Oranges are a nutrient-rich fruit for people with diabetes. But aside from their general health benefits and being rich in vitamin C, oranges contain carbohydrates and may raise blood sugar.
If you have diabetes, you may wonder whether oranges are safe to eat.
That’s because people with diabetes have to keep a careful eye on their blood sugar levels, which are affected by their diet. In fact, diet, exercise, and medications are the best ways to keep your blood sugar levels in check (1).
There’s a common misconception that fruits — including oranges — are bad for people with diabetes and shouldn’t be eaten (
In actuality, oranges can be a healthy part of a diabetes-friendly diet — though you may have to limit your intake.
This article explains how oranges affect people with diabetes.
Low glycemic index
High GI foods, which may cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, include dried fruits, breakfast cereals, and bread.
Because oranges have a low GI, they trigger a slow rise in your blood sugar levels, making them more favorable for people with diabetes.
Still, GI shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when managing your blood sugar. Your body’s blood sugar response also depends on pairings with other foods like healthy fats or proteins.
A medium-sized orange boasts 4 grams of fiber (
In a review of 15 clinical studies in people with type 2 diabetes, fiber decreased both fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C, a marker of blood sugar regulation (
Vitamins and minerals
Oranges contain numerous vitamins and minerals that may be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.
Notably, elevated blood sugar levels give rise to oxidative stress, which may cause cellular damage and disease. If you have diabetes, you may have an increased need for vitamin C to help reverse oxidative stress (
A medium-sized orange also supplies 12% of the DV for folate. Although results are mixed, studies suggest that this mineral may lower insulin levels and improve insulin resistance, blood sugar management, and symptoms of diabetes-induced eye disease (
Insulin is a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, while insulin resistance is a condition in which your body stops responding to insulin.
Flavonoid antioxidants have a number of benefits for people with diabetes, including combatting inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance, as well as increasing insulin sensitivity (
Furthermore, blood oranges boast anthocyanins, a subclass of flavonoids common to red, purple, or blue fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that these compounds may fight oxidative stress, heart disease, and inflammation (
Oranges have several benefits for people with diabetes due to their low GI and nutrient profile, which includes fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and antioxidants.
There are no downsides to eating whole oranges if you have diabetes.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) encourages people with diabetes to eat citrus fruits like oranges (19).
What about other orange products?
All the same, you may need to limit your intake of other orange products if you have diabetes.
Although 100% orange juice provides several vitamins and minerals, it’s lacking fiber — which is essential for blood sugar regulation (
Plus, orange juice has a high GI and is usually paired with other carb-rich foods, which may increase your risk of high blood sugar levels. Thus, people with diabetes should limit their intake.
All the same, if your blood sugars fall too low — a condition known as hypoglycemia — a 4-ounce (120-mL) serving of orange juice may bring them back to normal levels.
Canned mandarin oranges
The ADA recommends buying canned oranges in juice rather than syrup to limit your intake of added sugar.
You should also look for phrases on the can, such as “no added sugars” or “unsweetened,” to help you make the best choice (21).
If you have diabetes, it’s best to limit your intake of orange juice and only buy canned oranges that are packaged in juice. In general, whole oranges are a better choice because of their fiber content.
If you have diabetes, you should strive to eat a variety of whole fruits, including oranges. Fruit plays a critical role in a healthy, balanced diet.
Whole oranges provide a broad spectrum of essential nutrients needed for blood sugar regulation and should be your first choice over 100% fruit juice.
How many should you eat?
To keep your blood sugar level within a normal range, it’s recommended to limit your carb intake to 50–60% of your total calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s 1,000–1,200 calories from carbs — or 250–300 total grams of carbs per day (
Because of differences in body size and activity level, there’s no magic number for how many oranges you should have.
Still, you can safely eat several servings of oranges per day, bearing in mind that one serving of carbs is 15 grams (
A single serving of various orange products is:
- 1/2 cup (123 grams) of canned mandarin oranges
- a medium-sized (154-gram) orange
- 4 ounces (120 mL) of 100% orange juice
The number of carbs needed at each meal and snack varies by body size and activity level. You should plan to eat around the same number of carbs at meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar levels steady (
For a meal plan that meets your individual needs, consult a registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator.
People with diabetes should eat oranges as part of a healthy diet. To help manage your blood sugar levels, you should limit your carb intake to around half of your daily calories.
If you have diabetes, eating a variety of fruits — including oranges — is good for your health.
Whole oranges may keep your blood sugar levels steady due to their low GI, fiber content, and other nutrients. In particular, their vitamin and antioxidant content may fight inflammation, heart disease, and oxidative stress resulting from high blood pressure.
In general, it’s better to eat whole oranges rather than drink orange juice.
If you need help including oranges in your meal plan, consult an RD or certified diabetes educator.