Which fruits are low in sugar? Fruit is a healthy way to add essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and water to your diet. Some fruits, including mangoes, grapes and bananas, have a higher content of natural sugars (fructose) than others. If you’re looking to control your sugar intake, or are on a low-sugar or low-carb diet, you may find it useful to know how much sugar is in your fruit.
While fruit can be a nutrient-rich addition to a healthy and balanced diet, many people aren’t aware that different fruits contain different amounts of sugar. Fruits like grapefruit, apples, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are low in sugar, whilst mangoes, cherries, watermelon, bananas and grapes are all relatively high in natural sugar.
People with diabetes are often told they can’t eat fruits because they contain sugar, but this isn’t entirely true. According to the American Diabetes Association (opens in new tab), because fruit contains carbohydrates, it’s important to count it as part of your meal plan and be aware of portion sizes. They also recommend using the glycaemic index – high glycaemic fruits may result in a quick spike in insulin and blood sugar whereas low glycaemic fruits have a slower, smaller effect.
Certain fruits also help hydrate the body due to their high-water content, and eating them will contribute to your daily water intake. Alongside investing in one of the best water bottles, adding some fruit to your diet can be a great way to meet your daily hydration needs. Here are seven fruits that are low in sugar but rich in flavor, nutrients and health benefits:
Although incredibly sweet, one medium peach only contains approximately 13 grams (g) of sugar. “Peaches are a good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant, a substance that can reduce cell damage and support overall health,” Jo Cunningham, dietician and clinical director of The Gut Health Clinic (opens in new tab) told Live Science. “Beta-carotene gets converted into vitamin A in the body, which plays a role in our immune system as well as healthy vision. Peaches are also a source of potassium, which plays a key role in the function of many organs in the body as well as our nervous system.”
As well as being a good source of vitamin C and fiber, eight medium-sized strawberries only have about 8 g of sugar. “They also contain a wide range of polyphenols (beneficial plant-based chemicals), which our microbes transform into beneficial chemicals linked with cancer prevention and better heart and mental health,” Cunningham said.
“The blackberry is another berry full of beneficial plant chemicals, such as anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. One cup of blackberries only has 7 g of sugar,” explains Cunningham. They are also a good source of fiber and vitamins C, E and K.
A great option for breakfast or an alternative to sugary snacks, half a grapefruit contains 8.5 g of sugar. One study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (opens in new tab), found that people who ate half a grapefruit before meals lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t.
“Grapefruit is known to interfere with the absorption of various medicines (including those that lower cholesterol or blood pressure). So, if you’re taking medication, it’s always good to check whether this applies to you by having a chat with your medical professional,” Cunningham said.
Yep, avocados are a low-sugar fruit, although you may not have guessed it. This nutrient-dense fruit is loaded with healthy fats, which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol. One avocado contains just 1 g of sugar.
“As well as potassium and magnesium, they also contain Vitamin E, which plays a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and eyes as well as supporting the immune system,” Cunningham explained.
“Along with mixed fibers and a whole host of vitamins and minerals, there are around 300 different phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that feed our gut bacteria within the humble apple,” Cunningham said.
“The fruit sugar found in apples, called sorbitol, has a lower impact on blood glucose levels. It can also be useful for those experiencing constipation as the sorbitol draws water into the bowel to soften poop. Interestingly, the apple also contains properties that can help with sleep, anxiety and mood disorders.”
With 19 g of sugar in one medium apple, this hydrating fruit is made up of roughly 86% water, so if you’ve been wondering how to stay hydrated, adding an apple into your daily diet alongside drinking plenty of water can be a great way to do it.
Packing 12 g of sugar per standard orange and loaded with vitamin C, a glass of orange juice has twice the amount of sugar and a third of the fiber.
“Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, and the orange also contains compounds that the body converts to vitamin A. They also contain many different plant chemicals, including flavanols, which are associated with skin health and better brain function,” she said.
- Related: Lemon water benefits: are there any?
Why should I opt for low-sugar fruits?
Eating low-sugar fruits is a healthy way to satisfy your appetite. As well as being packed with essential nutrients, they contain significantly more vitamins, minerals and fiber and potassium than highly processed choices.
If you’re trying to lower your daily sugar and carbohydrate intake, incorporating these low-sugar fruits can help you maintain a healthy weight and reach your weight-loss goals. “Berries, including blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries, are probably the lowest in terms of carbohydrate (sugar) content if you are following a low-carb diet,” Cunningham explained.
Eating fruit as part of a healthy diet shouldn’t raise your risk of diabetes. But eating more than the recommended daily allowance of fruit may cause your blood sugar to rise at a quicker pace than others – especially if they are high glycaemic (GI) fruits. High GI foods spike your blood sugar rapidly, while low GI foods have less of an effect on blood sugar. High GI fruits include bananas, watermelon, pineapple, mango and raisins.
Research, published in the BMJ (opens in new tab), found that drinking fruit juice was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than eating specific whole fruits – particularly blueberries and apples.
“Low-sugar fruits have less of an impact on blood sugar – but rather than cutting out fruits completely, it’s more important to focus on the portions you’re eating,” Cunningham explained. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (opens in new tab), adults should eat two cups of fruit or fruit juice or a half-cup of dried fruit per day.
“Aim to eat 2-3 portions (a handful is a portion e.g. a medium apple or banana) of fruit per day, and eat them at different times of the day rather than all at once. Even better would be to combine the fruit with something such as a handful of nuts, as the fiber and healthy fat can help slow the digestion and therefore release of sugar from the fruit into the body,” Cunningham said.
American Diabetes Association. (2022). Fruit | ADA. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/fruit (opens in new tab)
Department of Health and Human Services USA & U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2014). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020. Department of Health and Human Services USA. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf (opens in new tab)
Fujioka, K., Greenway, F., Sheard, J., & Ying, Y. (2006). The Effects of Grapefruit on Weight and Insulin Resistance: Relationship to the Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Medicinal Food, 9(1), 49–54. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2006.9.49 (opens in new tab)
Muraki, I., Imamura, F., Manson, J. E., Hu, F. B., Willett, W. C., van Dam, R. M., & Sun, Q. (2013). Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. BMJ, 347(aug28 1), f5001. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5001 (opens in new tab)