When you live with a condition that affects your blood sugar—whether diabetes, prediabetes, or hypoglycemia—keeping your sugar levels steady is a top priority. For people with diabetes, long-term elevated blood glucose can spell trouble in the form of increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss. And if you have prediabetes, you definitely want to watch sugar levels to avoid ending up with a full-blown version of the disease.
Of course, cutting back on sweets plays a major role in managing your sugars—which can feel like a real mood-killer. But you don’t necessarily have to nix all sweet foods to keep your sugar levels in the black. Some fruits can be surprisingly helpful choices! Granted, no fruits will actually lower your blood glucose (because they do, after all, contain sugar) but some options are better than others.
As a nutritionist, here are six fruits I recommend for keeping your blood sugar low. Then, don’t miss this list of the best drinks to lower your sugars.
In the summertime, who can resist a bowl of fresh blackberries? If you’re concerned about your blood sugar, you don’t have to! Blackberries have an extremely low glycemic index (GI) of 25.
Not familiar with the glycemic index? It’s a scale that measures how much certain foods raise blood sugar. According to the Mayo Clinic, foods with a score of 1 to 55 are low-GI, those that rank between 56 and 69 are medium-GI, and those 70-plus are high-GI. Blackberries’ humble score means they won’t spike blood sugar as much as high-GI fruits like mangoes or grapes.
Besides a low glycemic number, blackberries are loaded with fiber. Research shows a high-fiber diet can combat insulin resistance and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The berry bonanza continues. With their ample fiber content of 3.5 grams per cup and a low glycemic index of 53, blueberries definitely make the roster of best fruits for blood sugar. A 2016 review of multiple studies found that the indigo-colored berries could have anti-diabetic effects in humans and animals (but the need for more research on the topic is stressed).
Want to amplify these effects even further? Choose wild blueberries. Because of their smaller size, they have a higher ratio of skin to fruit—and the skin is where the fiber lives. Per cup, wild blueberries have over 6 grams of fiber. They’re also teeming with antioxidants that can reduce overall inflammation.
Underneath apples’ everyday persona lies a wealth of benefits for blood sugar. In addition to their hefty fiber content and low GI score, apples are rich in polyphenols—aka antioxidant compounds that could help streamline blood sugar levels. According to a 2016 review in the journal Nutrientspolyphenols could help stimulate insulin production and keep blood sugar from spilling or dropping.
Let’s settle the debate over whether tomatoes are fruits or veggies once and for all, shall we? They’re fruits, folks! (But maybe…also…vegetables?)
For the purposes of keeping blood sugar in check, I’m calling them a fantastic member of the fruity family. Tomatoes are low on the GI scale and low in carbs, so they won’t significantly elevate blood glucose.
Just be aware that tomato sauces and other tomato products often add sugar. Choose raw tomatoes to take advantage of the most nutrients and antioxidants.
You’re not alone if you believe oranges are a no-no for lowering blood sugar. Although orange juice can definitely send blood glucose sky-high, whole oranges are another story. Their exact glycemic index score has been debated, depending on variety, but falls in the low category between about 33 and 52. And with their anti-inflammatory vitamin C and numerous other antioxidants, plus ample fiber, they’re a sunshiny boon to blood sugar.
As fruits go, dates aren’t all that low in sugar—but that’s actually why, as a nutritionist, I recommend them. Sound confusing?
Here’s the deal: Rather than eat dates by the handful, my advice is to use them as a natural sweetener in foods like baked goods, energy bites, and smoothies.
When you substitute ground dates for other, higher-glycemic index sweeteners like white sugar or corn syrup, you’ll get the sweetness you crave and do better by your blood sugar. Medjool dates, for example, have a glycemic index of around 55.
So, unlike refined sweeteners, they won’t send your sugar soaring like a rocket to the moon. Plus, when you opt for dates instead of other, less nutritious sweeteners, you’ll get a boost of fiber, magnesium, and potassium.
Try making a date paste by blending dates and a bit of water until smooth. Add this paste to recipes in place of other sweeteners, tasting as you go.
For more healthy tips, be sure to read up on The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.