If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake, some fruit choices may be better than others. “Some fruits are similar to breads, pastas and other high-carbohydrate foods [in terms of carbohydrate count], so [if you’re watching your carbohydrate intake] you want to be smart about choosing fruits that are lower in sugar,” says Iva Young, author of Healthy Mom (Yorkshire, 2010). Remember, all fruits can be nutritious choices. And in addition to the natural sugar they contain, they also contain fiber, antioxidants and a plethora of vitamins and minerals.
Avocados (1 gram sugars per cup)
Avocados are so low in sugar that they can be labeled a sugar-free food, according to the FDA. These superfruits have a high fat content and they’re packed with nutrients, including omega 3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol and improve heart health. They also provide a healthy dose of protein — about 4 grams per avocado. Avocados are the main ingredient in one of the most popular dips in the culinary world — here are some of our favorite guacamole recipes.
Blackberries (7 grams sugars per cup)
Blackberries contain terrific amounts of vitamin C and other antioxidants, as well as abundant fiber, vitamin K, folic acid, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, says Young. A unique way to get blackberries (other than straight out of the carton): Pan-Seared Tilapia with Blackberry Sauce.
Cranberries (4 grams sugars per cup)
While cranberries provide healthy amounts of vitamin C and fiber, health researchers have recently been touting the amount of phytonutrients that they provide. Phytonutrients contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Watch out for sugary juices containing cranberries, as they will inflate the cranberry’s naturally moderate amount of sugar at 4 grams per cup. Check out this Walnut Cranberry Squash “Rice” recipe, which calls for plain dried cranberries or cranberries sweetened with juice instead of sugar.
Kiwi (6 grams sugars per kiwi)
Kiwi, along with fiber, contains lots of vitamin C and vitamin K, plus — surprise — just slightly less potassium than a banana. “Potassium is one of those nutrients that’s absolutely essential for heart health, yet many people don’t get nearly enough,” says Young. One healthy and delicious combo: Kiwi and Carambola Tart (if you can’t find carambola, aka star fruit, use pineapple).
Olives (0 grams sugars per cup)
Did you know olives are fruits? The best thing about these fruits is that they contain zero sugar. They also offer healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants, such as hydroxytyrosol and histamine, which can help prevent heart disease, strokes and cancer. They’re also beneficial to the respiratory system, immunity and digestion. Try this Mediterranean-style dish, Grilled Tuna with Green Olive Tapenade, for a healthy alternative to hot dogs on the grill in the summertime.
Oranges (12 grams sugars per medium orange)
Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin A and the highest amount of vitamin C for any citrus; they also provide powerful antioxidants and, of course, fiber (when you eat the pulp), says Young. Interestingly, “the white pith of the orange also contains flavonoids, and some doctors are even using extracts from the pith to help fight certain types of cancer,” says Young. One of our favorite ways to include pith in cooking: this sophisticated but easy recipe for Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Compote.
Plums (6 grams sugars per small plum)
Plums belong to the plant member Prunus, which also includes cherries, apricots and almonds. They’re low in calories and contain fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. They’re known as a low-energy dense food, meaning they contain few calories compared to their portion size — two medium plums add up to only 70 calories. Plums also are a low-glycemic index food, causing only a slight rise in blood sugar. Showcase fresh plums in this delicious recipe: One-pan Baked Chicken with Peaches and Plums.
Raspberries (5 grams sugars per cup)
Raspberries are an excellent source of fiber, offering 30 percent of the recommended daily value in a single serving, says Young. They also provide a rich dose of vitamin C (50 percent DV), and rank near the top of all fruits for antioxidant content. Try our seasonal Raspberry, Apple, and Frisee Salad.
Strawberries are a dieter’s best friend: low in calories, high in fiber. (Seeing a berry theme here? That’s right: All berries are loaded with fiber and nutrients, making them one of the best possible fruit picks. Just be sure to choose organic strawberries; berries appear prominently on the “Dirty Dozen” list of highest pesticide residues.)
“Strawberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C and flavonoids, promoting lots of antioxidant activity in the body,” says Young. Here’s a seasonal favorite for adults and kids alike: Easy Strawberry Tart with Oat-Cinnamon Crust.
Tomatoes (3.2 grams sugars per medium tomato)
Tomatoes are low in sugar, containing only 3.2 grams in a medium tomato. Compare this with grapes, another common fruit, which have 15 grams of sugar per cup. Adding a cup of sliced tomatoes to your salad will only add zero fat and only 32 calories, plus you’re getting a high source of potassium. Researchers also have found that cooked tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene, which may help protect men against prostate cancer. Speaking of cooked tomatoes, try out this stunning side dish recipe for Grilled Tomatoes Stuffed with Goat Cheese.