In the United States, many people struggle with type 2 diabetes – a condition where the body has trouble using sugar from food as it should. This affects about 90% to 95% of Americans, making it a significant health issue. Research shows that eating the right foods can be an effective and affordable strategy to control blood sugar better, maintain a healthy weight, and lower the risk of heart-related issues in those with diabetes

Most advice online suggests avoiding fruits due to their sugar content, leading to confusion about what’s safe to eat. While fruits like blueberries contain sugar, they’re also packed with nutrients supporting health.

In this article, you’ll discover the benefits of blueberries for people with diabetes. You’ll find out how these small fruits can fit into a diabetic diet, and contribute to health, and why they might be a smart choice for managing blood sugar levels.

Key Takeaways

  • Blueberries, with their low glycemic index, are an excellent choice for those with diabetes or anyone looking to manage their blood sugar levels effectively. Their composition, including fiber and anthocyanins, helps regulate blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • A serving of blueberries is low in calories yet rich in essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. These components contribute to overall health, supporting weight management, cardiovascular health, and immune function.
  • The high fiber content in blueberries (2 grams per half-cup serving) plays a critical role in diabetes management. Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing spikes in blood sugar and promoting better glycemic control.
  • Blueberries can be easily included in a diabetic-friendly diet in various ways, such as in smoothies, salads, and whole-grain dishes. These methods allow individuals to enjoy the sweetness of blueberries without compromising their blood sugar levels.
  • For individuals with diabetes, consuming blueberries in moderation and practicing portion control are vital. A recommended serving size is $3/4$ cup, which aligns with maintaining stable blood glucose levels.

How Nutritious Are Blueberries?

Blueberries are well-known for their tasty flavor and health benefits, making them an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes and those prioritizing their well-being. A 1/2 cup portion of blueberries is rich in vital nutrients that promote general health and help manage blood sugar levels efficiently. Here’s a closer look at their nutritional content in every 1/2 cup serving:

  • Calories: 42, making them a low-calorie choice ideal for weight management.
  • Carbohydrates: 11 grams, with a portion of these coming from dietary fiber, essential for blood sugar control.
  • Fiber: 2 grams, crucial for diabetics as it slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to regulate blood sugar spikes.
  • Protein: 1 gram, contributing to the feeling of satiety and aiding in muscle repair and growth.
  • Sugars: 7 grams, naturally occurring, contrasting with added sugars in many processed foods. The impact of these natural sugars on blood glucose levels is moderated by fiber.
  • Calcium: 4 milligrams, a mineral important for bone health and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves.
  • Potassium: 57 milligrams, which can help counteract the effects of sodium in the body, aiding in blood pressure regulation.
  • Vitamin C: 7 milligrams, a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system, aids in the repair of body tissues and enhances iron absorption from plant-based foods.

Are Blueberries Good for Diabetes?

Woman eating bowl of blueberries

Yes, blueberries are a great choice for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar levels. Blueberries positively affect glucose levels due to their low glycemic index (GI) and composition, including beneficial fiber and polyphenolic compounds like anthocyanins.

The glycemic index ranks foods from 0 to 100 based on how much they raise blood glucose levels after eating. Foods with a GI value of 55 or less are considered low GI, resulting in a slower and smaller rise in blood glucose levels. Blueberries have a GI score 53, placing them in the low-GI category. Blueberries contain significant fiber, with 2 grams of fiber per half-cup serving.

A study suggests that a higher dietary fiber intake is associated with lower risks of developing type 2 diabetes and more stable blood sugar levels in those with diabetes. The fiber in blueberries not only slows down the digestion of carbohydrates but also impacts the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream. This helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels, which is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes as it helps to avoid rapid spikes in blood sugar that can occur after eating foods with a high glycemic index.

Polyphenols, including anthocyanins found in blueberries, have been studied for their potential to improve insulin sensitivity. Anthocyanins are the pigments that give blueberries their characteristic blue color and are known for their antioxidant properties. According to a study,  anthocyanins could help increase insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to use glucose from the bloodstream more efficiently. This process is crucial for reducing insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

In addition to impacting insulin sensitivity, anthocyanins’ antioxidant properties help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, which are linked to diabetes and its complications. A study found that participants who consumed blueberry juice daily showed improvements in insulin sensitivity compared to those who did not, indicating the potential benefits of blueberries in managing blood sugar levels.

What Are Some Creative Ways to Include Blueberries in a Diabetic-Friendly Diet?

Including blueberries in a diet suitable for individuals with diabetes can be a tasty and healthful. Below are some suggestions and recipes to help incorporate blueberries into your meals and snacks.

1. Blueberry-Infused Smoothies

Blueberry-Infused Smoothies

A smoothie can be a nutrient-dense breakfast or snack, providing a convenient method to enjoy a range of diabetic-friendly components, including blueberries. For example, mixing ¼ cup of frozen blueberries with low-carb elements such as spinach, a bit of avocado for good fats, yogurt, and unsweetened almond milk results in a nutritious yet low-sugar smoothie. Research indicates that having a smoothie with added blueberries over 6 weeks led to improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and insulin-resistant individuals.

2. Topping for Whole Grain Cereals

cereal with blueberries

Sprinkling fresh or frozen blueberries on top of whole-grain cereal or oatmeal adds natural sweetness without the need for added sugars. The fiber from the whole grains and the blueberries helps slow down glucose absorption, making it a stable meal option for blood sugar levels. According to research, diets rich in whole grains and dietary fiber from fruits like blueberries are associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

3. Blueberry Chia Pudding

chia pudding  with blueberries

Chia seeds are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, making them excellent for blood sugar management. Mixing chia seeds with unsweetened almond milk and letting them soak overnight, then topped with blueberries and a dash of cinnamon (shown to help lower blood glucose levels) creates a nutritious and delicious pudding. Research suggests that such fiber-rich diets benefit people with diabetes, aiding glycemic control.

4. Salads with a Sweet Twist

Salad with Blueberries

Adding blueberries to salads can introduce a refreshing and sweet nuance to what might otherwise be a savory dish. A salad made with mixed greens, nuts (such as walnuts or almonds), a lean protein source like grilled chicken, and a handful of blueberries, dressed with balsamic vinegar, can provide a balanced meal. The antioxidants in blueberries, alongside the healthy fats and protein, can support overall health and glycemic control.

5. Baked Goods with Blueberry Accents

Blueberry Muffin

For a treat, adding blueberries to whole grain or almond flour-based muffins, breads, or pancakes can satisfy a sweet tooth without causing a significant spike in blood sugar levels. The key is substituting traditional sugars with blueberries for sweetness and using diabetic-friendly flour alternatives to keep the GI low. 

Research has indicated that moderate consumption of low-GI fruits like blueberries does not adversely affect blood sugar control and can be part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes.

6. Blueberry Yogurt Parfaits

Blueberry Yogurt Parfaits

Layer plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt with blueberries and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds for a fulfilling parfait that helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. The protein-rich yogurt slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, like those in blueberries, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar. 

To make this parfait, begin with a bowl containing 6 ounces of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, then add ¼ cup of blueberries, 2 tablespoons of high-fiber cereal, 1 ounce of walnuts, and a dash of chia seeds.

Final Thoughts

Blueberries are a great food for people with diabetes. They’re low in calories and have a good amount of fiber, which is good for controlling blood sugar. Plus, they have vitamins and antioxidants that are healthy for everyone. You can eat them in many ways, like smoothies, cereal, or salads. They add sweetness without a lot of sugar, which can help keep your blood sugar stable. Remember, while blueberries are good, eating a balanced diet is important too.

FAQs About Blueberries

Are frozen blueberries good for diabetics?

Frozen blueberries are great for people with diabetes. They, along with strawberries, raspberries, tart cherries, and avocados, can help not just lower the risk of getting diabetes but also help those who already have it.

Are blueberries good for gestational diabetes?

For those dealing with gestational diabetes, blueberries are a top choice. They’re full of good stuff but low in carbs, making them safe and healthy.

Are blueberries good for pre-diabetics?

Yes, blueberries are good for pre-diabetics because they are a good source of fiber, which is important for controlling and regulating blood sugar levels. The fiber content in blueberries is a healthy choice for individuals with prediabetes.

Are dried blueberries good for diabetes?

Yes, dried blueberries are also a good choice for people with diabetes. They’re a tasty way to add something healthy to your diet, whether you have diabetes or not.

How much blueberries can a diabetic eat?

As a general guideline, it is recommended for diabetics to consume around 1/2 to 1 cup of blueberries per day.

Can diabetics eat blueberries every day?

Yes, diabetics can eat blueberries every day as they are low in calories and high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins.

Sources

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2023, October). Healthy living with diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/healthy-living-with-diabetes

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). (2021). Fruit Intake to Prevent and Control Hypertension and Diabetes. PMC (PubMed Central). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7884895/

Gray, A., & Threlkeld, R. J. (2019). Nutritional recommendations for individuals with diabetes. In Endotext. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279012/

Ye, Y., Wu, S., Chen, P., & Fang, S. (2020). A diet rich in fruit and whole grains is associated with a low risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: findings from a case–control study in South China. Nutrients, 6, 1406–1423. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9991751/

National Center for Biotechnology Information. (n.d.). Blueberries’ Impact on Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance. In Antioxidants (Basel). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187542/

Stull, D. K., Klimis-Zacas, D. (2016). Blueberries’ Impact on Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance. Antioxidants (Basel), 5(4), 44. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187542/

McRae, M. P. (2018). Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 17(1). PMID: 29628808.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5883628/