Do Apples Affect Diabetes and Blood Sugar Levels?

Blood Glucose Meter and Red ApplesApples are delicious, nutritious and convenient to eat.

Studies have shown that they have several health benefits.

Yet apples also contain carbs, which impact blood sugar levels.

However, the carbs found in apples affect your body differently than the sugars found in junk foods.

This article explains how apples affect blood sugar levels and how to incorporate them into your diet if you have diabetes.

Apples Are Nutritious and Filling

Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world.

They’re also highly nutritious. In fact, apples are high in vitamin C, fiber and several antioxidants.

One medium apple contains 95 calories, 25 grams of carbs and 14% of the daily value for vitamin C (1).

Interestingly, a large part of an apple’s nutrients is found in its colorful skin (2).

Furthermore, apples contain large amounts of water and fiber, which make them surprisingly filling. You’re likely to be satisfied after eating just one (3).

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Bottom Line: Apples are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. They also help you feel full without consuming a lot of calories.

Apples Contain Carbs, as Well as Fiber

If you have diabetes, keeping tabs on your carbohydrate intake is important.

That’s because of the three macronutrients — carbs, fat and protein — carbs affect your blood sugar levels the most.

That being said, not all carbs are created equal. A medium apple contains 25 grams of carbs, but 4.4 of those are fiber (1).

Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of carbs, causing them to not spike your blood sugar levels nearly as quickly (4).

Studies show that fiber is protective against type 2 diabetes, and that many types of fiber can improve blood sugar control (5, 6).

Bottom Line: Apples contain carbs, which can raise blood sugar levels. However, the fiber in apples helps stabilize blood sugar levels, in addition to providing other health benefits.

Apples Only Moderately Affect Blood Sugar Levels

Whole Green Apple and a Slice of Apple

Apples do contain sugar, but much of the sugar found in apples is fructose.

When fructose is consumed in a whole fruit, it has very little effect on blood sugar levels (7).

Also, the fiber in apples slows down the digestion and absorption of sugar. This means sugar enters the bloodstream slowly and doesn’t rapidly raise blood sugar levels (4).

Moreover, polyphenols, which are plant compounds found in apples, also slow down the digestion of carbs and lower blood sugar levels (8).

The glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL) are useful tools to measure how much a food affects blood sugar levels (9).

Apples score relatively low on both the GI and GL scales, meaning that they cause a minimal rise in blood sugar levels (10, 11).

One study of 12 obese women found that blood sugar levels were over 50% lower after consuming a meal with a low GL, compared to a meal with a high GL (12).

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Bottom Line: Apples have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels and are unlikely to cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, even in diabetics.

Apples May Reduce Insulin Resistance

Apple with a Heart on a Turquoise Table

There are two types of diabetes — type 1 and type 2.

If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that transports sugar from your blood to your cells.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin but your cells are resistant to it. This is called insulin resistance (13).

Eating apples on a regular basis might reduce insulin resistance, which should lead to lower blood sugar levels (8, 14).

This is because the polyphenols in apples, which are found primarily in apple skin, stimulate your pancreas to release insulin and help your cells take in sugar (2, 8).

Bottom Line: Apples contain plant compounds that may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance.

The Antioxidants Found in Apples May Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

Yellow, Green and Red Apples

Several studies have found that eating apples is linked to a lower risk of diabetes (2, 15).

One study found that women who ate an apple per day had a 28% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than women who didn’t eat any apples (16).

There are multiple reasons apples might help prevent diabetes, but the antioxidants found in apples likely play a significant role.

Antioxidants are substances that prevent some harmful chemical reactions in your body. They have numerous health benefits, including protecting your body from chronic disease.

Significant amounts of the following antioxidants are found in apples:

  • Quercetin: Slows down carb digestion, helping prevent blood sugar spikes (17).
  • Chlorogenic acid: Helps your body use sugar more efficiently (18, 19).
  • Phlorizin: Slows down sugar absorption and lowers blood sugar levels (20, 21).

The highest concentrations of beneficial antioxidants are found in Honeycrisp and Red Delicious apples (22).

Bottom Line: Eating apples on a regular basis may help prevent type 2 diabetes, as well as keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Should Diabetics Eat Apples?

Apples are an excellent fruit to include in your diet if you have diabetes.

Most dietary guidelines for diabetics recommend a diet that includes fruits and vegetables (23).

Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

In addition, diets high in fruits and vegetables have repeatedly been linked to lower risks of chronic disease, such as heart disease and cancer (24, 25, 26).

In fact, a review of nine studies found that each serving of fruit that was consumed daily led to a 7% lower risk of heart disease (27).

While apples are unlikely to cause spikes in your blood sugar levels, they do contain carbs. If you’re counting carbs, be sure to account for the 25 grams of carbs an apple contains.

Also, be sure to monitor your blood sugar after eating apples and see how they affect you personally.

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Bottom Line: Apples are highly nutritious and have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels. They are safe and healthy for diabetics to enjoy on a regular basis.

How to Include Apples in Your Diet

Sliced Red Apple

Apples are a delicious and healthy food to add to your diet, regardless of whether you have diabetes or not.

Here are some tips for diabetics to include apples in their meal plans:

  • Eat it whole: To reap all of the health benefits, eat the apple whole. A large part of the nutrients is in the skin (2).
  • Avoid apple juice: The juice does not have the same benefits as the whole fruit, since it’s higher in sugar and missing the fiber (28, 29).
  • Limit your portion: Stick with one medium apple since larger portions will increase the glycemic load (11).
  • Spread out your fruit intake: Spread your daily fruit intake throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Take Home Message

Apples do contain carbs, but they have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels when eaten as a whole fruit.

They are highly nutritious and a great choice for a healthy diet.

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