The Glycemic Index of Apples

The glycemic index helps diabetics predict how different foods will affect their blood sugar. Knowing the potential glycemic effects of a food helps diabetics decide which foods they can eat safely with their condition and which ones they are better off avoiding altogether. Essentially, foods with low glycemic index scores are good for diabetes because they don’t raise blood sugar too much. This is because they provide limited amounts of carbohydrates. However, how much of a certain food you eat is just as important as because an excessive intake offsets the benefits of a low glycemic index.

What is the glycemic index of apples?

The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that measures how fast the carbohydrates in a food are broken down into sugar (glucose, more exactly) and absorbed into the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels. Below 55 is a low GI. Between 56-69 is a moderate GI. Between 70-100 is a high GI. The average glycemic index score of apples is 39, a low value determined for most commercial varieties. What this means for diabetics is that apples have a low enough carbohydrate content that, when eaten in reasonable amounts, do no produce much of an effect on blood sugar.

Apples glycemic index and load

While they do raise blood sugar (they are a source of carbohydrates after all), the overall rise is modest and manageable, even with diabetes. One of the two most important rules in diabetes is knowing how much or, better said, how little of apples or other foods you should eat. The aim is to determine your ideal serving size that gets you a low enough intake of carbohydrates that cannot possibly fuel significant blood sugar effects. The other crucially important rule being to choose low GI foods as often as possible.

How many carbs in an apple?

With diabetes, carbohydrate control is essential to managing the condition. And knowing how much carbs apples and other foods you eat contain per piece or serving is pivotal to keeping track of your intake in view of predicting effects on blood sugar. On average, there are 13.8 g of carbs in 100 g of apple, around 20.5 g of carbs in a small fruit, 30.8 g in a large fruit and 15 g of carbs in a cup of apple slices (at 109 g a cup). Of course, not all apples are the same. Some varieties like Fuji are slightly higher in carbohydrates (about 1.2-1.6 more g of carbs per 100 g than other varieties). Nutritional differences occur between the same types of fruit as well, but are usually minimal. The values offered here are estimates of the average apple carbohydrate content.

Apples glycemic index

How much sugar in an apple?

Part of the total carbohydrate content of apples and other fruits and foods is made of actual sugar. Here is how much sugar there is in apples in general: 10.39 g of sugar per 100 g, 15.48 g per small fruit, 32.17 g per large fruit and 11.33 g per cup of slices (at 109 g a cup). Some varieties like Granny Smith are slightly lower in sugar while others like Fuji are slightly higher. There may very well be slight differences within the same varieties since food nutrition is heavily influenced by various factors, including soil quality, degree of ripeness etc. However, these are usually minimal and should only produce visible health effects in the context of an excessive intake.

What is the glycemic load of apples?

As mentioned in the beginning, how much of something you eat affects blood sugar as much as the type of food you have. Even if you choose a low GI fruit like apples, eating too much at once will ultimately trump the benefits of a low glycemic index and raise blood sugar levels. This is where the glycemic load comes in. The glycemic load (GL) measures how fast the carbohydrates in a given serving of a food raise blood sugar levels. Below 10 is a low GL. Between 11-19 is a moderate GL. Over 20 is a high GL.

The GL score of a food is determined by multiplying the glycemic index score by the number of carbohydrates in a given serving of a food, then dividing by 100.
The glycemic load for a serving of 100 g of apples is 5 (low score) for a serving of 100 g.
The glycemic load of a small apple at 149 g is 8 (low score).
The glycemic load of a large apple at 223 g is 12 (moderate score).

A small serving ensures you get a limited amount of carbohydrates at once which helps you achieve better blood sugar control. For apples, 100 g, a cup of slices (weighing 109 g) or a small fruit promise your blood sugar will not be affected very much.

How many apples a day can you eat with diabetes?

There aren’t any official recommendations as to how many apples diabetics can eat per day with their condition. This is partly because apples come in different sizes and provide different amounts of carbohydrates, sugar and fiber, resulting in different effects on blood sugar. And partly because people are different and their conditions sometimes manifest differently, requiring personalized approaches. With this in mind, if you have diabetes and are considering introducing the fruit into your regular diet, start off with small amounts and see how they affect you individually, adjusting your intake according to your personal reactions, tolerance of apples and, of course, individual nutritional requirements.

Considerations on apples and diabetes:
1) Raw fruit are better for diabetes than cooked or dried ones. Cooking fruit raises their glycemic index.
2) Eating apples with skin ensures you get the most fiber from of the fruit which is good because fiber has blood sugar-lowering properties.
3) Fruit are still sources of carbohydrates and despite the presence of dietary fiber to limit their glycemic effects, they are still best eaten after a meal.
4) It’s best to enjoy one type of fruit at a time. Avoid fruit salads/mixes if you have diabetes.
5) Although apples are low-glycemic fruits, great for diabetes, do consider how their regular consumption affects you individually and adjust your intake according to your reactions and tolerance to them.

This post was updated on Thursday / August 13th, 2020 at 1:28 AM