The #1 Fruit to Eat When You Have Insulin Resistance, According to a Dietitian
Research shows that eating more of this fruit may reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Isabel Vasquez is a bilingual registered dietitian practicing from an intuitive eating, culturally sensitive framework. Her clinical experience includes providing outpatient nutrition counseling to adults with a variety of chronic health conditions, along with providing family-based treatment for eating disorders in children and adolescents. She also offers intuitive eating coaching for Latinas to heal their relationships with food, particularly their cultural foods.
Emily Lachtrupp is a registered dietitian experienced in nutritional counseling, recipe analysis and meal plans. She's worked with clients who struggle with diabetes, weight loss, digestive issues and more. In her spare time, you can find her enjoying all that Vermont has to offer with her family and her dog, Winston.
More than 37 million Americans are living with diabetes, and about 90% to 95% of those have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insulin resistance is a common precursor of type 2 diabetes.
You may have heard of insulin resistance, but here's a quick recap: Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugars from your blood into your cells so they can be used for energy. In the case of insulin resistance, your cells don't respond well to this hormone, so your pancreas responds by producing more and more of it. Many people with overweight and obesity or conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may struggle with insulin resistance. Eventually, if the insulin produced isn't enough to pull sugars into your cells for energy, your blood sugar levels rise. This can result in type 2 diabetes, which puts you at higher risk for other health issues like heart disease and vision loss.
There are a few ways to prevent and manage insulin resistance, one of which is through nutrition. You may worry that you can't eat foods with sugar like fruit, but that isn't necessarily the case. In fact, a 2021 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that fruit consumption was linked to better insulin sensitivity and a reduced risk of developing diabetes. So what's the best fruit to help with insulin resistance?
Fiber helps slow digestion—since our bodies can't break it down and absorb it—which helps prevent blood sugar spikes. A 2019 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adolescents with lower fiber intakes had higher fasting insulin levels, signaling insulin resistance.
These findings are supported by a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Functional Foods, which showed that both soluble fiber products and fiber from foods improved insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes.
And if you already have type 2 diabetes, fiber has the added bonus of helping to stave off heart disease, according to the CDC. It's a condition that people with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing.
Antioxidants may play a role in reducing insulin resistance and preventing diabetes. For example, a 2022 study published in Antioxidants found that participants who had the highest antioxidant intake had lower rates of prediabetes and insulin resistance. A 2019 study in the European Journal of Epidemiology showed similar results, as did a 2018 study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. The benefit may have to do with the role antioxidants play in combating damaging free radicals and reducing inflammation.
Certain fruits have been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes more than others. Our favorite fruit for insulin resistance is pears. One medium pear has 5.5 grams of fiber—20% of your Daily Value—and 27 grams of carbohydrates, per the Department of Agriculture. Pears are also a good source of antioxidants like vitamin C and polyphenols.
A 2017 meta-analysis published in Food & Function found that consuming pears and apples reduced participants' risk for type 2 diabetes by 18%. When researchers broke that down further, they found that even just one serving of pears and apples per week reduced type 2 diabetes risk by 3%.
Another 2018 review of studies, in BMC Complementary Medicine & Therapies, also showed that pears have anti-diabetic properties, potentially because they serve as alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. This means that they help prevent the absorption of carbohydrates, which can prevent blood sugar spikes, and they also reduce diabetes risk in people with impaired glucose tolerance, according to a 2018 Cochrane systematic review.
While pears may be tops for managing insulin resistance and staving off type 2 diabetes, there are other fruits that have been shown to be beneficial, too.
If you have insulin resistance and are at risk for diabetes, don't let fear-mongering around fruit get to you. You can absolutely incorporate it in your diet and manage your blood sugars. In fact, fruit has loads of health benefits, and it's a part of a healthy eating pattern, thanks in part to its fiber and antioxidant content. Pears are our favorite fruit for insulin resistance because research shows a relationship between eating them and lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Apples, berries and citrus fruits are also great options to regularly include in your diet.Apples.Berries.Citrus fruit.