While many of us might try to regulate our sugar intake by avoiding table sugar or foods and drinks with added sugars, there are other seemingly healthy culprits that might push you over your recommended daily sugar limit - fruits. Fruits are healthy as they possess crucial vitamins, fibres and antioxidants, but unfortunately, some of them have very high sugar content. This could explain why some people try to lose weight but end up gaining extra pounds even after sticking to their healthy diets.
Sugar in fruit is can be as significant as normal table sugar, and if you're trying to cut your sugar intake, it's important to keep an eye on everything you consume and determine the sneaky culprits. To understand how much fruits can jeopardise your journey to a sugar-free life, think about these two scenarios:
Diet Example 1
Jane is a hardworking assistant, who likes to eat a healthy diet despite her busy schedule. In the morning she drinks a glass of almond milk alongside veggies and an apple. She likes to keep her diet balanced, ensuring she takes enough proteins, vegetables and fruits everyday. Since she is trying to lose weight, she limits her carbs and sugar intake.
After breakfast, she packs orange slices which she takes to snack on during the lunch break at work or mid-morning hours. At lunchtime, she will eat a sandwich or a healthy salad, alongside a glass of water, with a banana as a mid afternoon snack.
Dinner time is always packed with healthy goodies and she will prepare an assortment of healthy dishes including salads and healthy meat dishes. For dessert, she might eat a mango or another banana before retiring to bed. Sometimes she substitutes the mango or bananas with natural fruit juice.
Diet Example 2
Jim works as a creative in an advertising agency where deadlines are more important than a healthy meal. He eats what he can find, often on the go. In the morning, he'll grab a cup of coffee on his way to work and unlike Jane, he does not bother to eat fruit.
During the lunch hour, he'll take a large burger or deep fried chicken and a small (330ml) bottle of soda. At night, he might order for pizza and close the day with a beer from his fridge while watching TV.
So who eats the least sugar?
While Jane is obviously living a healthier lifestyle, her daily sugar intake is as high as, (or even higher than) Jim's. She avoids table or added sugar but the fruits she eats have surprisingly high sugar content. The apple she eats in the morning contains an estimated 10 grams of sugar. Her orange slices (if she slices a full orange) contain about 9 grams while each banana has 12 grams. A mango also contains around 12grams of sugar. In total, Jane consumes about 43grams of sugar through the fruits alone.
As for Jim, his small bottle of soda has 35 grams of sugar while his can of beer has surprisingly low sugar content which is almost negligible because it is lower than a gram. Overall, Jane ends up eating way more sugar than Jim, even though she is intentionally avoiding it.
Bear in mind that the daily sugar intake limit as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that men should eat no more that 35g (9tsp) of sugar and that women should only eat 25g (7tsp), so although Jane thinks she is following a healthy diet, she is way over her daily sugar level.
So should you avoid fruits?
The answer to this question is a definite no. Just because fruits have higher sugar levels than beer, doesn't mean you have to stop taking fruits and start guzzling beer. Fruits have a lot of health benefits and are processed differently to straightforward sugar. For a start, all fruits contain fibre, which means the sugar is broken down more slowly that say drinking a coke. This means the sugar is absorbed more slowly, creating less of a sugar spike.
However, overeating fruit will still create a higher blood sugar level, so it's a good idea to understand which fruits contain the most sugar and which fruits contain the least sugar.
Different sugar levels in fruit
Not all fruits are made equal, and some are just naturally sweeter and therefore, high in sugar, but by the same token, there are also lots of other very tasty fruit which are low in sugar. However, it's good to get an idea of what each fruit brings to the table before choosing what to eat and what to avoid or limit.
Below is a list of the most common fruits and the amount of sugar they contain.
Fruit high in sugar
Dates are some of the sweetest fruits in the world. These small squishy fruits have high fibre content which can help with digestion. They are however loaded with sugar and in 100 grams of dates; you'll find 64 grams of sugar, which is equal to about 14 teaspoons of sugar. Therefore, eating 100 grams of dates will give you more than the recommended amount of sugar intake per day, leaving no room for other fruits or added sugars. Bear in mind that the sugary taste is quite addictive and it can be difficult to stop taking them once you start.
These are your go-to fruits whenever you have trouble digesting food, or when you're suffering from constipation. They are dried grapes and can be eaten in different forms. Some people use them in baking and brewing while others eat them raw. Raisins, just like dates have extremely high sugar content and in every 100 grams, there are 65 grams of sugar. The correlation between raisins and dates is that they're both dried fruits. All dried fruits possess higher levels of sugar compared to juicy fruits, given that they lack water to dilute the sugar. It is recommended that if you consume raisins; either raw or cooked, you should do so in moderation.
Mangoes are quite popular in every part of the world as evidenced by many other consumable goodies created with the mango flavour. From mango juices to yoghurts and puddings, there is almost nothing you can't do with mango. This fruit is available all year round, all over the world and it's therefore easy to incorporate it in a healthy diet every day. In every 100 grams of the mango fruit, there are about 14 grams of sugar. The dried version of this fruit contains way higher levels of sugar, hitting 73 grams of sugar in every 100 grams of dried mango. The sugar content may, however, be more or less depending on the mango species and the conditions in which it was grown. In tropical areas with less rainfall water, mangoes tend to be sweeter and more sugary.
Grapes are not very common in most homesteads especially in their raw, fresh form, but they're still popular. You may not have even them in a long time, but you've probably used jam, wine, raisins or grape juice. All these products are made from grapes and they're quite sugary especially jam. Grapes come in small sizes, which make it easy for people to underestimate their sugar content. They contain a surprisingly high amount of sugar (16 grams per 100g). Therefore, it's important to indulge moderately, if you come across these tiny fruits.
Bananas are not just popular, they're also very common. Everywhere you turn, you're likely to see a bunch of bananas. They are easy to find and at very affordable prices. Moreover, bananas are very convenient when it comes to packing and eating. You don't need to slice or peel them and neither do you need a special packing container. They are also small in size and relatively dry compared to most juicy fruits. Their convenience makes it easy for people to over-rely on them especially during busy work weeks and picnics. Despite their small size, bananas contain close to 12 grams of sugar in every 100 grams (one small banana weighs about 100 grams), most of which is sucrose.
Pineapples do not have as much sugar as mangoes or grapes, but they pose one problem- they come in large sizes. An average pineapple weighs approximately 900 grams yet in every 100g of pineapple, there are 10 grams of sugar. This means that a full average pineapple contains 108 grams of sugar. Whether you consume pineapples in the form of juice or raw fruit, their sugar content can be too much if not checked.
Oranges are as popular as their sweeter neighbours, bananas. They're readily available as well as affordable and it's therefore easy for most families to take orange slices on a daily basis. Due to their slightly acidic nature, their sugar content is not as high as the fruits discussed above, but they still pose certain dangers, especially to those suffering from diabetes. One orange will give you 9 grams of sugar.
These tiny red fruits offer a myriad of health benefits. They're believed to aid patients with inflammatory conditions as well as those lower blood sugar levels. However, there are two types of cherries; sour and sweet. Sour cherries come in at around 8g but sweet cherries will definitely spike your blood sugar levels because; they have the same higher sugar levels than oranges and pineapples per 100 grams, despite their tiny size. Each 100g of sweet cherries contains 14 grams of sugar.
Fruit low in sugar
As sweet as it tastes, papaya does not have much sugar. It's a good alternative if you still want to taste some sugar in your fruits without going overboard. Papayas contain 8g of sugar per 100g. This amount is neither too high nor too low- it's simply enough.
Grapefruits (pink and white)
Grapefruits taste and smell great. Surprisingly, these sweet fruits have 6.2g sugar per 100g. You could, therefore, swap your orange slices with one grapefruit if you want to limit your sugar intake.
Melons have more water than most other fruits. This means that their sugar concentration is diluted. While some melons will have more sugar than others (depending on the climatic conditions of where they've been grown) an average melon has about 6g of sugar per 100g. A whole melon may have about 18g to 20g of sugar which is relatively low given their large sizes and when compared to pineapples which are also large sized.
Most berries have lower levels of sugar but strawberries are notably on the lower end of the spectrum, at 4.9 grams per 100g. These small red fruits are not just beautiful toppings for cakes and salads. They also regulate blood sugar, as well as protect the heart without compromising your low sugar intake journey.
Tomatoes are great for cooking meals and making sauces, but they're also excellent fruits, (did you know tomato’s are actually a fruit!?) They play a role similar to carrots when it comes to protecting the eyes. While most people don't consider these red beauties as fruits, they can be eaten raw as such. Their sugar content is quite low at 2.8g per 100g, which makes them the perfect fruit low in sugar.
As we all know lemons are quite acidic and their extremely sour taste is a clear indicator that their sugar levels are way lower than in other most fruits. They contain 2.5g per 100g while their cousins, limes have 1.7g per 100g. This makes them the perfect choice if you're trying to cut down on sugar. However, their acidity may not be favourable if you over-indulge.
Unlike lemons, Avocado still tastes good even without much sugar. They contain 0.9g of sugar, an ideal amount for anyone trying to live a sugar-free life without compromising on other nutrients. Avocados are healthy fruits which can be found in most local markets. They can be eaten raw or incorporated in a number of dishes and salads.
How to regulate fruit sugar
With the above information on fruits, it's obvious that a healthy diet can turn out to be not so healthy'. While natural sugar from fruits may not be so harmful, it can contribute immensely to sugar addiction. Eating an entire pineapple may not lead to obesity directly but it may make you want to have more and more sugar, and so it's difficult to regulate your sugar intake if you're constantly taking very sugary fruits.
Tips on which fruit to eat on a low sugar diet
You don't have to abandon fruit with high sugar content, but with the above information, you could learn to limit your intake. The following tips and strategies can help:
First, if you have to eat fruits with lots of sugar, limit the quantities. For instance, don't eat two bananas, knowing that one banana will give you all the sugar you need in a day. Instead, eat smaller quantities of less sugary fruits.
Second, mix up your fruits (both low and high sugar), so that your tongue and palate gets used to low sugar content fruits over time.
Avoid dried fruits since they all contain extremely high sugar content. If you have to consume them, eat very small portions and be aware of the amount of sugar you're ingesting.
Slice up all your fruits and try to eat small portions rather than whole amounts. Make a habit of dividing your fruits before storing them in the fridge for later use. This will help you with portion control and eventual sugar intake.
If you feel that sugar may be affecting your food choices and would like to break the sugar addiction cycle you can sign up for my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program here.