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Is Fresh Fruit Included in a Sugar-Free Diet?

by
author image Dr. Thomas L. Halton
Dr. Thomas L. Halton has been a nutrition researcher since 2004. He authored “The Weight Loss Triad” and has been published in the "New England Journal of Medicine." His research has been featured on CNN, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Time Magazine. Dr. Halton graduated from Harvard University with a doctorate in nutrition.
Is Fresh Fruit Included in a Sugar-Free Diet?
A fresh pomegranate. Photo Credit TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images

Based on nutritional research that shows the negative health effects of sugar, many people make a point of reducing their consumption of the sweet stuff. But there is a lot of confusion about where sugar is found and what foods should be avoided. Fresh fruits in their whole, natural form are typically allowed on a low- sugar diet. If you have been told to reduce the sugar in your diet because you have diabetes or another medical condition, consult with your doctor about what foods you should be eating.

Choose the Right Type

When trying to reduce sugar in your diet, learn the difference between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is found in whole foods that have not been processed in any way. An example of a natural sugar is lactose, which is found in milk. Added sugar is placed into food products during cooking, processing or preparation. An example of an added sugar is combining chocolate syrup with milk to make chocolate milk. According to the American Heart Association, it is added sugar -- not naturally occurring sugar -- that should be reduced. The sugar in fresh fruit is naturally occurring and is typically allowed on a low-sugar diet.

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Nutrient-Dense Food

Whole, fresh fruits in their natural form are loaded with nutrients. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. Regular fruit consumption is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Be wary of any diet that severely restricts your fruit consumption in an effort to improve health.

The Fiber Factor

Most varieties of fruit are high in fiber, which slows the digestion of their natural sugars. Fresh fruits tend to have a smaller effect on blood sugar. The glycemic load is a measure of how a carbohydrate-containing food affects blood sugar. High-glycemic-load carbohydrates spike the blood sugar quickly, while low-glycemic-load carbohydrates have a much more modest effect on blood sugar. According to the Harvard Medical School, many fruits fall in the low-glycemic-load category, with a glycemic load of 10 or less.

Ignore the Juice

If you are trying to limit the sugar in your diet, focus on fruits in their whole and natural form. Limit your consumption of fruit juices and dried fruits, which are much more concentrated sources of sugar. For example, an orange has 12 grams of sugar, but an 8-ounce glass of orange juice has 21 grams of sugar. Similarly, a cup of grapes has 16 grams of sugar, while 1/2 cup of raisins has 43 grams of sugar.

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