Apples Are Good For People With Diabetes

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. 

Nutrition Profile of Apples

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. Additionally, apples contain quercetin, a type of phytochemical known as a flavonoid, which is found in the apples skin. Animal research and research using cell cultures have found the quercetin may help to protect against certain cancers and help to kill cancer cells. In a 2015 study in Pharmacognosy magazine, researchers found that quercetin improved glucose metabolism in liver and skeletal cells when studied in test tubes.

Apples also contain soluble fiber—the kind that helps keep you full, slows down the absorption of nutrients (such as sugar) into your bloodstream, and helps to lower your cholesterol.  In addition to helping to regulate blood sugar and bowel function, soluble fiber is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help people with diabetes recover faster from infections.

The recommended daily intake for fiber is 25 (for women) to 38 (for men) grams a day. A skinned apple is still good for you, but with skin an apple provides 3 grams of fiber—about 12 percent of the recommended total daily intake.

Apples and Diabetes Research

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

Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), Audrey Koltun, says: " Many people with diabetes are afraid to eat fruit because they think the sugar content is unhealthy for their diabetes, but fruit can be part of a diabetes meal plan. Due to it's high fiber and high nutrition content, a serving of whole fruit can fit into a meal plan without causing sharp increases in blood sugars. As long as it is incorporated into the total carbohydrate of the meal or snack, it is a great and highly nutritious choice—especially as a dessert."

Eating whole fruits, but particularly apples, blueberries, and grapes is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a 2013 study published in BMJ. Note, that according to the same study, drinking fruit juice is linked with a higher risk of diabetes.

That being said, a few studies have examined the protective effect of cloudy apple juice on diabetes (in lab rats). In one 2016 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, rats with diabetes that were given cloudy apple juice and apple peel extract for 21 days saw their fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels decline. Researchers attribute the results to an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect. 

Apples are full of polyphenols, plant compounds that seem to protect against a variety of chronic diseases. 

Keep in mind that a lot of this research is either epidemiological (looking at trends among large swaths of the population) or done in test tubes and rats. So while it's not the strongest evidence out there, it is promising.

Recipes with Apples 

Munch on your favorite apple variety by hand, dip it in nut butter, or incorporate your apples into hot cereal, yogurt, salads, and dessert. 

Sweet and Crunch Fennel and Apple Salad

Baked Apples with Olive Oil Crumble

A Note 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. There is some research linking the benefits of apple juice in rats with diabetes, however, 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. Enjoy your favorite apple variety in recipes or sliced with some nut butter and cinnamon—yum! 

 

 

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