Should You Avoid Eating These High-Sugar Fruits? We Asked Nutritionists
When it comes to eating foods containing sugar, the way that sugar is incorporated into the food is makes a difference. According to Rayanne Nguyen, RD, a registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition; foods without naturally occurring sugars but with sugar added, like muffins or soda, impact your body differently than a food that naturally has sugar, such as fresh fruit.
If your goal is to eat the healthiest diet possible, you should limit foods with added sugar. According to the USDA, you would also have two cups of fruit daily, ideally the ones with only naturally occurring sugars.
Why is sugar found naturally in fresh fruit not harmful? "Fruit brings all these other nutrients to the table: water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, in addition to carbohydrates, which is the sugar we're talking about," said Nguyen. "So you're not going to get the same blood sugar response and health response from eating a piece of fruit that has the same number of grams of sugar as a soda, for example."
"Research has shown that, in our overall diet as Americans, we are under when it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables," said Nijya Saffo, RD, a registered dietitian and owner of NK Fitness and Nutrition, LLC. "So the majority of us are not even eating a large amount of fruit to have a concern with its sugar content."
But when it comes to processed versions of fruit, both dietitians offer a word of caution. Dried fruit and canned fruit are considered processed and often come with added sugar, which is why they top the list of high-sugar fruits compiled below.
Which kinds of fruit are highest in sugar?
Even without added sugar, dried fruit has roughly twice the amount of natural sugar as fresh fruit. Besides being mindful of your serving size, Saffo recommends choosing dried fruit with "no sugar added" labeled on the package. You can also scan the ingredients for added sugars and make sure words like "sugar", "sweetener," "sucrose", "glucose", "dextrose", "fructose", "syrup", "nectar", "juice concentrate", "honey", and "molasses" aren't listed.
Many canned fruits come in syrup or sweetened juice, says Nguyen, so look for cups or cans with no sugar added. Comparatively speaking, a cup of canned fruit without added sugar corresponds to a cup of fresh fruit.
Some Fresh Fruit
Does a medical condition like diabetes warrant choosing fresh fruit that is lower in sugar? Not necessarily, says Saffo, who steers clients with diabetes away from measuring their fruit intake or only eating low-sugar fruits. Instead, she recommends pairing fruit with a protein-rich food, which helps minimize a subsequent rise in blood sugar. Also, a fruit's glycemic index (GI) has a larger impact on how quickly your blood sugar spikes compared to its sugar content. For example, watermelon is a high-sugar fruit but has a low GI, so it's better suited for someone with diabetes.
Depending on your goals and food preferences, you may want to be more mindful when choosing fresh fruit with a high sugar content. Since we're all biologically different, with diverse goals and food preferences, Saffo recommends consulting with a registered dietitian before limiting your fruit intake solely based on its sugar content. After you've spoken with a dietitian, check back here for the list of the high-sugar fresh fruits we've rounded up.