.17 g of fat/100 g) and good fiber content (2.4 g of dietary fiber/100 g), good for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.
2) Promote healthier blood cholesterol profile, with benefits for general cardiovascular health thanks to fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.
3) Modest vitamin C content, vitamin B6 and potassium content, contribute towards wound healing, immune system function and blood pressure.
4) Apple skin is an important source of pectin, a type of dietary fiber known to regulate digestion and relieve constipation. This can further hold benefits for weight loss.
5) Rich source of phenolic antioxidants (flavanols, quercetin, catechin, epicatechin etc.) which promote reduced risks of heart disease and offer a certain level of prevention against diabetes type 2.
6) Studies show apple polyphenols (naturally occurring elements) have hypoglycemic effects and improve insulin sensitivity (study: Apple polyphenol extract improves insulin sensitivity in vitro and in vivo in animal models of insulin resistance. Published in Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016; 13: 32).
Dried apples and diabetes. Dried apples, even unsweetened varieties, pack too much sugar which may hold side effects for the condition if intake is excessive, generating fluctuations in blood sugar levels, feelings of unwell and associated complications over time. As little as 100 g of unsweetened dried apples contains 65 g of carbohydrates, of which 57 g are sugars and has 243 kcal, which is a lot. As little as 3-4 rings of the dried fruit contain about as much sugar as 100 g of the fresh fruit, if not more. But the biggest problem has to be that it’s simply too easy to overeat, hence the reason the fresh fruit is preferred over the dried fruit.