Is Pineapple Good for People With Diabetes?
Pineapple and diabetes
People with diabetes often hear that fruit is high in carbohydrates, and pineapple gets a particularly bad rap for being high in sugar. If you have diabetes, you may be concerned that eating pineapple will raise your blood sugar too much.
But does the fruit really belong on your do-not-eat list?
Let’s take a look at how pineapple stacks up to other fruits when it comes to sugar content.
The role of glucose
For a person with diabetes, carbohydrates matter. That’s because carbohydrates break down into glucose in the body.
In a person without diabetes, the hormone insulin transports glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy. But with diabetes, the body cannot produce insulin (that’s what happens in type 1 diabetes), or the cells are resistant to it (as is the case in type 2 diabetes).
In both scenarios, glucose can’t get into cells. The level of this sugar rises in the bloodstream, and can eventually damage the body’s cells.
Why carbs matter
To avoid high blood sugar levels, most people with diabetes track their carbohydrate intake.
Some people, especially those with type 1 diabetes, practice carbohydrate counting so they can match the amount of insulin they take to their intake of carbs in a meal.
People with type 2 diabetes may or may not be on insulin (they can also manage their blood sugar with oral medication and sometimes diet and lifestyle changes), but they still watch their carb intake to prevent their blood sugar from going too high.
Some people with type 2 diabetes who aren’t on insulin can use the Plate Method, which focuses on nutrient balance by dividing the place into half non-starchy veggies, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbs.
The impact of carbohydrates on the body will vary from person to person based on a variety of factors, which is why there are no one-size-fits-all guidelines for carbohydrates per meal for people with diabetes.
“The amount of carbohydrate appropriate for someone with diabetes depends on several factors, including target blood sugar levels, medications, and physical activity,” shares Jill Weisenberger, a registered dietitian nutritionist and creator of Stick With It, a step-by-step system that helps you adopt healthy eating habits to help you meet your goals.
Your diabetes care team and registered dietitian are the best resources to determine specific guidelines on carbohydrate amounts per meal.
“Most people do well with the ballpark of about 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal and zero to 20 grams per snack, with more for kids or active adults,” she explains.
Can people with diabetes eat fruit?
Since fruit is a source of carbohydrates, with the majority coming from naturally occurring sugars, it makes sense that people with diabetes may be hesitant to add them to their meal plan.
But adding whole fruit to the diet may be beneficial.
A June 2021 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that participants who ate 1.5 servings of fruit per day had a 36 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than their peers who consumed less than half a serving. (Type 1 diabetes, which is much less common, is an autoimmune disease and the risk is unrelated to what you eat.)
That suggests that when it comes to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, adding more fruit to your plate can help.
Of course, not all fruits impact blood sugar in the same way. And not all fruits affect an individual’s blood sugar the same way either. A friend with diabetes might be able to eat grapes with no problem, while the fruit sends your blood sugar skyrocketing.
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Pineapple nutrition facts
People with diabetes can eat fruit, the question is which fruits are best, and where does pineapple fit in?
The first step is figuring out how pineapple stacks up nutritionally.
A one-cup serving (165 grams) of raw pineapple chunks contains the following nutrients:
Protein: 1 g (2 percent of the daily recommended value, or DV)
Fat: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Sodium: 2 mg (0.08 percent DV)
Carbohydrates: 19.5 g (7 percent DV)
Fiber: 2 g (7 percent DV)
Vitamin D: 0 ug (0 percent)
Vitamin C: 28 mg (31 percent DV)
Iron: 0.412 mg (2 percent DV)
Potassium: 206 mg (4 percent DV)
That’s all well and good, but how does the carbohydrate and fiber content of fresh pineapple compare with other fruits? Turns out it falls right in the middle.
Here’s how many grams of carb and fiber are in a one-cup serving of pineapple and other fruits:
- Strawberries: 12.7 grams of carb and 3.3 grams of fiber
- Sliced apples: 15 grams of carb and 2.6 grams of fiber
- Grapes: 16 grams of carb and 0.8 grams of fiber
- Sliced banana: 34 grams of carb and 4 grams of fiber
- Pineapple: 19.5 grams of carb and 2 grams of fiber
It is important to note, however, that not all forms of pineapple affect blood sugar in the same way.
Fresh, raw pineapple contains fiber, which slows the conversion of a food’s carbs into sugar in the bloodstream. That means higher-fiber foods are less likely to produce a quick spike in blood sugar.
“Whole, raw fruit is generally better for blood sugar than fruit that has been processed or altered,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “Juice has the fiber removed, so I generally suggest limiting juice consumption and using small amounts as a flavor for marinades or salad dressings.”
Be cautious about canned pineapple as well. It often contains added sugars. If you do opt for canned, look for varieties canned in 100 percent fruit juice over syrup, or ones that say “no added sugar” on the label.
Beneficial nutrients in pineapple
Pineapple is more than just a carbohydrate, and adding this nutrient-rich food into your diet may offer potential health benefits.
“Bromelain, an enzyme found in the fruit and stem of pineapples has been shown to promote heart health and also exhibits anticancer and antidiabetic properties,” says Harris-Pincus.
In addition, pineapple offers a delicious way to increase your intake of fiber and antioxidants.
“Pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C, a strong antioxidant, which has a wide range of benefits, from heart health and cancer prevention to fertility and skin health,” adds Harris-Pincus.
How to add pineapple into a diabetes meal plan
When adding pineapple into a diabetes meal plan, there are a few factors to consider.
The amount of pineapple that you eat, which foods you eat with it, and even the time of day and your activity level can all impact how pineapple will affect blood sugar levels.
“To promote more stable blood sugar levels after eating pineapple, make sure to pair it with a source of protein or plant-based fat,” says Mary Ellen Phipps, a registered dietitian nutritionist who has type 1 diabetes and author of The Easy Diabetes Cookbook.
That’s because both protein and fat are digested more slowly in the body than carbohydrates. When eaten with carbs, they slow down how quickly the carbohydrates are converted into sugar.
Harris-Pincus offers some examples of what this may look like on a plate: “Try pairing pineapple with cottage cheese and a few walnuts or almonds, or chop it into a salsa to top grilled chicken or fish.”
How much pineapple you can eat at one sitting will depending on your individual blood sugar response.
To gauge your response, Weisenberger offers a simple strategy.
“Measure your blood sugar before eating and again two hours later,” she says. “The difference between the two numbers is largely the effect of what you just ate. If your numbers are within your target range, then that amount of pineapple you ate worked out just fine.”
Keep in mind, if you eat other foods along with the pineapple, they’ll play a role in your blood sugar response. Eat grilled pineapple chicken and you’ll have a smaller rise in blood sugar than if you ate pineapple upside-down cake.
“If you want to see how pineapple alone impacts your numbers, try this with just pineapple,” says Weisenberger.
Balancing fruit and diabetes
As a food rich in naturally occurring sugars, fruit often seems off-limits when it comes to diabetes management. But it shouldn’t be.
“There’s no reason to fear pineapple—or any fruit for that matter,” Weisenberger says.
In fact, adding fruit to your diet can help in managing diabetes and preventing future health consequences from the disease. Fruit can provide a key source of beneficial nutrients that many of us fall short on each day, such as fiber and potassium.
And increasing these nutrients has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and even lower blood pressure levels. That’s important because people with diabetes are at a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you have diabetes, there is no need to avoid fruit. Instead, work with your diabetes care team to determine the right serving of fruit for you at meals and snacks.
And remember to test your blood sugar, if that’s part of your diabetes management regimen.
It’ll ensure you gain the benefits of fruit while also knowing how it affects your blood sugar.
Next, find out if dogs can eat pineapple.
- American Diabetes Association: "What is the Diabetes Plate Method?"
- Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND, registered dietitian nutritionist and creator of Stick With It
- The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: "Associations between fruit intake and risk of diabetes in the AusDiab cohort"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Pineapple, raw, traditional varieties"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Strawberries, raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Apples, raw, golden delicious, with skin"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Grapes, American type (slip skin), raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Bananas, raw"
- Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club
- Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Easy Diabetes Cookbook
- Journal of Chiropractic Medicine: "Dietary fiber is beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: An umbrella review of meta-analyses"
- Hypertension: "Beneficial effects of high potassium"