The 12 best fruits, vegetables and berries for diabetes
The 12 Best Fruits, Vegetables and Berries for Diabetes
Multiple studies have found that blueberries confer health benefits in animals and humans.1-3
For instance, insulin sensitivity significantly improved in insulin resistant men and women who consumed 2 smoothies per day with blueberry extract for 6 weeks, compared to similar smoothies without blueberry extract.1 The dose was equivalent to 2 cups of fresh blueberries per day (300 grams or 10½ ounces).
Another study on patients with metabolic syndrome found that blueberries significantly reduced blood pressure (-5%) and other heart disease risk factors compared to placebo.2 The dose was equivalent to 350 grams of fresh blueberries per day (12½ ounces or 2.4 cups).
A supplement, Blueberin, made mostly from blueberry leaves, reduced fasting blood sugar by 27% in type 2 diabetics, while reducing inflammation and improving liver health. Placebo, on the other hand, did not reduce blood sugar.3
I think it’s best to divide the blueberries between morning and evening to keep a steady state of the healthy compounds in the blood.
2. Broccoli sprouts
Broccoli sprouts are a few days old, sprouted broccoli seeds, which resemble alfalfa sprouts. Essentially, they are a few days old broccoli plants.
In type 2 diabetics, 10 grams of powdered broccoli sprouts per day for 4 weeks reduced insulin resistance compared to placebo.4 Blood fats (triglycerides) also fell, while the ’good’ HDL cholesterol increased.5
Hopefully you can find fresh broccoli sprouts in your grocery store. Alternatively, you can buy broccoli seeds and grow broccoli sprouts yourself. It’s easy and fun to do. There is plenty of instructions available on the Internet. You can also buy premade broccoli sprouts powder and mix with water.
If you eat fresh sprouts, an appropriate dose would be 30-40 grams per day. If you consume powder, 10 grams is enough, because it’s more concentrated when dehydrated.
Whether the same health benefits can be obtained by eating broccoli florets is unclear at this time.
3. Caper fruit
Caper fruit, often referred to simply as caper, has been traditionally used as a natural diabetes treatment, and the first controlled study on caper on diabetics was published 2013.
Type 2 diabetics were randomly assigned to consume either caper fruit or placebo 3 times per day for 2 months. By the end of the study, fasting blood sugar and HbA1c were significantly lower in the caper group.6
The amount was equal to 5 grams per day of dried capers, a realistic amount to consume. The equivalent amount of fresh caper would be 3-4 times higher.
A lot of research has documented the beneficial effects of garlic on diabetes.
In a 4-week study on type 2 diabetics, garlic powder tablets reduced fasting blood sugar, blood fats, and lowered fructosamine (similar to HbA1c).7
In a 24-week study on type 2 diabetics, garlic tablets significantly lowered blood sugar and cholesterol, and increased the ’good’ HDL cholesterol, compared to placebo tablets.8
Another 12-week study found that garlic tablets reduced fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, inflammation, cholesterol and blood fats, and increased carbohydrate tolerance, in type 2 diabetics.9
Even though garlic tablets were used, raw garlic is probably good for diabetes as well.
Animal studies, and one human study, demonstrated that grapefruit helps for high blood sugar.10, 11
In a 12-week study on metabolic syndrome patients, eating half a fresh grapefruit 3 times per day, before each major meal, resulted in an extra weight loss of 1.6 kg (3½ pounds), and reduced insulin resistance, compared to a placebo group.10
No other studies that I’m aware of have examined the effects of grapefruit consumption on blood sugar control in humans, but various rodent studies confirm that it helps for diabetic rats/mice.11
Grapefruit interacts with various medications, so be sure to get permission from your medical doctor before consuming grapefruit products.
6. Indian Gooseberry
Indian gooseberries (also known as alma fruit) are sour, bitter, astringent, and quite fibrous berries, that improve diabetes.
In a 12 week long study on type 2 diabetics, a supplement made from Indian gooseberries reduced inflammation, cholesterol and, most importantly, HbA1c.12
In another study, 1 to 3 grams per day of dried Indian gooseberries for 21 days significantly reduced fasting blood sugar in type 2 diabetics, as well as healthy individuals. Moreover, Indian gooseberries dramatically increased carbohydrate tolerance, and decreased blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing the good HDL cholesterol.13
If animal studies are anything to go by, Indian gooseberry juice should be antidiabetic as well. In diabetic rats, the juice reduced blood sugar.14
In conclusion, it seems that any form of Indian gooseberry products are good for diabetics. As always, try to avoid those with added sugar.
Whether other species of gooseberries are beneficial is uncertain. They very well may be, especially if they resemble the sour, bitter and astringent taste of the Indian variety, but future research will have to provide the final answer.
Mango is a tropical, sweet, carbohydrate-rich, fruit that, perhaps unexpectedly, is good for diabetes.
In a 12 week study on obese individuals, 10 grams per day of dried mango pulp significantly reduced their fasting blood sugar.15
The amount used corresponds roughly to 57 grams (2 ounces) of raw mango.
As an added benefit, mango has a relatively low glycemic index (post-meal blood sugar levels) compared to other tropical fruits, such as banana, pineapple, durian, and rambutan.16
Animal studies also demonstrated antidiabetic effects of mango. For example, mice fed a fattening diet became insulin resistant, but adding mango as 1% of the diet diminished weight gain, increased carbohydrate tolerance, and reduced insulin resistance.17
Since I’ve already included garlic as one of the best foods if you have diabetes, it should come as no surprise that onion is antidiabetic, too.
Raw yellow and red onion reduce fasting blood sugar when consumed on an empty stomach, in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients. The doses tested have been 60 to 100 grams per day (2 to 3½ oz). 18, 19
Additionally, when added to a carbohydrate-rich meal, onion reduces post-meal blood sugar levels. 18, 19
Animal studies have demonstrated that onion juice, freeze-dried onion powder, and other onion preparations, also have antidiabetic effects.20
Adding raw onion, onion juice, onion powder (spice), etc., to your diet will most likely improve your blood sugar control.
Plums improve diabetes in rats, so they are probably a good fruit for diabetics.
Obese rats given Asian plum juice (Prunus Mume) had lower blood sugar and higher insulin sensitivity compared to rats given water.21
In another study on obese rats, juice made from purple plums attenuated weight gain by reducing calorie intake, and reduced blood sugar and insulin resistance, compared to a similar amount of water with added sugar.22
Plums are rich in carbs, which isn’t optimal for diabetics. However, if you still want to eat some carbs, then plums and plum juice seem like relatively good alternatives.
10. Pomegranate juice
Studies on humans demonstrated that pomegranate juice improves blood sugar control, and can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, too.23-25
Another study found a neutral effect on blood sugar, but found that pomegranate juice was anti-inflammatory.26
An animal study is also worth mentioning. A pomegranate rind supplement reduced blood sugar by 48% in just 6 hours in diabetic mice. It also improved nerve function and reduced pain caused by peripheral diabetic neuropathy.27
As always, try to find juice with a minimal amount of sugar and calories, even if it’s natural sugar.
11. Prickly pear
Prickly pear is the fruit of a variety of cactus species, which are also known as nopal.
Both the fruit (prickly pear) and the stems/leaves (often called nopal) of the cactus reduce diabetes severity.28-32
Eating 100 grams (3.5 ounces) broiled nopal is sufficient to reduce blood sugar, but a greater effect is seen with larger intakes.31 In a study on type 2 diabetics, adding 300 grams (10.6 ounces) of steamed nopal to a carbohydrate-rich meal lowered post-meal blood sugars by 35%.32
Prickly pears (the fruit) lowered blood sugar and insulin resistance in volunteers who ate 250 grams (~9 ounces) daily for 8 weeks.30
Supplements (dried extracts) of prickly pear have not shown the same consistent antidiabetic effects, however, so it’s better to consume prickly pears and nopal as foods.33, 34
There is also prickly pear juice that you can buy. Prickly pear and plant parts (nopal) can be purchased in many grocery stores.
Just make sure that anything you consume is suitable for human consumption.
Studies have shown that tomato products are beneficial for diabetics.
For example, type 2 diabetics who consumed 200 grams (7 ounces) of raw tomatoes per day for 8 weeks got significantly reduced blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors.35
In patients with the metabolic syndrome, drinking tomato juice 4 times per week for 8 weeks significantly reduced insulin resistance, inflammation and cholesterol.36
Tomato juice does contain some carbohydrate, but has a relatively low glycemic index, so it shouldn’t be too problematic for most people. Beware that a lot of sodium (salt) is often added to tomato juice, and other tomato products, which can increase blood pressure. Therefore, try to find a juice without added sodium, or buy fresh tomatoes.
- Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women. J Nutr. Oct;140(10):1764-1768.
- Basu A, Du M, Leyva MJ, et al. Blueberries decrease cardiovascular risk factors in obese men and women with metabolic syndrome. J Nutr. Sep;140(9):1582-1587.
- Abidov M, Ramazanov A, Jimenez Del Rio M, Chkhikvishvili I. Effect of Blueberin on fasting glucose, C-reactive protein and plasma aminotransferases, in female volunteers with diabetes type 2: double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study. Georgian Med News. Dec 2006(141):66-72.
- Bahadoran Z, Tohidi M, Nazeri P, Mehran M, Azizi F, Mirmiran P. Effect of broccoli sprouts on insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr. Nov;63(7):767-771.
- Bahadoran Z, Mirmiran P, Hosseinpanah F, Rajab A, Asghari G, Azizi F. Broccoli sprouts powder could improve serum triglyceride and oxidized LDL/LDL-cholesterol ratio in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. Jun;96(3):348-354.
- Huseini HF, Hasani-Rnjbar S, Nayebi N, et al. Capparis spinosa L. (Caper) fruit extract in treatment of type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. Oct;21(5):447-452.
- Sobenin IA, Nedosugova LV, Filatova LV, Balabolkin MI, Gorchakova TV, Orekhov AN. Metabolic effects of time-released garlic powder tablets in type 2 diabetes mellitus: the results of double-blinded placebo-controlled study. Acta Diabetol. Mar 2008;45(1):1-6.
- Ashraf R, Khan RA, Ashraf I. Garlic (Allium sativum) supplementation with standard antidiabetic agent provides better diabetic control in type 2 diabetes patients. Pak J Pharm Sci. Oct;24(4):565-570.
- Kumar R, Chhatwal S, Arora S, et al. Antihyperglycemic, antihyperlipidemic, anti-inflammatory and adenosine deaminase- lowering effects of garlic in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus with obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes.6:49-56.
- Fujioka K, Greenway F, Sheard J, Ying Y. The effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome. J Med Food. Spring 2006;9(1):49-54.
- Chudnovskiy R, Thompson A, Tharp K, Hellerstein M, Napoli JL, Stahl A. Consumption of clarified grapefruit juice ameliorates high-fat diet induced insulin resistance and weight gain in mice. PLoS One.9(10):e108408.
- Usharani P, Fatima N, Muralidhar N. Effects of Phyllanthus emblica extract on endothelial dysfunction and biomarkers of oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, double-blind, controlled study. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes.6:275-284.
- Akhtar MS, Ramzan A, Ali A, Ahmad M. Effect of Amla fruit (Emblica officinalis Gaertn.) on blood glucose and lipid profile of normal subjects and type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. Sep;62(6):609-616.
- Patel SS, Goyal RK. Prevention of diabetes-induced myocardial dysfunction in rats using the juice of the Emblica officinalis fruit. Exp Clin Cardiol. Fall;16(3):87-91.
- Evans SF, Meister M, Mahmood M, et al. Mango supplementation improves blood glucose in obese individuals. Nutr Metab Insights.7:77-84.
- Roongpisuthipong C, Banphotkasem S, Komindr S, Tanphaichitr V. Postprandial glucose and insulin responses to various tropical fruits of equivalent carbohydrate content in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. Nov 1991;14(2):123-131.
- Lucas EA, Li W, Peterson SK, et al. Mango modulates body fat and plasma glucose and lipids in mice fed a high-fat diet. Br J Nutr. Nov;106(10):1495-1505.
- Tjokroprawiro A, Pikir BS, Budhiarta AA, et al. Metabolic effects of onion and green beans on diabetic patients. Tohoku J Exp Med. Dec 1983;141 Suppl:671-676.
- Taj Eldin IM, Ahmed EM, Elwahab HMA. Preliminary Study of the Clinical Hypoglycemic Effects of Allium cepa (Red Onion) in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Environ Health Insights.4:71-77.
- Akash MS, Rehman K, Chen S. Spice plant Allium cepa: dietary supplement for treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition. Oct;30(10):1128-1137.
- Utsunomiya H, Yamakawa T, Kamei J, Kadonosono K, Tanaka S. Anti-hyperglycemic effects of plum in a rat model of obesity and type 2 diabetes, Wistar fatty rat. Biomed Res. Oct 2005;26(5):193-200.
- Noratto G, Martino HS, Simbo S, Byrne D, Mertens-Talcott SU. Consumption of polyphenol-rich peach and plum juice prevents risk factors for obesity-related metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease in Zucker rats. J Nutr Biochem. Jun;26(6):633-641.
- Banihani SA, Makahleh SM, El-Akawi Z, et al. Fresh pomegranate juice ameliorates insulin resistance, enhances beta-cell function, and decreases fasting serum glucose in type 2 diabetic patients. Nutr Res. Oct;34(10):862-867.
- Parsaeyan N, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Mozayan MR. Effect of pomegranate juice on paraoxonase enzyme activity in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Metab Disord.11(1):11.
- Tsang C, Smail NF, Almoosawi S, Davidson I, Al-Dujaili EA. Intake of polyphenol-rich pomegranate pure juice influences urinary glucocorticoids, blood pressure and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance in human volunteers. J Nutr Sci.1:e9.
- Sohrab G, Nasrollahzadeh J, Zand H, Amiri Z, Tohidi M, Kimiagar M. Effects of pomegranate juice consumption on inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Res Med Sci. Mar;19(3):215-220.
- Raafat K, Samy W. Amelioration of Diabetes and Painful Diabetic Neuropathy by Punica granatum L. Extract and Its Spray Dried Biopolymeric Dispersions. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2014:180495.
- Frati AC, Xilotl Diaz N, Altamirano P, Ariza R, Lopez-Ledesma R. The effect of two sequential doses of Opuntia streptacantha upon glycemia. Arch Invest Med (Mex). Jul-Dec 1991;22(3-4):333-336.
- Frati-Munari AC, Gordillo BE, Altamirano P, Ariza CR. Hypoglycemic effect of Opuntia streptacantha Lemaire in NIDDM. Diabetes Care. Jan 1988;11(1):63-66.
- Wolfram RM, Kritz H, Efthimiou Y, Stomatopoulos J, Sinzinger H. Effect of prickly pear (Opuntia robusta) on glucose- and lipid-metabolism in non-diabetics with hyperlipidemia–a pilot study. Wien Klin Wochenschr. Oct 31 2002;114(19-20):840-846.
- Frati-Munari AC, Del Valle-Martinez LM, Ariza-Andraca CR, Islas-Andrade S, Chavez-Negrete A. [Hypoglycemic action of different doses of nopal (Opuntia streptacantha Lemaire) in patients with type II diabetes mellitus]. Arch Invest Med (Mex). Apr-Jun 1989;20(2):197-201.
- Lopez-Romero P, Pichardo-Ontiveros E, Avila-Nava A, et al. The effect of nopal (Opuntia ficus indica) on postprandial blood glucose, incretins, and antioxidant activity in Mexican patients with type 2 diabetes after consumption of two different composition breakfasts. J Acad Nutr Diet. Nov;114(11):1811-1818.
- Frati-Munari AC, de Leon C, Ariza-Andraca R, Banales-Ham MB, Lopez-Ledesma R, Lozoya X. [Effect of a dehydrated extract of nopal (Opuntia ficus indica Mill.) on blood glucose]. Arch Invest Med (Mex). Jul-Sep 1989;20(3):211-216.
- Frati-Munari AC, Altamirano-Bustamante E, Rodriguez-Barcenas N, Ariza-Andraca R, Lopez-Ledesma R. [Hypoglycemic action of Opuntia streptacantha Lemaire: study using raw extracts]. Arch Invest Med (Mex). Oct-Dec 1989;20(4):321-325.
- Shidfar F, Froghifar N, Vafa M, et al. The effects of tomato consumption on serum glucose, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, homocysteine and blood pressure in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. May;62(3):289-294.
- Tsitsimpikou C, Tsarouhas K, Kioukia-Fougia N, et al. Dietary supplementation with tomato-juice in patients with metabolic syndrome: a suggestion to alleviate detrimental clinical factors. Food Chem Toxicol. Dec;74:9-13.