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Do Apples Affect Blood Glucose?

Nicole Tekkora, MS, RDN

Published in Nutrition

7 min read

November 30, 2021
January 8, 2024
Man and woman eating apples
Man and woman eating apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? The ‘forbidden fruit’ has a long and interesting history, and with all the health benefits added to the mix, there are many reasons to pay attention to the humble apple. As one of the most popular fruits in the world, apples are delicious and nutritious. They’re loaded with things like vitamin C, are a good source of fiber, and may even have some effects on insulin levels and your efforts to control blood sugar. 

While we know that apples are nutrient-packed, let’s take a minute to examine just how much they affect your blood sugar levels and what other health benefits they have. Read on to find out more about what people with prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, or the risk of diabetes should know about this delicious fruit. 

What About the Carbohydrate Content?

All fruit contains carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, or carbs, are what your body breaks down into glucose, or sugar, to use for fuel. Anything high in carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Still, it may be easy to balance your diet while moderating the foods you love. 

Apples can contain a variable amount of carbs, depending on their size and type. An apple usually has around 15-18 grams of carbohydrates (we’ve got a list of some of these below). Luckily, apples contain high amounts of fiber in the skin, which may be able to help prevent blood sugar spikes, as well as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are found in many different types of fruits, vegetables, and grains. They include flavonoids, flavonols, proanthocyanidins, and procyanidins. 

Apples also contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds found in plants and have been shown to slow down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream. This may prevent the occurrence of blood sugar spikes even when you’re eating carbohydrate-rich foods. Some studies show that polyphenols are linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

Fiber Content of Apples

When you digest food that contains fiber, the fiber adds mass and weight to your stool by binding to compounds and attracting water to it. Not only does this make it easier for your body to process waste, but it may also lower your uptake of sugars from the carbs that you eat. 

Fiber also causes you to feel full more quickly and for longer. This may prevent overeating and may help you curb sugar cravings. Since apples are rich in fiber, with about 4.3 grams of fiber per medium-sized apple, this helps to make them a blood sugar-friendly food and a smart snack choice when you want to indulge in something sweet. 

If you are going to eat an “apple a day,” make sure to leave the skin on so that you get all of the benefits of the fiber it contains. Size matters too, so consider whether a small, large or medium apple changes any health benefits you get from the fruit.

Apples and Insulin

Insulin is produced by your pancreas to help control your blood sugar levels when your body breaks down carbohydrates. Insulin then takes that sugar from your bloodstream to the cells that need it for fuel. Studies have shown that people who eat apples regularly begin to see reduced insulin resistance.

People who suffer from diabetes often don’t produce enough insulin or have a resistance to insulin that causes too much sugar to remain in their bloodstream. Apples are loaded with polyphenols which is what is linked to reduced insulin resistance. Polyphenols are found in the skin of the apple—keep the skin on so that you don’t lose out on all the benefits! 

Eating Apples the Healthy Way

Like everything else, even though apples are packed full of nutrients, you may want to eat them in moderation. Try eating apples [and all fruit] throughout the day instead of eating a lot in one sitting. Not only will this help prevent a blood sugar spike, but it will also add healthy fiber to your meals. You should check with a healthcare professional regarding how much fiber you should be adding to your diet or if you’re at risk of diabetes. 

When you consume a fruit like an apple on its own, you may see a blood sugar spike. A good tip to avoid this is to pair protein or fat with the fruit to blunt or mitigate a spike in your blood sugars. Because the combination of protein and fat can help slow carbohydrate digestion when paired with fruit, they can help stabilize your blood sugar. A good example is to pair sliced apples with one or two tablespoons of your favorite natural nut butter. 

Are There Health Benefits of Drinking Apple Juice?

Apples are preferable to apple juice because they retain their natural fiber content, providing a more satisfying and nutritious snack that supports digestive health, while apple juice often lacks the dietary fiber found in whole apples and may contain added sugars. 

In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have referenced a great deal of research over the last decade showing that fruit juices are just as metabolically damaging and may pose equivalent risk to sweetened beverages like sodas.

 However, when consumed in moderation, drinking apple juice can have certain health benefits that support your nutritional needs. Some potential benefits of apple juice include:

  • Rich in Nutrients: Apple juice contains essential nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and various antioxidants, which can contribute to enhancing overall health and well-being.
  • Can Support Digestive Health: When consumed in moderation, the soluble fiber in apple juice may help aid digestion and promote a healthy gut.
  • Hydration: Alongside water, apple juice can help you meet your daily fluid requirements, supporting proper hydration.

Is There a Best Type of Apple Juice?

When it comes to choosing the best type of apple juice, the healthiest options are those with no added sugars or excess ingredients. These juices may be labeled as "sugar-free" or "100% pure," and not from concentrate. 

Typically, the benefits of juicing apples to make homemade apple juice from organic apples outweigh the nutritional content that store-bought options provide. This allows more control over the ingredients, avoiding excess sugars and preservatives commonly found in readily available apple juice brands.

On top of this, the best apple juice health benefits are found in those that are freshly pressed or cold-pressed, meaning they are processed without excessive heat, preserving more nutrients and natural flavors. Also, apple juice with a cloudy tint is likely to retain more beneficial compounds such as fiber and antioxidants compared to clear apple juices, making them a slightly healthier option, according to some studies.

Potential Downsides of Drinking Apple Juice

While you may obtain some health benefits from apple juice, it's important to remember that moderation is key. Unlike whole apples, apple juice lacks the same nutritional content meaning it does not have the same impact on health. When consumed frequently or in large quantities, some potential downsides to drinking apple juice may include:

  • High in sugar: Many commercially available apple juices contain excessive added sugars, contributing to higher calorie intake and potential negative effects on blood sugar levels.
  • Low in fiber: Apple juice lacks the fiber found in the fruit's skin which may have a negative impact on satiety and digestive health.
  • Dental concerns: The high sugar content in most apple juice brands may contribute to tooth decay and other dental issues.

Different Types of Apples and Their Nutritional Value

We all have a favorite kind of apple [Granny Smith, anyone?!]. This is probably because of the texture or sweetness level of the varietal. Each varietal also has different nutritional content, including carb count, fiber count, and sugar count. Curious about your favorite type? Listed below are five varieties of apple that you will likely encounter in most grocery stores so that you can see how they differ in nutritional value:

Nutritional value of 5 common apples diagram

What About Apples And Diabetes Management?

Due to the presence of polyphenols and antioxidants, yes, apples can help to prevent diabetes. Antioxidants combat harmful chemical reactions in your body. According to a study released by the National Library of Medicine, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp apples contain the most antioxidants out of all apple varieties. 

Three antioxidants that may help combat diabetes risk are chlorogenic acid, phlorizin, and quercetin. Chlorogenic acid is believed to make the use of sugar in your body more efficient. Phlorizin is believed to slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. And quercetin is thought to slow down carbohydrate digestion. Combined with the known advantages of consuming polyphenols, antioxidants in apples seem to be a good combatant against developing diabetes. 

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Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC

Reviewed by: Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC

Kara Collier is the co-founder and VP of Health at Nutrisense, one of America’s fastest-growing wellness-tech startups, where she leads the health team. She is a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient, frequent podcast guest & conference speaker.