May 20, 2024 • 7 min read

Are Oranges Good for Diabetics?

  • Facebook
  • Linkedin
  • Twitter
  • Message

As a diabetic, it’s important to keep track of your blood sugar levels which means watching what you eat, especially foods high in carbohydrates. You might think fruits are a bad option for individuals with diabetes because of the natural sugar. However, this isn’t necessarily true.

While fruits generally contain high amounts of natural sugars, most, including oranges, have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they are a good choice for diabetics. This is typically due to the fiber content found in most fruits, which slows digestion. The GI is a scale that is used to determine how much certain foods raise your blood sugar levels. The lower the GI, the less it impacts your blood sugars. 

This guide goes over why oranges are a good option for diabetics, the benefits of consuming oranges, and other important tips to keep in mind.

If you’re interested in getting professional with your diet, we can match you with a Registered Dietitian specializing in diabetes. Since we are in-network with many health insurance carriers, 90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for one-on-one nutritional counseling.

What the research says: Are oranges safe for diabetics?

In the past, individuals with diabetes were discouraged from eating fruits due to their sugar content, but this is outdated information. In fact, fruits like oranges should be consumed regularly, as a part of a balanced diet that supports blood glucose management.

2021 review on fruit intake to prevent and control hypertension and diabetes found that consuming up to 133 grams of fresh fruit per day was shown to decrease the risk of developing complications and mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Oranges, and most other fruits, contain a good source of fiber which may contribute to improved blood sugar control.

2020 review and meta-analysis of 44 studies conducted on individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes found that consuming a high-fiber diet played an essential role in managing diabetes. It noted improvements in areas such as body weight, glucose control, and blood lipid levels.

Additionally, oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, which acts as an important antioxidant in the body. Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells against oxidative stress which can lead to or worsen diabetes complications.

Oranges also contain a good source of flavonoids, another type of antioxidant found commonly in citrus fruits. 

dietitian patient image

Find a dietitian covered by insurance

90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for dietitian visits

Benefits of eating oranges as a diabetic

As you can see, oranges and other fruits are not deserving of the bad wrap they get. Most of this misinformation can be attributed to social media where misinformation often runs rampant. But don’t fear, fruit is here to stay.

Below are some benefits of enjoying this popular citrus fruit, whether you have diabetes or you are hoping to prevent its development. 

1) Low glycemic index

The GI is a popular tool used to assess whether or not a food is a good option for diabetics. Foods that have a low to medium GI don’t impact blood sugar levels as much as those that rank higher.

Oranges contain a low GI of 35 out of 100. This means when a person with diabetes enjoys an orange, it only raises their blood sugar slightly compared to something that has a high GI, such as white bread which has a GI of 100.

This makes oranges a great option for those trying to manage their diabetes.

2) Rich in fiber

One of the reasons oranges and most other fruits tend to rank lower on the GI scale is because of the presence of fiber. Dietary fiber can help slow the blood sugar rise that follows the intake of a carbohydrate-rich food. 

Foods like white bread (which has a high GI) are processed to have the bran (the outer portion of the wheat) removed, which is what contains the fiber. Without fiber, carbohydrates like these are much more likely to cause blood glucose spikes.

Additionally, fiber has been shown to provide several health benefits such as aiding in maintaining a healthy weight and improving blood lipid levels which can also aid in diabetes management.

3) High in vitamin C

Oranges and other citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C, a nutrient diabetics need more of. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant which can help protect your cells against damaging free radicals which may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

One orange contains 85% of the Daily Value (%DV) of vitamin C that is recommended per day. The %DV is the amount of each nutrient that it is recommended you get (or not exceed) each day.

4) Contains antioxidants

Aside from vitamin C, oranges and other citrus fruits are a rich source of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that may help to improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

5) Promotes heart health

Regular consumption of citrus fruits, such as oranges, may protect heart health by supporting healthy cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, and reducing the risk of developing heart disease or stroke

These benefits are likely related to the fiber content as well as the antioxidants present in citrus fruits. Oranges contain a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber which helps to promote a healthy weight and cholesterol levels.

6) Supports immune function

The vitamin C found in oranges and many other citrus fruits can help boost immune function, allowing your body to better fight viruses such as the cold and flu. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in supporting the health and functioning of our immune system cells. 

Additionally, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that protects cells against damaging free radicals, making them stronger and more efficient. Citrus fruits may also help to reduce damaging inflammation that can occur in the body as a result of the presence of these compounds.

7) Helps with blood pressure regulation

The flavonoids found in oranges and other citrus fruits like grapefruit may also provide beneficial effects on blood pressure regulation. These flavonoids act to relax blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more efficiently so the pressure in these vessels is reduced to a normal level.

Things to keep in mind when eating oranges as a diabetic

Now that you know a little more about the health benefits of eating fruits like oranges, you can feel more comfortable enjoying them as a part of a healthy diet. 

However, there are a few things to consider if you are diabetic and want to include oranges in your meals and snacks. Below are some things to keep in mind when eating oranges to ensure your blood sugars remain well managed.

1) Monitor portion sizes 

Oranges, like all fruits, contain carbohydrates. It’s important to pay attention to portion size of any carbohydrate food to best ensure proper blood sugar management.

One medium-sized orange, about the size of your first, is a serving and typically contains about 15 grams of carbs. If you are having an orange for a snack, this is a good portion to stick to. 

If you are having an orange with a meal, you can include other carb sources but make sure you are still counting the orange as a part of your total carb intake.

2) Choose whole oranges

Choose whole oranges over orange juice to maximize the fiber benefits and minimize sugar spikes. Fiber is often removed in the juicing process which can increase how quickly your blood sugar goes up after you consume it.

Additionally, it’s important to be cautious with canned oranges and packaged orange products, which may contain added sugars that can spike glucose levels and exacerbate diabetes challenges.

3) Oranges count as carbs

As mentioned earlier, fruits are a carbohydrate source. If you are including a fruit with your meal or snack, it counts toward your total carb intake. Make sure you aren’t going over your recommended carbohydrate budget.

4) Eat your oranges with healthy fat or protein

Oranges are delicious and sure, you can enjoy them with a friend, but more importantly, pair them with another food that contains healthy fat or protein. This helps to slow down digestion so you are less likely to experience glucose spikes. 

For example, instead of just having an orange for a snack, have it with a small handful of nuts, a cheese stick, or a low-sugar Greek yogurt. 

5) Pay attention to your blood sugar levels

While fruit is heavily encouraged as a part of a healthy diet whether you have diabetes or not, it’s still important to be mindful of your blood sugar levels. Continue to check your blood sugar levels to understand your response to oranges as this can differ from person to person.

6) Avoid “sugar-free” orange products 

Lastly, try to avoid or limit sugar-free orange products as these may contain other high-glycemic sweeteners that can cause blood glucose spikes. Oranges provide the best benefit to your blood sugars and overall health when consumed in their whole and natural form.

Why we recommend working with a Registered Dietitian if you have diabetes

Managing a condition like diabetes can be stressful, confusing, and time-consuming. You may be asking questions like—are oranges ok to eat—about every food you’re eating in a day. But you don’t have to do it on your own. 

Working with a Registered Dietitian (RD) specializing in diabetes can help. 

RDs are nutrition professionals who specialize in helping people make changes in their diet to better control their conditions, including diabetes. RDs can provide you with individualized guidance and support to help you meet your goals and be the healthiest version of you. 

Don’t let the internet, friends, or family try to guide you with their advice. Get the right information, helpful tips, and ongoing support from a professional and take the guesswork out of managing your diabetes.

You can use Zaya Care’s free Dietitian Search Tool to take the first step toward diabetes management with an RD on your side. 

When you request an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians here at Zaya Care, we’ll check your insurance so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay, if anything at all.

It’s worth noting that 90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for nutrition care with a registered dietitian as we are in-network with many major carriers.

dietitian patient image

Find a dietitian covered by insurance

90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for dietitian visits

Meghan is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist from San Jose, California. She received her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University in 2015. Following an unexpected cross-country trip that landed her in Florida, she completed her didactic training through AdventHealth Orlando. Meghan has extensive experience in multiple aspects of dietetics including critical care, motivational interviewing, writing, and research. She is passionate about health and wellness and has dedicated her free time to breaking down complicated nutrition topics and disseminating them to the public through the arena of writing.