5 Low-Sugar Fruits You Won’t Feel Guilty About Eating

Three watermelon slices sitting on a wood table.

Eating fruits, like watermelon, that are lower in sugar and higher in fibre helps avoid a spike in blood sugar. Photo: DeeNida/Getty Images

As the pandemic wears on, enjoying life’s simple pleasures may have never been more important.

From gardening to burying your nose in a good book, pleasurable distractions can help relieve anxiety and, in the case of food, can also help our body manage stress. Of course, calories still add up the same way they did pre-COVID so, we’ve got some advice on enjoying summer’s sweet bounty — fruit. And, we let you know just how much activity you need to work off the treat.

This investigation all started with skepticism over watermelon. Surely this backyard barbecue favourite is loaded with sugar, considering how much it tastes like confection and, should thus be avoided. Right?

Wrong.

There was actual rejoice around our office — back when we weren’t working from home, that is — when, upon Googling, I found watermelon (and other melon) on a list of low-sugar fruit.

Limiting sugar — even in fruit — is good for your waistline, yes, but curbing those sweet calories can also help avoid a domino effect. Diets high in sugar can lead to obesity, which in turn can lead to chronic disease including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. What’s more, most fruit are a good source of vitamin C, which is critical for the healthy function of our adrenal glands — which just so happen to release hormones that help regulate our immune system and stress response as well as metabolism and blood pressure.

But it’s not just how much vitamin C and how little sugar a fruit contains that makes it a better choice.

“Fruit is a source of sugar (fructose) but it also comes with fibre. Fibre is a carbohydrate — but it takes longer for our body to digest so it helps to stabilize your blood sugar,” says Windsor, Ont.-based registered dietitian Andrea Docherty.

“Plus, fruit contains lots of anti-oxidants and phytochemicals, which have been shown to minimize risk of cancer and promote cardiovascular health. And, they’ve got lots of water and vitamins and minerals.”

Docherty recommends a max of two to three servings of fruit a day and here’s her top five low-sugar picks.

1. Melon

“Cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon are all low in sugar and have high water content.”

All thirst-quenching but of the three, watermelon has the least amount of sugar (5 grams) per serving (125 ml, cubed) and is also a good source of calcium (6 mg per same serving size) and contains 7 mg of vitamin C.
Calorie count: 24
Burn it off with 5 minutes of brisk walking.

2. Berries

“All berries are a great source of fibre and are very low in sugar. It’s the seeds that gives them their fibre.”

Raspberries, in particular, contain the most fibre (4.2 grams) and only 3 grams of sugar per serving (125 ml) along with 17 mg of vitamin C.
Calorie count: 34
Burn it off with 10 minutes of housecleaning.

3. Kiwi Fruit

Each kiwi contains about 7 grams of sugar and, although its fibre content might not seem high at 2.3 grams, it provides both types; soluble (helps you feel full) and insoluble (acts as a natural laxative to move waste out and help keep you regular). And, one kiwi offers a whopping 70 mg of vitamin C — 10 mg more than the daily recommended value.
Calorie count: 46
Burn it off with 10 minutes of Tai Chi.

4. Peaches

A mid-summer favourite, this stone fruit has a little more sugar (roughly 8 grams per peach) and a little less fibre (1.9 grams) but it’s a good source of vitamin A (important for bone and tissue health) and beta carotene (some evidence suggests that it might slow cognitive decline) and gives you 7 mg of vitamin C.
Calorie count: 38
Burn it off with 6 minutes at low speed on a stationary bike.

5. Avocado

We may not think of it as a fruit but it is and half an avocado has a rather respectable 10 mg of vitamin C. Plus, as Docherty points out, “Avocado is very low in sugar (1 gram per half) and what makes it unique is that it contains unsaturated good fat (15 grams), and fibre (6.7 grams).”
Calorie count: 161
Burn it off in the first 30 minutes on the golf course.

Incidentally, fat is a good pairing with fruit, says Docgerty.

“I recommend that when you do have fruit, pair it with fat or protein. Like fibre, fat and protein take a little longer for your body to digest so they can also help stabilize your blood sugar.”

Try berries with plain yogurt or cottage cheese, or add avocado to your smoothie, she suggests.

What About Fruit Juice?

Juice counts as a serving of fruit but, as Docherty notes, it does lack the fibre of whole fruit. If you’re going to indulge, think about doing it only occasionally and limit the serving to 125 ml (half a cup).

“A lot of juice comes in what seems like a single serving but it can be as much as two cups or more. It’s easy to drink that amount but that’s several servings of fruit — and you wouldn’t necessarily eat four apples or four oranges at a time,” she says.

Plus, make sure there’s no added sugar. One way to do that without having to read the fine print is by looking out for words like drink, beverage, cocktail and punch on the label — once they add sugar companies can no longer use the word juice in the name.

For Health Canada’s Nutrient Value of Common Foods, including all the fruit listed above and more, click here.

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