Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007.
Fruits can be a healthy part of any diet, but fruits are also a continuous source of confusion for people managing diet, health, and diabetes. Whenever I counsel people on nutrition and diabetes, inevitably they ask if they should be eating fruit because they are worried about the sugar content.
Fruits and sugar quantity
Yes, all fruits contain some sugar, but not in equal amounts.
Some examples of high-sugar fruits are grapes, bananas, mangoes, sweet cherries, apples, pineapple, pears, and kiwi.
Alternatively, some examples of low-sugar fruits are avocado, lemons, and limes.
And there are plenty of choices in the mid-sugar range, such as grapefruit, blackberries, blueberries, apricots, cantaloupe, sour cherries, figs, honeydew melon, tangerine, nectarine, papaya, and plums.
And let’s not forget the fruits with very high sugar content: dried fruits and fruit juices.
How to eat high sugar and low sugar fruit
All of the fruits listed above can have a place in a healthy diet. Balance and moderation are key. If you are having a breakfast that is already high in carbohydrates, such as toast or oatmeal, choose a fruit that is lower in sugar, such as an avocado, to balance out that meal. Sliced avocado on whole grain toast with a little salt and pepper makes for a delicious breakfast (or lunch).
On the other hand, if you are having a fairly high-protein dinner with not a lot of extra carbohydrates, this would be the time to enjoy an apple, pear, or fresh fruit salad with a mix of high- and medium-sugar fruits.
Another concept to embrace is pairing fruit with a protein source. The protein slows the digestion of the fruit’s carbohydrates and glucose into the bloodstream, allowing for a more leveled rise in blood sugar instead of a spike in blood sugar that you might see after eating pineapple or kiwi on its own.
Some good fruit and protein pairings are:
- Banana slices with natural peanut butter
- Cantaloupe and cottage cheese
- Berries and plain yogurt
- Apple slices with cheddar cheese
- Apricot and almonds
- Figs with a slice of turkey
A whole fruit is best to eat, including the skins of apples, pears, plums, etc. The sugar in whole, fresh fruit is not as concentrated as the sugar in dried fruits and fruit juice.
Be mindful when eating dried fruit—a little goes a long way as far as carbohydrate and sugar are concerned.
And fruit juice is a good treatment option for hypoglycemia, but probably not the best choice to go with meals or be consumed throughout the day. Most fruit juice contains very little actual fruit juice; they are mostly sugar water with a little fruit juice thrown in for flavor.
So depending on the day or the meal, choose the fruit that is right for you at that time and enjoy.