Benefits of Apples for People With Diabetes

Health benefits outweigh concerns about fructose

Man eating apple in workshop
Cultura RM Exclusive/Tom Lindboe

Apples are undeniably good for you—especially if you have diabetes. Fall's favorite fruit has lots of good-for-you nutrients. Plus, research has linked apples with certain health benefits related to diabetes. 

Nutritional Profile

A small apple (about the size of a tennis ball) delivers roughly 60 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrate, and 3 grams of fiber. It's also a good source of vitamin C and contains quercetin, a type of flavonoid found in the apple's skin.

Animal and in vitro (test tube) studies have found the quercetin may help to protect against certain cancers and help to kill cancer cells. A 2015 study published in Pharmacognosy concluded that quercetin improved glucose metabolism in liver and skeletal cells when studied in test tubes.

Apples contain soluble fiber which helps keep you full, lowers cholesterol, and slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Soluble fiber also has anti-inflammatory effects that may aid in the recovery from diabetes-related infections.

The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women to 38 grams for men. The skin of an apple alone provides 3 grams of fiber, about 12 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Diabetes Research

There's no denying fruits and vegetables are a healthy and important part of the diet for everyone, including those with diabetes.

Many people with diabetes are afraid to eat fruit because they think the sugar content is unhealthy for their diabetes, but fruit can be an important part of a diabetes meal plan. Due to its high fiber and high nutrition content, a serving of whole fruit can fit into a meal plan without causing sharp increases in blood sugars.

While apples contain sugar in the form of fructose, they can be a safe addition to any diabetes diet as long as you include them in the total carbohydrate count of a meal or snack.

Eating whole fruit (particularly apples, blueberries, and grapes) decreases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a 2013 study published in British Medical Journal. By contrast, drinking fruit juice is linked with an increased risk of diabetes.

With that being said, a few animal studies have examined the protective effect of cloudy apple juice on diabetes. A 2016 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that diabetic rats given cloudy apple juice and apple peel extract for 21 days experienced a decrease in their fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Researchers attribute the results to an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect of the food. 

Apples are full of polyphenols, plant compounds that some believe may protect against a variety of chronic diseases. 

Keep in mind that much of this research is either epidemiological (looking at trends among large swaths of the population) or done in test tubes and rats. Much more research needs to be done to see if the benefits are the same in humans.

A Word From Verywell

Apples are a fibrous fruit choice that can be incorporated into a diabetes meal plan. When choosing apples, adhere to a small sized fruit (the size of a tennis ball) and incorporate the carbohydrates into your meal plan.

While some research suggests that apple juice may be beneficial in managing diabetes, it's probably best to eat the whole fruit so that you can receive all the fiber. Limit juice for times when your blood sugar is low. Too much juice can cause blood sugars to spike and added calories can result in weight gain. 

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