It’s a fact that Americans eat too much sugar and too few fruits and vegetables. But some fruits have a lot sugar in them too. The USDA recommends people don’t consume more than 12 teaspoons (50.4 grams) of added sugar per day. This is the type found in manufactured sweet foods like candy, sodas and cakes, but also sneakily in ketchup and yogurt. But sugar is naturally present in many others types of foods as well.
“When talking about ‘sugar’ it’s important to keep in mind that all types of carbohydrates become ‘sugar’ in the bloodstream,” says Jedha Dening, nutritionist and diabetes nutrition researcher in an email. “In a sense, natural sugar is not as bad as conventional sugar because it’s packaged in a whole fruit that also contains fiber, nutrients, and compounds that are beneficial and assist with the breakdown of sugar.
The naturally occurring sugar found in fruit is known as fructose, and only poses a problem some of the time. “Fructose is only really harmful when consumed in excess amounts, which is difficult to do with whole fruit,” says fitness and nutrition coach Ashlee Van Buskirk, of Denver-based Whole Intent in an email. “Fruit is not the enemy. In fact, fruit is necessary for a healthy diet.”
There are some people for whom fruit-related sugar can be problematic, however. “For a healthy person fruit is fine to include but for someone with diabetes or fatty liver, higher sugar fruits are best excluded due to the higher carbs, sugar and fructose,” says Dening.
So, whether you’re living with one of those ailments or just trying to reduce calories, you may want to watch how much you eat of the following fruits.
These tropical beauties pack about 23 grams of sugar per serving (1 cup)! Instead, opt for the equally exotic papaya, which has only 8.3 grams of sugar for the same serving size. “Swap these [mangoes] with a serving of papaya to decrease your sugar, increase fiber, and add a healthy serving of probiotic enzymes naturally found in papaya,” suggests nutrition expert Ashley A. Reinke.
Bananas are conveniently self-packaged, portable and creamy, which is why they’re such a popular go-to fruit and the world’s fourth-ranked food crop in sales. While bananas are naturally low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, the average one features about 27.5 grams of sugar (51.4 grams of total carbohydrates)! Reinke suggest trading that banana in your smoothie for half an avocado (0 sugars, 4 grams of total carbs) to keep the creamy quotient, cut the sugar content and add some healthy fats, which will up your fullness factor.
Much like the other fruits on this list, the news isn’t all bad for cherry-lovers. In fact, cherries are known to decrease oxidative stress in the body, as well as inflammation. However, 1 cup of the sweet treats packs 17.7 grams of sugar. If you need the anti-inflammatory benefits in a less sweet form, pick up some strawberries, instead. They have far less natural sugar in a 1 cup serving (just 7.4 grams).
Pears are one of the fruits with the highest fructose concentration. “They have so much fructose that it can often become impossible for our bodies to absorb it all, causing stomach digestion issues,” Reinke explains. “Decrease your serving size or opt to bite into a crunchy apple instead.” A medium pear has 16 grams of sugar, compared with the 10 grams found in an apple. Plus, apples have been shown to regulate blood sugar.
One cup of pineapple chunks has about 16 grams of sugar, which isn’t the worst on this list, but is still a lot higher than its tropical alternative guava, which has 9 grams of sugar in a 100-gram serving. Guava is also rich in soluble fiber, which helps keep nasty blood sugar spikes at bay.
These are often referred to as “nature’s candy,” for good reason. Grapes have 23 grams of sugar per 1.5 cup serving. A good substitute is to snack on a cup of blackberries, which has a comparatively paltry 7 grams of sugar, and also obesity-fighting benefits.