Should you drop that apple? We're looking at the sugar content in fruit and which ones you should be reaching for.
Fruit is good for us. Sugar is bad for us. This you know. But if fruit contains sugar, then how could it be good for you? Don't worry, you're not alone—you're not the first person to Google “which fruits have the most sugar?”
Why is sugar so confusing?
The mixed messages lies in the vast and seemingly conflicting studies (and some misleading marketing messages) on sugar, blood sugar, diabetes, keto, whole-food diet, plant-based diet, calories and so much more.
Simply put, sugar is energy. Some call it “empty calories,” because there are no nutritive values attributed to sugar, but typically, they're referring to granulated sugar.
Unlike the white stuff, sugar in fruit is combined with nutrients, like vitamin C and fibre, which is good for you. Experts agree that the average healthy person doesn't necessarily need to be concerned about the sugar in fruit, as fruit offers more nutrients than processed snacks—or no snacks.
Why should you care about sugar in fruit?
Things get complicated if you have diabetes, are watching blood sugar levels, follow a glycemic eating plan or follow any other of-the-moment low-carb diet. That's because all sugar—the granulated kind or the kind found in whole foods—has the same effect on the body: It spikes blood sugar, says Skye Longley, a registered holistic nutritionist at Team Goals and owner of Food Focused. “Consistently spiking blood sugar will lead to too much insulin being released into the bloodstream, and over extended periods of time, will lead to fat gain, obesity and insulin resistance and pre-type 2 diabetes."
So, yes, sugar can contribute to that, if you don't consume it properly. Longley suggests eating fruit strategically: Eat fresh fruit (meaning not out of a can or bottle) for an extra boost of fibre, which can help slow the spike in blood sugar. And it doesn't hurt to eat a few almonds with fruit, too, to slow down blood sugar even more.
When should you eat fruit?
Longley suggests waiting on having your fruit smoothie until later in the day—having fruit in the morning may spike your blood sugar too early in the day, meaning you could have an early energy crash.
Instead, she recommends enjoying fruit in the evening or—even better—right after your workout. “The best time to consume carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruit, is after a bout of physical activity and physical exertion, when glycogen stores in your muscles have been depleted and were used for energy,” she says. This will replenish your glycogen stores, even if you work out in the morning.
Which fruits have the highest sugar content?
According to Canada's Food Guide, one serving of fruit is about half a cup—approximately 50 grams—and two servings of fruit a day are recommended. Here, with the help of Nutrition Data, we've ranked the 21 fruits highest in sugar.
1. Dried fruit
Dehydrated apples (40 g), dates (33 g), raisins (29 g), and others top the list as the most sugar per 100-gram serving. Why? Once you remove the water from fruit, the balance of sugar skews. (Juices, pureed fruit and canned fruit tend to be higher in sugar too.)
An apple a day… counts as two servings of fruit. Royal gala and honey crisp can contain 19 grams of sugar, but green apples, like granny smith, contain 9 grams.
This tropical fruit contains 15 grams of sugar in a half cup – that's about four to five lychee fruit.
Your favourite smoothie ingredient is loaded with sugar. One serving (about half a mango fruit) has 12 grams of sugar.
5. Passion fruit
A half-cup of this loveable fruit has 13 grams of sugar.
One peach counts as two servings and has 13 grams of sugar.
A half cup of pomegranate seeds contains about 12 grams of sugar.
8. Honeydew melon
A wedge of honeydew melon (1/8 of fruit) is two servings and has 10 grams of sugar. (A wedge of cantaloupe has 8 grams.)
A handful of grapes ranks high in sugar, with 8 to 10 grams per half cup.
Canned cherries are high in sugar, sure, but 50 grams of cherries (about five to six cherries) has 10 grams of sugar.
Figs taste so sweet because they are—a 50-gram serving has 8 grams of sugar.
A medium-sized mandarin orange is slightly more than half a cup, so it does have more sugar than you might expect—8 grams. But your garden variety orange (about the size of your fist) has only slightly more sugar, at 9 grams. A half grapefruit has 9 grams of sugar.
13. Pineapple chunks
Not canned. No syrup. We're talking freshly cut. A half-cup contains 8 grams of sugar.
A half-cup of blueberries have 7 to 8 grams of sugar – as long as you don't sprinkle it with sugar.
A single banana is actually two fruit servings, which is why you might add half a banana (7 g sugar) to your protein smoothie.
A small but mighty plum is slightly over one serving, weighing about 60 grams. It has 7 grams per fruit.
Two apricots make one serving and contain about 7 grams of sugar.
Two of these fruits have five grams of sugar.
Did you know that one kiwi has 7 grams of sugar?
A half cup of guava chunks, which is about one fruit, has 7 grams of sugar.
A half cup of this dark berry has about 6 grams of sugar.
Which fruits have the lowest amount of sugar?
The ones you might not even think of as fruit! Olives and avocado naturally contain no sugars. Rhubarb, lime and starfruit have some sugar, but only a half gram per half cup. Lemons, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and watermelon offer only about 2 to 3 grams per half-cup serving. Consider your dessert tonight decided.