If you’re on a low-carb diet, not all fruits are created equal.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, you typically aim to get less than 45% of your daily calories from carbs.
Fruits are generally healthy, containing lots of nutrients and antioxidants — substances that protect your body from free radicals, which are associated with chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. But you have to be mindful about which fruits you consume if you’re watching your intake of carbs, says Patricia P. Araujo, a clinical dietitian with Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health Center in Chicago.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends that adults consume about two servings of fruit per day. It’s generally a good idea to eat a wide variety of fruits.
“The added benefit of including a variety of fruit as part of a balanced meal is the antioxidant content to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and promote the health of your brain,” says Jenifer Bowman, a registered dietitian with UCHealth in Fort Collins, Colorado. “It’s more beneficial to include fruit in your diet instead of avoiding fruit due to concerns about the carbohydrate content.”
However, if you’re watching your carbohydrate intake because you’re on a low-carb diet or on a low-carb, high-protein diet, you need to limit or abstain from some options.
Fruit juices and most dried fruits that have a high amount of sugar won’t fit your dietary regimen. Fruits in syrup with high levels of sugar are also out. Bananas and mangoes are relatively high in carbohydrates, so you should watch your portions of those fruits closely. Some commercial smoothies contain certain ingredients — like agave, honey, maple syrup or fruit juice with added sugar — that would not be the best choice if you’re on a low-carb eating regimen.
Here are the best fruits to eat on a low-carb diet:
Having a crunchy apple as part of a mid-morning snack or to complement a meal is an easy way to stay full longer. Apples are great if you’re on a low-carb diet. A small, 4-ounce apple has about 59 calories and contains only 16 grams of carbohydrates. Apples also have fiber and contain nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium.
Individuals on a low-carb diet typically consume 100 to 150 grams of carbs a day, depending on their nutritional needs, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.
If you’re on a low-carb diet plan, it’s hard to go wrong with apricots, says Abby Sauer, a registered dietitian based in Columbus, Ohio, with Abbott Nutrition, a global health care company.
A medium-size fresh apricot has just 4 grams of carbohydrates and contains vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants.
Because they’re low in carbohydrates and high in fat, avocados are commonly seen in low-carb dishes, Araujo says. Avocados primarily have unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health. Like other fruits, avocados contain no cholesterol.
A typical cup of sliced avocado has about 12 grams of carbohydrates and 9 grams of fiber.
There are many ways to enjoy avocados: You can put slices in salads or eat them as is. You can also put chunks of avocados in various soups.
A wide array of berries fit into a low-carb eating regimen, including:
These berries contain between 11 and 21 grams of carbs per cup and 3 and 8 grams of fiber per cup, depending on the berry.
“Berries provide a tremendous amount of nutrition from fiber, potassium and vitamin C but with low calories and fewer carbohydrates,” Bowman says.
This tasty summer fruit has a high water content, is a great source of fiber and contains vitamins A and C, Czerwony says.
A cup of cubed cantaloupe has just 13 grams of carbohydrates. “With only 60 calories per cup, this melon packs a powerhouse of vitamin C and vitamin A,” she says. It’s also an excellent source of potassium, which helps with post-exercise recovery.
6. Carambola (star fruit)
For people on low-carbohydrate diets, “this exotic fruit gets a five-star rating,” Araujo says. “One carambola usually has less than 10 grams of total carbohydrates.”
Star fruit is a waxy, yellow-green fruit that’s shaped like a five-pointed star when it’s cut in half. The fruit’s skin is edible, and the flesh is typically mild and sweet-and-sour tasting. You can eat star fruit as is, use it as a garnish and add it to salads.
Because coconuts are high in saturated fat, it’s best to consume this fruit in moderation. You can add shredded, fresh coconut to salads, desserts, soups and sauces. One cup of shredded coconut has about 10 grams of carbs and contains 283 calories.
Beware of dried coconut products — many are packed with added sugar. “It’s important to read the label for that,” Araujo says.
Fresh figs have a mild, sweet taste, and they’re low in carbs, with only about 19 grams of carbohydrates per 3.5-ounce fig. They make great snacks or can be added to salads and oatmeal.
Grapes are not only low in carbs, they contain antioxidants, which research suggests help prevent chronic diseases by protecting healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals, Bowman says.
A 1-cup serving of grapes contains just 16 grams of carbohydrates and contains only 62 calories.
Although the idea of biting into a lemon slice may not sound appealing, adding lemons to your drinks and dishes is a delicious way to soak up this fruit’s bounty of health benefits. From squeezing lemon juice into your water, blending a few wedges into your smoothies or incorporating them into your dishes, lemons are a great fruit if you’re watching your carb count. They may be low in carbs, but they’re high in other nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
One large lemon contains 24 calories, 0.3 grams of fat and 8 grams of carbs, including 2.4 grams of dietary fiber. While they are a good source of potassium, calcium, iron and vitamin B6, lemons are a vitamin C powerhouse, delivering 45 milligrams of this important vitamin and 74% of your daily value.
If a lemon is too tart for your palate, its cousin — the Meyer lemon — is a hybrid fruit that crosses between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, which gives it a sweeter and less acidic flavor profile. These fruits are nutritionally comparable, but Meyer lemons have less vitamin C. Unlike regular lemons, one Meyer lemon contains 31 milligrams of vitamin C. Considering this delivers 34% of your daily value, it’s still a good source of this vitamin.
A medium fresh peach has 15 grams of carbs. Peaches also contain vitamins A and C and antioxidants.
One medium fresh plum contains just 7.5 grams of total carbohydrates and is also a good source of antioxidants and vitamins A and C. Fresh, ripe plums are typically juicy and sweet and are great as a snack or as a companion to a lunch sandwich or wrap.
Here are three other ways to use plums:
— Grilled plums. Brush plums with a splash of olive oil, and place them on a grill until they’re charred. Grilled plums can be added to salads, enjoyed as dessert or served alongside grilled meat.
— Salad ingredient. Plum slices make a great addition to spinach and couscous salads.
— Roasted plums with oatmeal. For a tasty alternative to berries or banana slices, try roasted plum slices with your oatmeal.
Sweet, ripe watermelon is tasty, good for you and low in carbohydrates, Sauer says. One cup of diced watermelon has about 11 grams of carbs.
Watermelon is high in water content and low in calories. “It’s also rich in antioxidants and potassium, making it a perfect treat after a workout,” Sauer adds.
To recap, here are 13 fruits that are good to eat if you’re on a low-carb diet:
— Carambola (star fruit).
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Update 01/06/23: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.