You’ve probably heard a million times to eat more fruits and veggies. But when it comes to fruit, there is a lot of confusion as to whether they are actually good for us, due to their high sugar content.
The fact of the matter is that fruit is a very healthy part of a balanced diet for most people (we’ll get into the exceptions in a moment). Fruit is packed full of vitamins and minerals, and offers a long list of health benefits. Choosing low sugar fruits has its benefits, such as more balanced blood sugar levels and greater weight loss support. And lastly, fruit juices and dried fruits are quite high in sugar, and best to avoided.
Before getting into the best low sugar fruit options, let’s just take a moment to consider why fruit, in general, is definitely worth including in your diet.
Why You Should Eat Fruit
Not All Sugar is Created Equal
It’s true that sugar is detrimental in the diet when eaten on a regular basis and in high quantities (1). But, it is absolutely crucial to understand that not all sugar is created equal. Refined, processed sugar (like white table sugar and the kind found in most processed/packaged foods) can cause serious problems such blood sugar issues, metabolic disease and diabetes, but fruit sugar is a different beast.
Fruit does contain fructose, which, in high amounts can be very unhealthy (hence a main reason as to why processed sugar is bad for you). However, naturally occurring fructose in fruits has a very different effect than processed foods that are packed full of not natural levels of fructose, not to mention that fruit comes encased in fiber, vitamins and minerals that slow its digestion and provide other health benefits.
Fruit is Full of Fiber, Minerals, Vitamins and Antioxidants
If you eat whole fruit (as opposed to juice) you are getting a ton of fiber, which largely counteracts the naturally occurring sugars. When the fructose from fruit hits your liver, it does so in a much more slow and controlled manner due to the fiber content, as opposed to a candy bar or fruit juice that slams the liver all at once.
Also, fruit tends to be particularly high in the important nutrient vitamin C, potassium and folate. Of course, a variety of fruit is best, in order to vary and benefit from the different nutrient compositions.
Eating Fruit Can Boost Weight Loss Efforts
Considering that most fruits are pretty low in calories, and due to their high fiber content which requires a lot of chewing, they are a fairly satiating snack that supports weight loss. One interesting study actually concluded that apples and oranges were more satiating than eggs and beef.
Top 13 Low Sugar Fruits
1 cup=15 grams of sugar (2)
Not only are blueberries low in sugar when compared to other fruits, but they also have one of the highest antioxidant profiles of any food in existence. Blueberries are a rich source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C and fiber (3), and are best enjoyed fresh or frozen, instead of cooked.
1 cup=8 grams of sugar (4)
Even though their deliciously sweet taste might suggest differently, papaya is actually quite low in sugar. This tropical fruit makes an excellent and creamy addition to smoothies or just simply enjoyed raw. Papaya is extraordinarily high in vitamin C, and works as a powerful digestive aid.
1 cup=16 grams of sugar (5)
Also full of immune boosting vitamin C, the kiwi fruit is particularly high in free radical antioxidants, and is thought to also protect against asthma, macular degeneration and supports heart health.
1 cup=16 grams of sugar (6)
Pineapples are exquisitely sweet and sour at the same time, and also surprisingly low in sugar. Pineapples also contain digestive enzymes that are known to support healthy digestive function, and are particularly high in vitamin B1, which is important for energy production.
1 cup=16 grams of sugar (7)
Pink and red grapefruits are rich in the antioxidant, lycopene, which has been shown to reduce men’s risk of developing prostate cancer and has been shown to have anti-tumor activity. Grapefruit is great enjoyed alone or alongside poached or fried eggs for a light and healthy breakfast.
1 cup=11 grams of sugar (8)
Nectarines are very genetically similar to peaches, but slightly different in nutrient content. Along with being quite low in sugar, they are also high in vitamin A and beta carotene, both nutrients that are key in building and supporting healthy skin, bones and soft tissue.
1 cup=15 grams of sugar (9)
While not always as widely available, guava fruit is native to Central America and is packs a powerful nutritional punch, calorie for calorie. With edible seeds, guavas are delicious when added to salads or simply sliced and had as a raw snack. Compared to the 131% the RDA for vitamin C found in pineapples, guava offers a whopping 628%!
1 cup=10 grams of sugar (10)
Watermelon is right up there with tomatoes as the foods richest in lycopene (the important antioxidant mentioned above, also found in grapefruits). Not only is watermelon a low calorie and incredibly refreshing snack on a hot day or at a barbecue, but it also is very anti-inflammatory.
1 cup=1 gram of sugar (11)
While you are unlikely to just snack on raw rhubarb (although you certainly can), it is a great addition to baked goods or in other cooked dishes, and is incredibly low in sugar. Rhubarb is also high in calcium, vitamin K and important antioxidants.
1 cup=4 grams of sugar (12)
Another fruit that is bit too tart to just eat raw (but you can and some people do), this low sugar, high nutrient fruit is probably best known for its ability to treat UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections, aka bladder infections). Cranberries are also quite anti-inflammatory and immune supportive, so should definitely be included in your diet not just during Thanksgiving dinner.
1 tbsp=0 grams of sugar (13)
Didn’t consider olives a fruit? You’re not alone in this misconception. Olives contain no sugar, whatsoever, and are loaded with healthy fat. 3/4 of olive’s fat content comes from the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, which can actually lower your risk of heart disease.
1 cup=1 gram of sugar (14)
Hands down the most satiating fruit on the planet (in other words, it will keep you full the longest), avocados also offer basically no sugar and provide your body with the healthy fat it needs to thrive. Also, avocados contain more potassium than bananas, and are loaded with fiber.
1 cup=5 grams of sugar (15)
Very low in sugar and another fruit high in vitamin C, raspberries make for an excellent snack food, or are delicious used in cooking. This little berry has an impressively diverse antioxidant profile, and is one of the best fruit options for diabetics or others with blood sugar issues.
Who Shouldn’t Eat Fruit?
In a few specific cases, fruit (even the low sugar options) might need to be avoided. One, if you are allergic or intolerant to a fruit (usually a fructose intolerance). Two, if you have a severe metabolic disease (such as Diabetes) and your doctor or healthcare practitioner has taken you off of fruit. Three, if you are following a strict, low carbohydrate diet (like a ketogenic diet) to treat a medical condition.
Other than that, you should be able to enjoy the deliciousness and nutrient benefits of different fruits in your daily diet, especially focusing on the low sugar options listed in this article. Enjoy!