Not all fruits are created equal when it comes to carbs.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, you typically aim to get less than 26% of your daily calories from carbs.
Fruits are generally healthy, containing lots of nutrients and antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals, which are associated with chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends that adults consume about two servings of fruit per day.
“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 — whether that’s a low-carb, high-protein diet or a keto diet — you need to limit or abstain from some options.
Fruit juices, most dried fruits and canned fruits in syrup have high amounts of sugar that won’t fit your dietary regimen. 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.
While there is no specific cut off for a low-carb diet, experts generally consider anything less than 130 grams per day as low-carb.
So, what fruits should you consume?
Here are the best fruits to eat on a low-carb diet:
Apples are great if you’re 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.
From Fuji to Honeycrisp apples, Granny Smith to Gala apples, there’s a plethora of apple varieties to choose from in the produce aisle. However, they each have slightly different nutrient profiles. A red delicious apple, for example, contains about 22 grams of carbohydrates, as well as 164 milligrams of potassium and 93 calories, while a small Granny Smith apple contains 20 grams of carbohydrates, 173 milligrams of potassium and 84 calories.
If you’re on a low-carb diet plan, it’s hard to go wrong with apricots.
A cup of fresh apricots has about 17 grams of carbohydrates and contains vitamins A and C.
This sweet stone fruit provides a wide array of health benefits, including:
— Anti-inflammatory properties.
— Anti-diabetic properties.
— Anti-microbial properties.
— Anti-viral properties.
There are many ways to enjoy fresh apricots. You can slice them and add them to cereal, salads and waffles. For a nutritious treat, grill apricot slices with a small amount of olive oil. You can mix apricots with yogurt for a healthy breakfast parfait, or blend them with your choice of milk for a nutritious smoothie.
Because they’re low in carbohydrates and high in fat, avocados are commonly seen in low-carb dishes. 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.
Research suggests that eating avocados can be good for weight management. For instance, a large 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients found that habitually consuming avocados was associated with a lower prevalence of excess weight and mitigated weight gain in individuals with normal weight over time.
Another large study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in March 2022, included more than 68,000 women and more than 41,000 men without a history of cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. Researchers found that higher avocado intake was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease and replacing certain fat?containing foods with avocado could lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are many ways to enjoy avocados: You can put slices in salads, on toast or eat them as is with a little lime and cayenne pepper. 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 about 11 and 20 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.
Berries are extremely versatile. You can add them to salads, cereals, mix them with yogurt, eat them fresh and blend them with milk to make smoothies.
This tasty summer fruit has a high water content and is a great source of fiber and vitamins with only 13 grams of carbohydrates per 1 cup of cubed cantaloupe.
“With only 60 calories per cup, this melon packs a powerhouse of vitamin C and vitamin A,” says Beth A. Czerwony, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition in Ohio.
It’s also an excellent source of potassium, which helps with post-exercise recovery.
There are many ways to enjoy cantaloupe. Cantaloupe slices can be part of a healthy fruit salad, made into chilled soup and grilled with prosciutto pasta salad.
6. Carambola (star fruit)
Carambola, also known as star fruit, is a delicious tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia. 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.
“This exotic fruit gets a five-star rating,” says Patricia P. Araujo, a clinical dietitian with Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health Center in Chicago. “One carambola usually has less than 10 grams of total carbohydrates.”
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.
But beware of dried coconut products, as 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.
Figs are a seasonal fruit, and are typically available in the early summer, though you may be able to find some in the late summer and early in the fall.
Every part of a fig — including the light-colored flesh, the dark purplish skin and the seeds — is edible. If you prefer to peel the skin and/or remove the seeds, that’s fine too. Figs can be baked, grilled or consumed fresh.
Figs make great snacks or can be added to salads and oatmeal.
Grapes are not only low in carbs, but they also contain antioxidants, which research suggests help prevent chronic diseases by protecting healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals and reducing inflammation.
A 1-cup serving of grapes contains about 16 grams of carbohydrates and contains only about 69 calories.
There are various types of grapes. Some of the most popular include concord, crimson and green table grapes, which are typically tart, not sweet. However, cotton candy grapes, which resemble green table grapes, are — as its name suggests — very sweet.
While grapes are typically consumed fresh, you can freeze them for a cold snack on hot days. Just take off the stems, rinse and dry the grapes, put them in a bag and pop them into the freezer. You can also blend seedless grapes with ice and grape juice to make a tasty slushy.
Roasting grapes with pepper, salt and oil is another option. Heating up grapes this way boosts their sweetness level. It’s easy to do: place grapes on a pan, and pop it into the oven heated to 425 degrees Fahrenheit for a half hour. You can also add grapes to beef or chicken kebabs.
Not only is kiwi low in carbs and calories, but it also has a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index are absorbed more slowly and can help regulate blood sugar levels.
One whole kiwi contains only about 10 carbs but provides 2 grams of protein at 42 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.
Peaches are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps control blood sugar levels. That in turn helps you feel fuller longer and may help with weight loss, says Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian based in Chicago.
A medium fresh peach has 15 grams of carbs. Peaches also contain vitamins A and C and antioxidants.
Enjoy this juicy fruit fresh, grill it and serve with lean protein or mix with yogurt and granola.
One medium fresh plum contains just 7.5 grams of total carbohydrates and is packed with 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 meal.
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.
Prunes, which are simply dried plums with no sugar added, contain 3 grams of fiber and 100 calories per serving.
“Compared to other dried fruits, prunes are lower in naturally-occurring sugar and have a low glycemic index of only 29, meaning they will have less impact on blood sugar levels,” explains diabetes expert Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian based in Sparta, New Jersey, and author of the “2 Day Diabetes Diet.”
In addition to helping promote steady blood sugar levels, the fiber in prunes provides a feeling of fullness and promotes digestive regularity.
Research also shows that eating prunes can help support healthy bones. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in October 2022, researchers found that consuming 50 grams of prunes on a daily basis can help prevent the loss of total hip bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
To reap the benefits of eating prunes, you can enjoy them alone, add them to salads or even use them to sweeten your favorite recipe.
“Pureed prunes can be used to replace added sugar in a 1:1 ratio in baked good recipes as a delicious way to reduce added sugar, while boosting the fiber and nutrition content of your recipe,” Palinski-Wade says.
While some people consider them to be vegetables, tomatoes are technically a fruit — one that’s low in carbs and provides many important nutrients, says Amy Kimberlain, a Miami-based registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
One cup of raw tomato (cherry, grape and Roma) contains just 7 grams of total carbs.
In addition to their low carb content, tomatoes contain vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene. Each of these nutrients are important for your health in different ways.
— Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, which is associated with depression, bloody gums and tooth loss.
— In a 2020 study published in the journal Antioxidants, research suggests that beta carotene may help maintain eye health.
— Lycopene protects the body against an array of heart, liver, bone, skin, nervous and reproductive systems diseases, according to a review of a 2020 study published in the journal Antioxidants.
Tomatoes are super versatile. Use them in salads, sauce for pasta or non-starchy vegetables and soups — from cream of tomato to gazpacho. Tomatoes are also delicious part of a sheet pan recipe with feta and veggies or as part of a grilled veggie kabob.
Sweet, ripe watermelon is tasty, good for you and low in carbohydrates. One cup of diced watermelon has about 11 grams of carbs.
Watermelon is high in water content, low in calories and rich in antioxidants and potassium, making it a perfect treat after a workout.
16 fruits that are good to eat if you’re on a low-carb diet:
— Carambola (star fruit).
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Fruits to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 05/11/23: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.