Cherries are a delicious fruit that many people enjoy eating, especially during the summer months when they are fresh and in season. However, for people with diabetes, the natural sugar content of cherries can cause some uncertainty about whether they are a healthy addition to the diet.
In moderation, cherries can be safely enjoyed as part of a healthy diet for diabetics. The key factors to consider are:
- Cherries have a medium glycemic index (GI) of 63.
- A 1/2 cup serving of cherries contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates.
- The fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in cherries provide health benefits.
- Portion control is important to keep blood sugar levels in check.
- Consult a doctor about specific carbohydrate limits.
Cherry Nutrition Facts
First, let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for cherries:
|Amount in 1/2 Cup Cherries
Cherries contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup serving. Since managing carbohydrate intake is important for controlling blood sugar, this carb count is an important factor for diabetics.
Cherry Glycemic Index
In addition to total carb content, the glycemic index (GI) of a food indicates how quickly it will raise blood glucose levels after being eaten. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100:
- Low GI – 55 or below
- Medium GI – 56-69
- High GI – 70 or above
Cherries have a medium GI of 63. This means they will cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar compared to high GI foods like white bread.
Cherries contain fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream after eating. A 1/2 cup of cherries has 1.5 grams of fiber. Eating high fiber foods like cherries can improve blood sugar regulation.
Other Health Benefits
Beyond fiber, cherries also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that offer health benefits for diabetics:
- Vitamin C – Cherries are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports immune health.
- Potassium – Cherries contain potassium which helps lower blood pressure.
- Anthocyanins – These antioxidants found in cherries help reduce inflammation and protect heart health.
- Quercetin – This anti-inflammatory flavonoid in cherries may help improve insulin resistance.
Tips for Eating Cherries
Here are some recommendations for diabetics to eat cherries in a healthy way:
- Stick to 1/2 cup portion sizes to control carbs and sugar.
- Combine cherries with a protein source like nuts or cheese to blunt the glycemic impact.
- Time cherry intake around exercise to help manage blood sugar spikes.
- Avoid sugary cherry pies and tarts that contain excess added sugar.
- Opt for antioxidants-rich tart cherries over sweeter varieties.
- Always check carb counts and plan portions into daily meal plans.
The recommended carbohydrate intake per day can vary for diabetics based on medications, activity levels, weight goals and other factors. Work directly with a doctor or dietitian to determine a personalized daily carb target.
Can Diabetics Eat Dried Cherries?
Dried cherries contain more concentrated natural sugar with the water removed. A 1/4 cup of dried cherries has 24 grams of carbs, compared to 15 grams in fresh cherries. While dried fruit is very energy dense, it can fit into a diabetic diet in small portions as long as carbohydrates are accounted for.
Tips for Eating Dried Cherries
- Stick to the recommended 1/4 cup serving size.
- Avoid added sugars in sweetened dried cherries.
- Pair with nuts or seeds to offset glycemic impact.
- Watch portion sizes to avoid overeating.
Glycemic Load of Cherries
Glycemic load considers the GI as well as the serving size to estimate the impact on actual blood glucose. It’s calculated by multiplying the GI by the carbohydrates per serving divided by 100. The glycemic load of 1/2 cup fresh cherries is estimated to be 5, which is considered low. This reinforces that cherries only have a mild effect on blood sugar in regular size portions.
How Many Cherries Can a Diabetic Eat?
There is no universal ideal number of cherries a diabetic can eat. The appropriate serving size depends on individual carb limits, blood sugar goals, whether you take insulin, and other factors. A good starting point is 1/2 cup of fresh cherries or 1/4 cup dried cherries. It’s best to start with a smaller portion, monitor blood sugar response, and adjust as needed.
When to Eat Cherries
The time of day impacts how food affects your blood sugar. Eating cherries with a meal can help slow down absorption. As a snack, pairing cherries with protein, fat or fiber also helps control spikes. Some diabetics may tolerate cherries best at certain times such as:
- Morning – Cherries spread out the carb impact and provide fiber for breakfast.
- Pre-workout – Cherries can provide fuel for exercise when paired with protein.
- Post-workout – Cherries help replenish carbohydrate stores after activity.
- Evening – Eat cherries with dinner or earlier to avoid late night spikes.
Work with your healthcare provider to decide when cherry intake best fits with your medication schedule and daily blood sugar pattern.
Do Cherries Lower Blood Sugar?
Cherries have a low glycemic load and provide fiber and antioxidants. These attributes can benefit blood sugar management, but cherries on their own do not directly lower blood glucose levels like medication or exercise. Enjoying cherries in moderation as part of a balanced diabetic diet can help optimize blood sugar control.
Long Term Effects
Research shows links between eating cherries and reduced markers of diabetes risk and complications over time. Potential long term benefits include:
- Lower A1C – Tart cherry juice was linked to lower HbA1c levels (average blood sugar) in studies.
- Improved insulin sensitivity – The anthocyanins in cherries may improve insulin resistance.
- Reduced inflammation – Cherry antioxidants help lower inflammatory factors.
- Better arterial health – Compounds in cherries improve arterial function and blood pressure.
- Decreased diabetes risk – Anthocyanin-rich diets are associated with lower diabetes risk.
By providing fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, enjoying cherries as part of an overall balanced diabetic diet can contribute to better long-term blood sugar regulation and health.
Downsides of Cherries
For diabetics, potential downsides of eating cherries include:
- Carb content – Cherries have 15g carbs per 1/2 cup, which can impact blood sugar levels.
- Sugar – With 12g sugar per serving, portion sizes need to be watched.
- GI – The moderate 63 GI of cherries causes a gradual rise in blood glucose.
- Variability – Blood sugar response can vary between types of cherries.
These factors mean cherries should be enjoyed carefully and in moderation by diabetics. Keeping portions under control and monitoring individual response is important.
Cherry Juice for Diabetics
Drinking cherry juice can provide excellent health benefits thanks to concentrated antioxidants. An 8 ounce glass of tart cherry juice typically has:
- 60-90 calories
- 15-22g carbohydrates
- 12-18g sugar
This carb and sugar content is similar to eating 1/2 cup of whole cherries. Tart cherry juice has been linked to reduced insulin resistance, better blood pressure, and lower A1C. However, diabetes experts recommend avoiding fruit juice because its concentrated sugars can spike blood glucose. Moderation is key for diabetics who want to drink cherry juice.
Tips for Drinking Cherry Juice
- Limit intake to 4-8 ounces max per day.
- Dilute one part juice with three parts water.
- Avoid sweetened cherry juice blends.
- Have juice with a protein-rich meal or snack.
- Opt for tart cherry juice over sweet varieties.
- Talk to your doctor before increasing intake.
Best Cherries for Diabetics
The two main types of cherries are sweet and tart (also called sour). Here is how they compare:
|Carbs per 1/2 cup
|Sugar per 1/2 cup
Both sweet and tart cherries have a similar glycemic index and carb content. However, tart cherries contain higher levels of beneficial anthocyanins. Popular tart cherry varieties include Montmorency, Balaton, and Morello. Due to their greater antioxidant content, tart cherries are often considered the best type for diabetics.
Dried Tart Cherries
You can also find dried tart cherries. With no added sugar and concentrated antioxidants, unsweetened dried tart cherries provide a nutritious option. Watch the serving sizes though, as dried fruit contains more natural sugar by weight compared to fresh fruit.
Sample Menu with Cherries
Here is a one day meal plan integrating 1/2 cup cherries:
|1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup cherries, pecans, cinnamon
|Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with salad
|1 stick mozzarella string cheese
|3oz grilled salmon, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup roasted vegetables
|1/2 cup cherries
Pairing cherries with protein at breakfast helps maintain steady blood sugar. Having the treat of fresh cherries after a balanced dinner slows down absorption to minimize spikes.
Cherry Recipes for Diabetics
Here are some healthy and delicious cherry recipes suitable for a diabetic diet:
Cherry Almond Oatmeal
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats cooked in water
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/4 cup cherries, chopped
- 1 Tbsp slivered almonds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp chia seeds
Oats give steady energy with fiber. Tart cherries add a punch of flavor and nutrition to this diabetes-friendly breakfast.
Cherry Chicken Salad
- 3 oz roasted chicken breast, chopped
- 1/2 cup cherries, pitted and chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp slivered almonds
- 1 cup mixed greens
- Balsamic vinegar dressing
Protein and fiber help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The fresh flavors make this a perfect summer diabetic salad.
Dark Chocolate Cherry Bark
- 4 oz dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), melted
- 1/4 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
- 1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Pinch of sea salt
A perfect sweet treat, the dark chocolate and cherries provide antioxidants. Just watch portion sizes as this is calorie dense.
Should Diabetics Avoid Cherries?
Most diabetics do not need to fully avoid cherries. With proper portion control and smart meal pairing, fresh cherries can be incorporated into an overall healthy diabetic diet. As always, moderation is key. Speak to your doctor about your individual fruit intake guidelines.
Here are some cases where caution may be warranted with cherries:
- If you follow a very strict low carb diabetic diet.
- If you need to closely monitor total sugar from all sources.
- If your doctor recommends limiting high GI fruits.
- If you have severe insulin resistance or struggle with fruit intake.
For most diabetics though, the fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants in cherries support their benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Focus on controlling portions and pairing cherries with protein or healthy fats.
Fresh cherries can be part of a healthy diabetes diet plan with some careful attention to serving sizes. Their moderate glycemic index, fiber, and nutrients provide benefits. Just be sure to account for their carb content within your daily meal plan. Enjoying cherries in moderation, paired with proteins, during the right times of day can allow diabetics to reap the advantages of this delicious and nutritious fruit.