We often think of fruit as a healthy go-to when we're trying to improve our diets. They're full of vitamins A, B, and C and are a terrific source of antioxidants, potassium, fiber, and other nutrients our bodies crave and need. But one thing we don't often consider when we load up on fruit—especially in the pursuit of a healthy, nutritious boost—is just how much sugar we're taking in. Fructose can spike blood sugar levels when consumed in excess, and when we're presented with a delicious array of fruit options, from sweet raspberries to quenching kiwis to juicy mangos, practicing proper portion sizes can be a challenge.
To better approach our fruit intake and ensure a healthy balance that provides us our daily dose without spiking our sugar, Well + Good sought the advice of nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, CND. A self-proclaimed "pro-fruit" advocate, Middleberg admits it's still "possible to over-consume" fruit and hence suggests the fruit pyramid—much like the better-known food pyramid—to use as a handy guide when deciding which fruit to throw into your blender. The fruit pyramid ranks produce in terms of their sugar levels so you can better judge which fruits you can throw back without discretion and which you should be more cautious about incorporating into your diet if you're worried about succumbing to a sugar high.
Sugar levels vary a great deal from fruit to fruit, so the pyramid can be a helpful tool to traverse the multitude of options. Just as with the (now defunct) food pyramid you were trained to memorize in grade school, you start at the bottom to identify what you can load up on, then continue upward with increased discretion. In this case, avocados—with just a little over one gram of sugar per cup—come in as the food you're allowed to have a hearty helping of. Avocados also provide nourishment with fiber and healthy fats, which fill you up and curb your cravings. Second are berries. We know this superfood is rich with antioxidants, and on top of it all, they're satisfying and can fill you up. Raspberries have just 5 grams of sugar per cup, strawberries 7 grams, and blueberries 15.
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Other fruits falling in the midrange of sugar levels are grapefruit, oranges, bananas, and apples, which range between 8 and 19 grams. The best part about this lineup is that it's unlikely you'll binge on these fruits, so you won't overeat until you over-consume sugar. It helps when foods require a little work to eat them, like oranges and grapefruit, which require peeling.
The one fruit that packs as much sugar as two glazed doughnuts? Mangoes top the pyramid with a whopping 26 grams of sugar per cup. By no coincidence, the sweet option is also one of the fruits we're most likely to binge on. Despite their high sugar levels, mangoes are still good for you, providing fiber and vitamins A, B, and C, but you should try to moderate your intake to no more than one cup a day.
Middleberg also stresses that it's not just what you eat but how you eat it. What you pair with your fruit can impact how your body digests it and how likely you are to binge. Middleberg suggests pairing fruit with nut butter, healthy dairies like yogurt or ricotta, or nuts like almonds. The takeaway is that fruit isn't bad for you, but consuming it in excess can have negative effects that end up outweighing the good. Consider portions when getting your daily dose of fruit, and use pairings to make your snacking more satisfying and nutritious.
How do you enjoy your daily dose of fruit? Head to the comments to share how you get your fruit fix.