Apples are delicious, nutritious, and convenient to eat. They’re known to have several health benefits. Yet apples also contain carbs, which can affect blood sugar levels.
However, the carbs found in apples affect your body differently than the sugars found in foods containing refined and processed sugars.
Let’s talk about how apples affect blood sugar levels and how to incorporate them into your diet if you have diabetes.
Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They’re also highly nutritious. In fact, apples are high in:
- vitamin C
- several antioxidants
One medium apple contains 104 calories, 27 grams of carbs, and 9 milligrams of vitamin C (
A large part of an apple’s nutrient value is found in its colorful skin (
Furthermore, apples contain large amounts of water and fiber, which make them surprisingly filling.
Apples are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. They also help you feel full without consuming a lot of calories.
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.
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 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 (6).
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 (
Apples have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels and are unlikely to cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, even in those with diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the hormone that transports sugar from your blood to your cells. Insulin must be taken daily.
Apples contain plant compounds that may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance.
Several studies have found that eating apples is linked to a lower risk of diabetes.
A 2019 review of studies indicated that eating apples and pears was linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes (13).
Three cohort studies from 2013 found that greater consumption of whole fruits, specifically blueberries, grapes, and apples, was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The same was not found for fruit juice, however (
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. May slow down carb digestion, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes (
- Chlorogenic acid. May help your body use sugar more efficiently, though some results were inconclusive (
- Phlorizin. Could potentially slow down sugar absorption and lower blood sugar levels. Note that sample sizes were low in these studies and would need to be validated by other, longer-term studies (
The highest concentrations of beneficial antioxidants are found in honeycrisp and red delicious varieties of apples (
Eating apples on a regular basis may help prevent type 2 diabetes, as well as keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Apples are an excellent fruit to include in your diet if you have diabetes.
Most dietary guidelines for people living with diabetes recommend a diet that includes fruits and vegetables (21).
Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
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 27 grams of carbs an apple contains.
Also, be sure to monitor your blood sugar after eating apples and see how they affect you personally.
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 people with diabetes 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 nutrient value is in the skin (
- 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 (
- Limit your portion. Stick with one medium apple since larger portions will increase the likelihood of a blood sugar spike.
- Spread out your fruit intake. Spread your daily fruit intake throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable.