Most people agree that fruits fit perfectly into a healthy lifestyle routine.
However, people on a low-carb diet tend to avoid fruits. There are even low-carbers who go to extremes and say that fruit is downright unhealthy.
Meanwhile, most health and lifestyle professionals advise people to eat fruit every day.
As a result, the question whether fruit is acceptable on a low-carb diet seems to come up all the time. This article takes a close look at the evidence.
The primary goal of low-carb diets is carb restriction.
This involves limiting the foods that contain the most carbohydrates, including candy, sugary soft drinks and root vegetables like potatoes, as well as grain products like pasta and bread.
But fruits, despite the health halo, also tend to be fairly rich in carbohydrates, primarily the simple sugars, glucose and fructose.
Here is the net carb (total carbs – fiber) count for a few fruits:
|Grapes (1 cup / 151g)||26 grams|
|Banana (1 medium)||24 grams|
|Pear (1 medium)||22 grams|
|Apple (1 medium)||21 grams|
|Pineapple (1 cup / 165g)||20 grams|
|Blueberries (1 cup / 148g)||17 grams|
|Oranges (1 medium)||12 grams|
|Kiwi (1 medium)||9 grams|
|Strawberries (1 cup / 144g)||8 grams|
|Lemon (1 fruit)||6 grams|
Fruits are much higher in carbs than low-carb veggies but lower in carbs than foods like bread or pasta.
Summary Fruits are generally high in carbs. For this reason, you need to moderate your fruit intake on a low-carb diet.
It's important to keep in mind that not all low-carb diets are the same. There is no clear definition of exactly what constitutes a low-carb diet.
Whether any one person can or should include fruit in their diet depends on a lot of things.
This includes their current goals, activity levels, current metabolic health and personal preference.
A person who aims to eat no more than 100–150 grams of carbs per day can easily fit in several pieces of fruit per day without going over their limit.
However, someone who is on a very low-carb ketogenic diet with under 50 grams per day doesn't really have much room.
Instead of spending the entire carb budget on 1 or 2 pieces of fruit, it would be better spent eating plenty of low-carb vegetables, which are much more nutritious, calorie for calorie.
Summary While some fruit intake is fine on most low-carb diets, you may need to avoid fruit if you are trying to reach ketosis.
Fruits taste sweet because they contain a mixture of fructose and glucose.
There has been a lot of talk about the harmful effects of table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, mainly because they contain so much fructose.
However, the role of fructose is still controversial, and no strong evidence proves that it’s harmful in normal amounts (2).
It’s very important to realize that fructose may only be harmful in a certain lifestyle context. For people who are inactive and eat a high-carb Western diet, consuming a lot of fructose may cause harm.
But people who are healthy, lean and active can afford to eat some fructose. Instead of being turned into fat, it will go towards replenishing glycogen stores in the liver.
If you're already eating a healthy, real-food based diet with plenty of protein and fat, small amounts of fructose from fruit won't cause harm.
Fruits also happen to contain fiber, lots of water and significant chewing resistance. It’s almost impossible to overeat fructose simply by eating fruit.
The possible harmful effects of fructose apply to fructose from added sugars, not from real foods like fruits.
However, fruit juice is a different story. There's virtually no fiber in it, no chewing resistance and it may contain nearly the same amount of sugar as a soft drink. Fruit is okay, fruit juice is not.
Summary Fruit contains a mixture of fructose and glucose. Excessive fructose intake is considered unhealthy, but this only applies to added sugar in processed food.
The best way to get into nutritional ketosis and experience the full metabolic benefits of low-carb diets is to reduce carbs, usually below 50 grams per day. This includes fruit.
There are many reasons people adopt such a diet. Some do it for health reasons such as obesity, diabetes or epilepsy. Others simply feel best eating that way.
There is no reason to discourage these people from avoiding fruit. It doesn’t contain any essential nutrients that you can't get from vegetables.
While some low-carbers may do best limiting fruit, the same may not apply to others.
Fresh fruits are healthy, unprocessed foods that are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Fruits are certainly much healthier options than the processed junk food people are putting in their bodies every day.
Summary Daily intake of fruit is generally recommended as part of a healthy diet. However, for those following a low-carb diet, moderation is key.
Not all fruits are high in sugar and carbs.
Some are even considered vegetables because of their lack of sweetness.
Here are a few examples of low-carb fruits:
- Tomatoes: 3.2 g per 100 g (1 tomato)
- Watermelon: 7.6 g per 100 g (one-third of a wedge)
- Strawberries: 7.7 g per 100 g (two-thirds of a cup)
- Cantaloupe: 8.2 g per 100 g (two small wedges)
- Avocado: 8.5 g per 100 g (half an avocado)
- Peaches: 9.5 g per 100 g (one large peach)
Additionally, berries are usually considered acceptable on a low-carb diet as long as they are eaten in moderation.
Summary Some fruits are relatively low in carbohydrates and perfectly suitable for people on a low-carb diet. These include tomatoes, watermelon, avocado and various berries.
People on low-carb or ketogenic diets may want to avoid most fruit, as it can prevent ketosis.
A few low-carb exceptions include avocados, tomatoes and some berries.
For those not following a low-carb diet, fruits are healthy foods that can definitely be part of a healthy, real-food based diet.