Watching Your Carbs? 5 Fruits to Pick (and 5 to Skip!)

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
fruit salad with cantaloupe, blueberries, cucumber and arugula

We’re taught as kiddos that fruits and vegetables are key components of a healthy diet. It’s reinforced in children’s books, television shows and school curriculum that it’s important to eat your “five servings a day”.

Yet Dr. Arthur Agatston, cardiologist, weight loss expert and creator of the South Beach Diet says while this advice is mostly true, fruits and veggies shouldn’t be combined in the same category.

“Non-starchy vegetables are whole foods containing good levels of vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” he writes in his new book, The New Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet. “And while they contain some starch, they are very low in sugar,” he says. Fruit, on the other hand, can get us into trouble. “Fruit has less fiber and more fructose which is why we like sweet fruits and can be tempted to overeat them,” explains Agatston.

While virtually every other low-carb diet prohibits fruit for that reason, South Beach Diet says some fruits are okay in moderation. Why? Because we shouldn’t ignore the vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and nutrients they naturally provide.

If you’re on the South Beach Diet weight loss program, we recommend extremely limiting fruit due to the amount of carbohydrates and sugar. However, that doesn’t mean you have to totally say goodbye to fruit—enjoy lower-sugar fruits like berries in moderation on occasion, which are rich in antioxidants and have a lower carb content than many other fruits. On the South Beach Diet weight loss plan, they count towards your daily Extras. However, keep in mind that it’s still important to monitor your daily net carb intake to keep it below 50 grams.

One serving of fresh or frozen fruit is one cup on our Diabetes and South Beach Diet Success maintenance plans. One serving of dried fruit is two tablespoons but be sure it doesn’t contain added sugar. Keep reading for our top picks. All of them have less than 10 grams of net carbs per half-cup serving, according to The New Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet.

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5 Fruits to Pick:

1. Berries

bowl of blueberries. fruit

Fiber. Vitamins C, E and K. Potassium. Calcium. Manganese. Not to mention antioxidants and flavonoids that are so special, they’re being studied for their antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects. Blueberries are truly nutrient bombs in a sweet package. On the Glycemic Index (which measures effects of carbohydrate-containing foods on your blood sugar), they score a 53. “High” foods are considered 70 or more. “Medium” range is 56 to 59. “Low” range is 55 or less.

Take a look at the carbohydrate, fiber and sugar content in one cup of berries below, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • Blueberries: 12.14 grams carbohydrates, 2.9 grams fiber, 8.57 grams sugar
  • Strawberries: 9.29 grams carbohydrates, 2.1 grams fiber, 4.29 grams sugar
  • Blackberries: 22 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 15 grams sugar
  • Raspberries: 17 grams carbohydrates, 8.96 grams fiber, 6.01 grams sugar
  • Kiwi: 25.9 grams carbohydrates, 5.31 grams fiber, 15.9 grams sugar
  • Starfruit: 7.27 grams carbohydrates, 3.02 grams fiber, 4.3 grams sugar
  • Boysenberries: 17 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 10 gram sugar

All the berries above are a smart option if you’re watching your sugar intake. Enjoy them alone, in your morning Greek yogurt or tossed in a fresh salad. On our Diabetes and Success weight maintenance plans, one serving of berries is one cup.

If you’re on our standard weight loss plan, berries will be your go-to if you’re craving some fruit. Just count them towards your daily Extras and stick to the serving size listed in your Grocery Guide.

2. Grapefruit

sliced grapefruit fruits

There’s a wrong way to eat grapefruit: Don’t cut it in two and cover it in  sugar. Instead, peel it like an orange and if you have to add sweetness (and you likely don’t, as growers are now creating much sweeter, less bitter varieties), use a sugar substitute made from erythritol, stevia or monk fruit. The peeling part is important, says the American Heart Association. Doing so will give you the nutritional benefits of pectin membranes, a “viscous fiber” that’s both a gut-boosting prebiotic and LDL (bad) cholesterol fighter. By the way: grapefruit scored a 25 on the glycemic index. And, it’s 92 percent water, one of the highest water contents of any fruit, says Health.com.

According to the USDA, one small grapefruit (approximately 3.5 inches in diameter or 200 grams) contains 16.2 grams of carbohydrates, 2.2 grams of fiber and 14 grams of sugar. One cup (230 grams) contains 18.6 grams of carbohydrates, 2.53 grams of fiber and 16.1 grams of sugar.

Other citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes are also smart choices in moderation if you’re watching your sugar intake. Add them to salad, infused water or just eat the plain. One small citrus fruit is one serving on our Diabetes and Success maintenance plans.

3. Apples

sliced fresh apples on cutting board. fruits

Coming in at a 36 on the glycemic index, apples—when eaten with the skin on—are a terrific source of fiber (both insoluble and soluble), phytochemicals and vitamin C. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the best way to store apples is in the fridge. Refrigeration slows down the release of ethylene, a gas that’s produced after fruit is picked causing it to ripen. Adding a little cinnamon to your apples can make them even healthier: “Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, a phytochemical that may fight viruses, lower blood sugar and ward off diabetes, lower cholesterol, and protect against neurodegenerative diseases,” says Harvard Health Publishing.

According to the USDA, one small apple (approximately 2.75 inches in diameter or 149 grams) contains 20.6 grams of carbohydrates, 3.58 grams of fiber and 15.5 grams of sugar. One cup of sliced apples (110 grams) contains 15.2 grams of carbohydrates, 2.64 grams of fiber and 11.4 grams of sugar.

One small apple is one serving of Fruit on our Diabetes and Success maintenance plans. You can also enjoy a half-cup of unsweetened applesauce instead. Try it with a sprinkle of ceylon cinnamon and a serving of walnuts for fall-inspired sweet treat. Love apple desserts? Try this Apple-Almond Soufflé!

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4. Cantaloupe

cantaloupe melon balls in a bowl. fruits

Can you believe a food as juicy and sweet as cantaloupe contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, C and K? Not to mention a gamut of antioxidants? These nutrients are just too good to eliminate from your diet. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Foods such as kale, cantaloupe, and quinoa can boost the amount of nutrients you consume without increasing calories.” Try combining all three together in a delicious salad!

The Defeat Diabetes Foundation explains that despite being higher on the glycemic index (65), cantaloupe is mostly water. They explain, “a standard 120 gram serving has very few carbohydrates and calories, which results in a very low glycemic load score of 4. Therefore, eating cantaloupes in their whole food form is very recommendable for both diabetics and those at risk of developing diabetes.”

According to the USDA, one cup of cantaloupe (156 grams) contains 12.7 grams of carbohydrates, 1.4 grams of fiber and 12.3 grams of sugar.

At the supermarket, look for heavy, firm fruit that’s golden beige and smells distinctively of cantaloupe. Once you’ve chosen your winner, bring it home and give these fish tacos a try (They’re topped with a yummy cantaloupe salsa!). You can enjoy one cup of cantaloupe as one fruit serving on our Diabetes and Success maintenance plans.

5. Apricots

fresh apricot fruits in a bowl

Medical News Today states that apricots are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and potassium. Enjoy them raw or serve them over yogurt, oatmeal or in a salad. Raw apricots are low on the Glycemic Index, coming in at 34, says the University of Sydney. Even dried apricots are considered lower on the Glycemic Index. If your selecting canned apricots, avoid those that are packaged in sugary syrups.

According to the USDA, one apricot (35 grams) contains 3.89 grams of carbohydrates, 0.7 grams of fiber and 3.23 grams of sugar. One cup of sliced apricots (165 grams) contain 18.3 grams of carbohydrates, 3.3 grams of fiber and 15.2 grams of sugar.

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5 Fruits to Skip:

While you can enjoy all fruits in moderation on our Diabetes and Success maintenance plans, some are lower in sugar than others. The fruits below are higher on the Glycemic Index and contain more sugar the options above. You can still eat these fruits, just keep the serving size small and don’t allow yourself to indulge in them every day.

1. Orange Juice: Or, any juice, for that matter. Dr. Agatston likens it to soda in The New Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet. “In most fruit juices, much of the fiber has been removed and all that remains is the high-fructose juice,” he says. “And, even if fiber remains, the juicing process has disrupted the fibrous skeleton of the whole fruit.” Oranges juice scores a 50 on the Glycemic Index scale yet oranges are a 43. Apple juice scores a 41; apples score a 36. Plus, eight ounces of orange juice contains 26 grams of carbohydrates and 22 grams of sugar, says the USDA. Stick to whole fruit.

2. Watermelon: This summertime favorite is 90 percent water and is relatively low in carbs. According to the USDA, it contains 11.5 grams of carbohydrates and 9.2 grams of sugar in one cup. However, it contains less than one grams of fiber. The glycemic index is high at 76, says Harvard Health Publishing. This is reason enough to skip watermelon and reach for some cantaloupe instead.

3. Pineapple: While not as high as watermelon, pineapple has a medium glycemic index of 59. However, Harvard Health Publishing suggests that that score could fluctuate as much as eight points, making it as high as 67. Plus, it contains 21.6 grams of carbohydrates, 2.31 grams of fiber and 16.3 grams of sugar in each one-cup serving, says the USDA.

4. Mango: According Harvard Health Publishing, mango is considered “low” with a score of 51. However, it contains a whopping 24.7 grams of carbohydrates and 22.5 grams of sugar in each one-cup serving, says the USDA. It’s fiber content is just 2.64 grams in each cup. There are plenty of other lower sugar fruit options that you can opt for instead.

5. Banana: Depending on the ripeness and size of the banana, the GI changes. The sweeter and larger the banana, the higher the GI. Harvard Health Publishing tells us the GI of bananas is 51 (plus or minus three), however Healthline says 62. We say, please limit intake of these popular higher-carb fruits. One cup of sliced bananas contains 34.3 grams of carbohydrates, 3.9 grams of fiber and 18.3 grams of sugar, says the USDA.

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