dried apricots

What Are The Best Dry Fruits for Diabetics?

According to the latest National Diabetes Statistics Report by the CDC, approximately 11.3% of the U.S. population (or 37.3 million people) have diabetes and another 38% of adults (or 96 million people) over the age of 18 have prediabetes. Given these staggering statistics, it is crucial for a person living with diabetes or prediabetes to understand how the foods they eat can impact their blood sugar levels, in the present moment and over time.

Fruit of any kind, but especially dried fruit, is a tasty food option that many people enjoy.  Dried fruit is a convenient snack choice for picnics at the beach or park, or to keep in the glove compartment in the car while constantly on the go.  Kids love to open their lunch boxes and see their favorite dried cranberries or raisins for dessert!

A person living with prediabetes or diabetes, however, may wonder if they can safely consume dried fruit, especially alongside other carbohydrate-based foods like bananas, potatoes and pasta.  While there is a place in a diabetes-friendly meal plan for dried fruits, it’s important to understand how to combine these snacks with protein and fiber-rich food options, promoting balance to help prevent blood sugar spikes. 

Read on to learn which dried fruit choices may be your best options and how to safely eat them, so that you can reap the ample benefits they provide while confidently incorporating them into your existing diabetes nutritional plan! 

How Dried Fruit Affects Your Blood Sugar

When you eat any food—dried fruits included—the carbohydrates found in the food are broken down and released into your bloodstream as glucose molecules. These molecules help fuel your body and provide energy. When a person without prediabetes or diabetes eats carbohydrates, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin to help transport, store and/or use the glucose for energy. A person with prediabetes or diabetes is not able to produce or utilize insulin effectively, requiring them to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly, make lifestyle changes, and possibly take medications to help manage their blood sugar levels. Further, people living with prediabetes or diabetes need to carefully monitor their carbohydrate intake to keep their blood sugar in check.

While all individuals—including people with prediabetes or diabetes—can and should consume carbohydrates as part of a balanced meal plan, there are certain carbohydrate-based foods that cause blood sugars to rise more quickly, dried fruit included. Even though dried fruit contains vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, a person living with prediabetes or diabetes should be mindful of portions, and how to possibly combine these foods to mitigate blood sugar spikes after consumption.

Raisins - Dry fruits for diabetics

List of Dry Fruits for Diabetics to Eat 

While there are certainly a variety of dried fruits to choose from, they are not all created equally. Experts recommend choosing dried fruits with higher fiber content, since fiber will help slow digestion and therefore have less of an impact on blood sugar levels.

Dried fruits with the highest fiber content, are:

Apricots (40 g, 4 to 5 dried apricots)

  • 100 calories
  • 25 g carbohydrates
  • 22 g sugar
  • 3 g fiber
  • 1 g protein
  • 1 mg iron
  • 13 mg magnesium
  • 464 mg potassium

Dates (40 g, 4 dried dates)

  • 110 calories
  • 30g carbohydrates
  • 25g sugar
  • 3g fiber
  • 1g protein
  • 0.5mg iron
  • 17 mg magnesium
  • 262 mg potassium

Figs (40 g, 3 to 5 dried figs)

  • 110 calories
  • 26 g carbohydrates
  • 19 g sugar
  • 4 g fiber
  • 1 g protein
  • 0.8 mg iron
  • 27 mg magnesium
  • 272 mg potassium

*Prunes (40 g, 4 to 5 prunes)

  • 100 calories
  • 26 g carbohydrates
  • 15 g sugar
  • 3 g fiber
  • 1 g protein
  • 0.4 mg iron
  • 16 mg magnesium
  • 293 mg potassium

*It is important to note that prunes have the lowest sugar content of any dried fruit. A great choice!

Benefits of Eating Dried Fruit

May Improve Diet Quality: A recent 2021 cross-sectional study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who ate dried fruits had higher diet quality and greater intakes of nutrients than those who did not eat dried fruits. Given that nutrients like potassium have been included as a dietary nutrient of public health concern by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s important to focus on foods like dried fruits that contain potassium to help improve nutritional intake levels. 

May Prevent Bone Loss: A 2022 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating five to six prunes per day (about 50 g) for roughly six months can prevent loss of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, possibly reducing the risk of hip fractures. Benefits were extended when participants consumed the dried plums for 12 months, making consumption of this dried fruit a potential easy, nonpharmacologic treatment for helping prevent bone loss. This finding is extremely important for those living with prediabetes or diabetes to take note, as full-blown type 2 diabetes can increase one’s risk for developing osteoporosis.

Choosing the Best Dried Fruit for Diabetes

What to Look For: Take a peek at the Nutrition Facts panel and find the sugar information. The “added sugars” label should read 0 g. You can also look at the ingredients and ensure there are only preservatives added to maintain freshness in lieu of sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup or an alternative added sugar source.

What to Include: Nutritionists generally recommend including a variety-filled meal plan to reap the most benefit and meet your unique nutritional needs. Consider looking for no-added-sugar dried fruit trail mix options that are single servings and easy to toss in your bag for a portable, balanced snack. The protein and fat from the nuts and seeds in these combination snacks will also help prevent the blood sugar spike that might come from having a package of dried fruit alone.

What to Limit: Limit the amount of dried fruit that you eat in one sitting or throughout the day, even those that are made without added sugar. Research has found that people who eat dried fruit have higher caloric intake levels on those days when dried fruits were eaten. Also, be mindful of trail mixes with chocolates and yogurt-covered raisins or honey-sweetened peanuts, for they too can pack more added sugar than you may think. Thus, it’s important to be mindful of portions and overall diet quality throughout the week.

Tips to Enhance the Health Benefits of Dry Fruits

  • Pair dried fruit with a healthy fat, protein and fiber source to help slow absorption and prevent blood sugar spikes. Some great examples are nuts, nut butter and cheese.
  • Limit dried fruits with added sugars. Look for options with natural sugar sources and 0 grams of added sugar on the label.
  • Practice portion control. A tablespoon or two can go a long way to naturally satisfy a sweet tooth.

Fresh Grapes - List for type 2 diabetes dry foods

Which is better for people with diabetes: Dried fruit or fresh fruit?

Both fresh and dried fruits provide important nutrients you need in your meal plan, but there are significant differences when comparing the nutritional value of both forms of fruit.  Like comparing apples to oranges!  Unlike fresh fruits, dried fruit has a majority of its water content removed, making the end result a compact, highly concentrated source of nutrition. For instance, a cup of grapes weighs approximately 92 grams (g) and has 16 g of carbohydrates, but a cup of raisins, the dried form of a grape, weighs approximately 165 g and has 130 g of carbohydrates. While fresh fruit generally is preferred since it provides more satiety thanks to more fiber, larger servings, and more hydration due to their higher water content, dried fruit can be a suitable option when planned and paired appropriately with the above suggestions.

Can Diabetics Eat Dried Fruit?

So, can you eat dried fruit if you are living with diabetes or prediabetes? Yes! People living with these conditions can safely include dried fruit as part of a balanced, variety-filled nutritional plan.  It is in your best interest, however, to be mindful of portion size and pair dried fruits with an additional protein, fat and fiber source to prevent blood sugar spikes.  

As always, talk with your healthcare team or your CopilotIQ nurse on how you may add dried fruit to your existing diabetes meal plan to reap all of the benefits dried fruit has to offer! Don’t have a meal plan in place? Reach out and discuss with your nurse on how to create a great diabetes management plan to help you attain better overall health and wellness.

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