It’s not news that eating fruit is good for your health. That said, if you’re concerned with your sugar intake—be it because of diabetes or another reason—not all fruits are created equal. For this reason, we spoke to a registered dietician to get her top picks for low-sugar fruits that won’t spike your blood glucose levels.
The 12 Best Low-Sugar Fruits for Snacking, According to a Dietician
Strawberries and kiwis and peaches, oh my
Meet the Expert
What Fruits Are Low in Sugar?
The TLDR? Berries, apples, citrus fruit, avocado, stone fruit and melons are all fair game. That means apricots, cherries, oranges, pears, blueberries and beyond are all on the menu.
In addition to sugar content, it’s important to take glycemic index—a tool used to manage blood sugar—into account, especially if you have diabetes or are an athlete. According to Harvard Health Publishing, "The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how quickly and how high those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly."
In addition, high GI foods (70 and above) help boost energy after a workout, making them good for, say, long-distance runners or marathoners, while low GI foods (55 and under) can inspire weight loss. Also note that a food's glycemic index can change based on how it’s prepared, its ripeness and how it’s been processed. (And in case you're wondering, some high GI fruits to be aware of include ripe banana, pineapple, watermelon and mango.)
Before you start snacking on nature’s candy, Wilson says there are a couple other things to keep in mind—namely that when it comes to blood sugar levels, it’s always best to opt for the whole fruit instead of drinking its juice, and that even low-sugar fruits can impact glucose levels when consumed as “naked carbs” (meaning all by their lonesome), which is why it’s wise to pair fruit with a protein or healthy fat whenever possible.
- Amount of Sugar: 7 grams per cup
- Glycemic Index: 41
In addition to being an excellent low-sugar option, strawberries can raise good cholesterol and reduce blood pressure, and just one cup of the whole fruit provides your recommended daily dose of vitamin C.
- Amount of Sugar: 10.6 grams per half fruit
- Glycemic Index: 26
Grapefruits are known for being tart, so it should come as no surprise that one half of this (quite large) fruit has only roughly 11 grams of sugar. Best of all, grapefruit can help keep insulin levels even, thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Amount of Sugar: 12.6 grams per fruit
- Glycemic Index: 28
While a perfectly ripe peach does indeed taste quite sweet, the average peach only contains about 13 grams of sugar. Peaches are also full of vitamins C, B2 and A, as well as iron and antioxidants.
- Amount of Sugar: 6.6 grams per fruit
- Glycemic Index: 39
With only 30 calories and roughly 7 grams of sugar per fruit, plums are a great low-sugar fruit to add to salads and desserts for a little natural sweetness. Plums are also rich in fiber, which can help slow a blood sugar spike after you eat carbs.
- Amount of Sugar: 12.6 grams per cup
- Glycemic Index: 65
Clocking in at just under 13 grams per cup of cubed fruit, cantaloupe is relatively low in sugar and carbs, since it’s 90 percent water. Cantaloupe is also a great source of vitamin A. Just note that it has a higher glycemic index than many other fruits.
- Amount of Sugar: 8.6 grams per fruit
- Glycemic Index: 41
Pears are a tasty fruit composed of mostly water and a modest amount of sugar. Asian pears are a particularly good type to nosh on, since they contain only about 9 grams of sugar and boast the satisfying crunch of an apple.
11. Lemons and Limes
With only 1 to 2 grams of sugar each, lemons and limes are ideal for to squeezing into a glass of water or over a wide range of foods. Plus, both these citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, which can reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.
- Amount of Sugar: 5 grams per fruit
- Glycemic Index: 15
Here, another undercover fruit with an impressively small amount of sugar (a scant 5 grams per cuke). Cucumbers also contain magnesium, potassium and vitamin K, which all play an important role in the cardiovascular system.
How Much Sugar Should You Aim for in a Day?
The answer is a bit complicated, namely because the only hard and fast recommendations you’ll find relate to added sugars, which are far worse for your health than the nutritionally beneficial, natural sugars found in whole, raw fruits.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, no more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugars (so, 200 calories or 50 grams of sugar per day on a 2,000 calorie per day diet). The American Heart Association has more restrictive guidelines, recommending an upper limit of 100 calories or 24 grams of added sugar per day for most women.
As previously mentioned, the natural sugars found in fruit are a different story, and there are no upper limits on their consumption—namely because they’re often good sources of dietary fiber and nutrients and processed by the body very differently than added sugars.
The Bottom Line
The takeaway? Aim to eat natural sugars instead of added refined sugar whenever you can, and know that you needn’t worry about eating fruit because, though it is technically possible to eat too much of a good thing, the experts at WebMD say you'd have to try really hard to achieve a problematic level of sugar consumption from fruit alone.
Of course if you have if you have diabetes, remember that the most important thing is to monitor your blood glucose levels according to your doctor’s instructions, because they can be influenced by a variety of foods, including fruit.