glycemic index

We humans come by our sweet tooth naturally: Our bodies need carbohydrate because it provides energy to cells. But for the body to be able to use it for energy, we need insulin. And when our bodies don’t produce any insulin, or are unable to use it and/or make enough of it properly — which is type 1 and type 2 diabetes, respectively — we’re at risk for high blood sugar levels. High levels can lead to chronic complications such as nerve, eye, or kidney damage, or worse.

What Is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) tells you how quickly foods containing carbohydrate affect your blood sugar level when eaten by themselves. According to the American Diabetes Association, a GI score of 55 or below is low, 56 to 69 is moderate, and a score of over 70 is considered high. The lower the GI score, the more slowly the rise in blood sugar, which can help the body better manage post-meal changes.

Most whole fruits are on the moderate to low end of the GI, making them a very good choice for people with diabetes. Many fruits are also packed with vitamins A and C, as well as fiber.

1. Cherries

GI Score: 20

Cherries are high in potassium, and are packed with antioxidants, which will give your immune system a boost. Because cherries have a short growing season, it can be tough to get them fresh. However, canned tart cherries, which have a GI score of 41, are a fine substitute, as long as they are not packed in sugar.

Learn the health benefits of cherry juice! »

2. Grapefruit

GI Score: 25

The mighty grapefruit packs in well over 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Something to watch out for: Grapefruit affects how a number of prescription drugs work. Check with your doctor about eating grapefruit (or drinking grapefruit juice) if you’re taking prescription medicines.

Read more about this tangy titan of health! »

3. Dried Apricots

GI Score: 32

Apricots bruise easily, so you sometimes can’t find the best fresh apricots. (They get shipped while they’re still green to avoid bruising, but they don’t ripen well off the tree.) Dried apricots are a great alternative when eaten in small amounts. Because they are dried, the amount of carbohydrate they provide is higher than the whole fruit. However, they have one-fourth of the daily copper requirement and are high in vitamins A and E. Try them with pork dishes, salads, or grains like couscous.

4. Pears

GI Score: 38

Enjoy the rich, subtle sweetness of pears, whether fresh or gently baked. They’re healthiest with the peel on, providing over 20 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake.

Try this summery recipe for pear and pomegranate salad!»

5. Apples

GI Score: 39

There’s a reason why apples are America’s second favorite fruit (after the banana, of course). In addition to satisfying your need for crunch, one sweet-tart apple with the peel on provides nearly 20 percent of your daily fiber needs.

Keep it Fresh!
Enjoy fresh fruit rather than processed, when possible: Processed foods tend to have higher GI scores, according to the American Diabetes Association. That said, there are a few instances in which canned or dried fruits make excellent choices.

6. Oranges

GI Score: 40

Oranges will boost your vitamin C. There is plenty of healthy fiber in an orange, too. Substitute red blood oranges in this recipe for bright color and a new taste.

Try this recipe for orange, ginger, and sweet potato soup! »

7. Plums

GI Score: 40

Plums bruise easily too, making them hard to get to market. You can enjoy the nutritional benefit of plums in their dried state as prunes, but be careful with portion size as dried fruits have the water removed and thus have more carbohydrate. Fresh plums rank at 40 on the GI, while prunes rank at 29.

8. Strawberries

GI Score: 41

Fun fact: Strawberries are so high in fiber, eating them can get rid of coffee stains on your teeth! There are many varieties of strawberry that you can grow yourself in the warmer months. Enjoy them raw for a healthy serving of vitamin C. You can also try them in a soy-based smoothie.

Mix strawberries in with this refreshing summer fruit gazpacho soup! »

9. Peaches

GI Score: 42

The average peach contains just 68 calories, and is packed with 10 different vitamins, including A and C. They’re also a great addition to smoothies, whether they’re mixed with blueberries or mango!

10. Grapes

GI Score: 53

Grapes, as with all fruits where you eat a lot of the skin, provide healthy fiber. Grapes are also a good source of vitamin B6, which supports brain function and mood hormones.