When it comes to eating foods containing sugar, the way sugar is incorporated into the food is something to be mindful of. According to Rayanne Nguyen, RD, a registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition, foods without naturally occurring sugars, but with sugar added to them, like a muffin or soda, will impact your body differently than a food that naturally contains sugar, such as fresh fruit.
If you had a goal to eat the healthiest diet possible, you would be advised to limit foods with added sugar. You would also be encouraged to have two cups of fruit daily, as per the USDA, ideally the ones that only contain naturally occurring sugars.
Why are the sugars 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," says 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," says 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."
When it comes to processed versions of fruit, however, both dietitians offer a word of caution. Dried fruit and canned fruit are considered to be processed, and often come with added sugar, which is why they are at the top of the list of high sugar fruits compiled below.
Which kinds of fruit are highest in sugar?
Even without any added sugar, half a cup of dried fruit would have roughly the same amount of natural sugar as one cup of fresh fruit. Besides being mindful of your serving size, Saffo recommends choosing dried fruit that has "no sugar added" written on the packaging. You can also scan the ingredients list and make sure words like sugar, sweetener, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, syrups, nectars, juice concentrates, honey, and molasses aren't included. For the full list of added sugars, see here.
A number of canned fruits come in syrup or sweetened juice, says Nguyen, so look for the cups or cans that have no sugar added. For serving size, a cup of canned fruit without added sugar corresponds to a cup of fresh fruit.
Some Fresh Fruit
You may wonder whether a medical condition like diabetes warrants 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 food each time they eat it, which can blunt the rise of blood sugar. Also, the glycemic index (GI) of the fruit has more of an impact on how quickly your blood sugar spikes compared to the amount of sugar. A high sugar fruit (like watermelon) may actually have a lower GI and be better suited for a person with diabetes.
But sometimes, depending on your goals and food preferences, you may want to be more mindful when choosing fresh fruit with a higher sugar content. Because we're all biologically different and have different goals and food preferences, Saffo's recommendation is to consult a registered dietitian before limiting your fruit variety solely based on its sugar content. And after you've spoken with a dietitian, check back here for the list of the higher sugar fresh fruits we've rounded up below.
A cup of grapes (close to a 3.5-ounce or 100 gram serving) provides 16 grams of sugar and 10 percent of your Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K.
There are 15 grams of sugar in 100 grams of lychee. If you're eating one cup of lychee, you'd be getting more sugar, since a cup holds roughly 190 grams. One cup of lychee also provides 10 percent of the DV for vitamin C.
Cherries (Sweet Variety)
Cherries have 13 grams of sugar per 100 grams. A cup of cherries provides 17 grams of sugar, 10 percent of the DV for fiber, 7 percent of the DV for potassium, 9 percent of the DV for copper, and 10 percent of the DV for vitamin C.
Mango contains 14 grams of sugar per 100 grams, which means a cupful provides 23 grams of sugar. It also hits 10 percent of your daily fiber needs, in addition to 67 percent of the DV for vitamin C and 10 percent of the DV for vitamin A and E.
Pomegranate has 14 grams of sugar per 100 grams. If you're eating a cup of pomegranate, you'd be getting 23 grams of sugar, along with 25 percent of the DV for fiber, and 20 percent of your daily vitamin C and K needs.
Bananas have 12 grams of sugar per 100 grams. 1 medium banana provides 14 grams of sugar, 10 percent of the DV for fiber, approximately 10 percent of the DV for potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C.
There are 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams of blueberries. A cup provides close to 15 grams of sugar, 13 percent of the DV for fiber, 16 percent of the DV for vitamin C, and 24 percent of the DV for vitamin K.