“Healthy” Foods That Have More Sugar Than A Donut

Donuts seem like the epitome of sugary pastries. These desserts are often demonized for causing type 2 diabetes and heart illnesses, but in reality, most don’t contain that much sugar. An average Krispy Kreme glazed donut has only 10 grams of sugar, while a jelly-filled one has closer to six grams.

Many other foods have more sugar than donuts–even “healthy” ones. From nonfat yogurt to sauces to salad dressings, these products aren’t spared from sweetness. You may be shocked at these healthy foods that have more sugar than a donut.

Granola Bars

According to a New York Times survey, around 70% of Americans deem granola bars as “healthy.” But you need to check the nutrition facts to make sure that the bar isn’t loaded up on sugar. For instance, Kellogg’s Special K bar has around 15 grams of sugar, which is more than a Dunkin’ donut. The Kind Bar with Almonds, Apricots, and Yogurt has 16 grams of sugar!

A person compares a granola bar to the package.

“I’ve seen bars with as much as 25 grams of added sugar, which is ludicrous,” says Registered Dietitian Andy Bellatti. Fortunately, there are some healthy bars out there. Bellatti recommends avoiding added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.

Nonfat Yogurt

Those who are watching their calorie intake may reach for a container of nonfat yogurt. Unfortunately, these products replace fat with added sugar. Some brands provide nearly 30 grams of sugar. Not only is that the same as five jelly donuts, but it’s also 60% of your daily sugar limit, according to the USDA.

low fat and nonfat yogurts of different brands are stacked.
Pinterest/Lauren Rovegno
Pinterest/Lauren Rovegno

Full-fat yogurts, such as Greek yogurt, have fewer sugars because milk is naturally sweet. Plus, some dairy compounds aid fat loss. In the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers noted that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in dairy helps people lose weight. Nonfat yogurts have little to no CLA.

Sweetened Almond Milk

Almond milk has been praised as a healthy alternative to dairy. Unfortunately, many plant-based milks make up for flavor in the form of sugar. According to the FDA, Blue Diamond’s sweetened vanilla almond milk has 13 grams of sugar, easily more than a Krispy Kreme donut. Chocolate almond milk has 21 grams, which is more than two chocolate donuts.

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If you buy almond milk, alternative milk researcher Outi Mäkinen recommends the unsweetened variety. Even unsweetened vanilla almond milk has less than two grams of sugar per cup. Time reported that 4/5 nutrition experts recommend almond milk for its high vitamin E.

Lattes (Even Low-Fat Ones)

Many lattes pack quite a lot of sugar, even before the flavor shots are added. If you buy a grande latte at Starbucks, you will consume 17 grams of sugar. Nonfat options are arguably worse since they replace the fat in milk with added sweeteners. A tall nonfat milk mocha at Starbucks contains 33 grams of sugar, equal to three chocolate donuts.

Starbucks Coffee employee delivers a coffee order to a customer through a window of a drive-up Starbucks shop.
Tim Boyle/Newsmakers
Tim Boyle/Newsmakers

Many of these drinks have liquid fructose. In 2016, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that liquid sugar is especially unhealthy. It heightens your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Fat Free Salad Dressing

As with many low-fat products, fat-free salad dressings replace fat with sugar. For instance, Kraft’s fat-free Italian dressing has 20 grams of sugar per cup, about five creme donuts. If you limit that to one tablespoon, you’d still receive two grams of sugar.

A person adds salad dressing to their meal.
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Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Plus, fat-free foods rob your body of nutrients. During a 2012 study, Purdue University researchers discovered that fat helps your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you have a low-fat dressing, your body won’t absorb as many nutrients from the salad.

Vitamin Water

Vitamin Water has grown popular for being enriched with vitamins. However, each bottle is packed with fructose. If you drank a 20-ounce Vitamin Water’s “Essential,” you’d consume 32 grams of sugar. That’s three glazed donuts in liquid form. If you include crystalline fructose, Vitamin Water has the same sugar as a Coca-Cola.

Several Vitamin Water bottles sit on a table.
J. Vespa/WireImage
J. Vespa/WireImage

Most of Vitamin Water’s sugar is fructose, which is the most dangerous. In 2009, scientists reported that fructose is worse for your health than glucose. This research was backed up by the Current Opinion in Lipidology, which linked fructose and metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Some Pasta Sauces

Depending on the ingredients you use, pasta can be a healthy (and delicious) dish. But not all sauces are created equal. Some are sweetened with added sugars, such as Chunky Ragu’s Garlic & Onion sauce, with 12 grams of sugar.

Several brands of pasta sauce sit on a table.

Registered Dietitian Dr. Dana Hunnes recommends choosing a pasta sauce that has ingredients you recognize. Olive oil, tomatoes, and herbs often replace corn syrup in healthy sauces. And don’t worry about the small amounts of fat. It helps your body absorb lycopene, a carotenoid that protects against heart disease, according to Registered Dietitian Amy Keating.

Baked Beans

Did you know that beans have sugar? At least, flavored baked beans do. One half-cup of Campbell’s baked beans will give you 13 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. Most baked bean cans often contain additives such as artificial color, flavors, and modified corn starch.

Steve Marinker, Public Affairs Manager of Heinz arrives in Toulouse and eats baked beans.
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Sugar content in baked beans varies by brand. If you find some low-sugar baked beans, feel free to enjoy them. In 2016, research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating beans helps people manage weight and lose fat, even without restricting their calories.

Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce is tasty, but it isn’t free from sugar. On average, two tablespoons of barbecue sauce are between 12 and 17 grams of sugar. If you get a pre-made packet, such as the ones at McDonald’s, you’ll consume 10 grams of sugar.

A man pours sauce over a barbecue sandwich.
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“Condiments aren’t something that people use sparingly, and many people don’t think about serving sizes,” says Registered Dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin. Dietitian Dr. Dana Angelo White of Food Network recommends searching for low-sugar varieties such as Stubb’s and Trader Joe’s barbecue sauce.

Instant Oats

Oats are one of the healthiest grains you could eat. But instant oatmeal packets often contain salt, artificial coloring, and of course, sugar. Quaker Oats has 12 grams of sugar per packet, the same as a Dunkin’ donut. On the flip-side, Dr. David L. Katz of Yale University said that “even instant oatmeal is better than most breakfast choices most Americans make.”

A man shows the instructions on an instant Quaker Oats box.

Still, remember that regular oats have no added sugar. Registered Dietitian Connie Diekman of Washington University recommends buying steel-cut whole oats. They’ll cook just as quickly, and you can flavor them with honey.

Trail Mix

If you mix the right ingredients, trail mix can be a healthy, filling snack. But the amount of chocolate and dried fruit in most trail mixes turn them into a dessert. An average pack of trail mix has 10 grams of sugar, while some (like Planter’s fruit and nut mix) raises that amount to 13 grams.

A person sifts through a trail mix bag of dried craisins, dark chocolate, almonds, and cashews.

Amy Keating of Consumer Reports recommends eating trail mix that is primarily fruit and nuts. Avoid yogurt-covered raisins, since the yogurt usually has hydrogenated oils. And remember that one serving size is 1/4 cup, which should fit into your cupped palm.


Nutella has been praised as a healthier alternative for chocolate. Although Nutella offers trace amounts of iron and calcium, it’s mainly sugar. Two tablespoons pack on 21 grams of sugar, equal to a Dunkin Donuts Frosted Chocolate Creme or two Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. That totals to around five tablespoons of sweetness.

A woman eats a tartine of Nutella.
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Holistic Nutritionist Meghan Telpner says that two tablespoons of Nutella equate to 83% of the recommended daily sugar for women. That amount will result in an energy buzz and subsequent crash. According to Dietetic Directions, Nutella also contains palm oil, which raises harmful cholesterol that may contribute to heart problems.

Whole-Grain Breakfast Cereals

Many cereal brands aim to be healthier by offering whole-grain products. While this is helpful, it doesn’t usually lower the sugar in cereals. In 2014, the Environmental Working Group reported that the average breakfast cereal is 25% sugar. For example, Kellog’s Special K cereal contains 13 grams of sugar.

A spoon carries milk, Cheerios cereal, and a strawberry slice.

Plus, 92% of all cereals contain added sugars. The World Health Organization and Dietary Guidelines for Americans agree that only 10% of products should be added sugars. Many kinds of cereal go far beyond the recommended daily limit for children. If you want to eat breakfast cereals, choose them wisely.


Just because it’s made of apples doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. An average cup of sweetened applesauce contains 36 grams of sugar, more than three chocolate donuts. And what about unsweetened? It has 23 grams per cup, according to the USDA. At least 88% of applesauce’s calories stem from sugars.

Maple applesauce sits in a bowl.
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According to a 2015 study in Food & Nutrition Research, those who eat applesauce consume more sugar overall than people who consume whole apples or apple juice. Plus, those who ate apples or natural apple juice ate less total sugar and had healthier diets overall.

Dried Fruit

Yes, fruit is healthy. But some dried fruit contains added sugar, which raises that tiny box of raisins to a whopping 25 grams of sweetness. “When the native sugar of the fruit is combined with extra added sugar, you are now in the realm of candy,” Dr. David Katz of Yale University told Time.

Dried fruit is on sale in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Michael Jacobs/Art In All Of Us
Michael Jacobs/Art In All Of Us

Because dried fruit is far smaller than whole fruit, it’s easy to overeat. Cleveland Clinic Dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick says that this sugar can strain your body and cause “the inflammation roller coaster.” Always double-check that your dried fruit does not contain added sugars.


According to the Environmental Working Group, granola is the sugariest of all cereals. One half-cup of some low-fat granolas, such as Kellogg’s, has over 14 grams of sugar. Registered Dietitian Cynthia Sass told Time that, since there is no standard recipe for granola, every brand is different.

Granola cereal bags are seen on a shelf inside a grocery store.
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark says that although granola includes dried fruit and nuts, it’s often not enough to have a nutritional impact. Sass added that “the higher up on the ingredient list a sweetener is, the more it makes up each bite.” Watch out for names such as dextrose, corn syrup, and sucrose.

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

As a general rule, low-fat products replace the fats with added sugars. Peanut butter is no exception. Reduced-fat peanut butter has more sugar and corn syrup than the regular version: 12 grams per two tablespoons. Meanwhile, regular peanut butter has one gram of sugar per tablespoon.

A person holds up a jar of reduced fat Jif peanut butter.

Plus, there’s no reason to avoid pure peanut butter. Research on peanut butter in the journal Appetite reported that it helps weight loss, reduces hunger, and regulates blood sugar. While the fats in regular peanut butter are healthy, low-fat peanut butters contain unhealthy vegetable oils.

Bottled Smoothies

Every smoothie provides natural sugar from fruit that is not as dangerous as added sugar. However, most pre-made bottled smoothies have added sugar as well. Registered Dietitian Marlene Koch says that most bottled smoothies contain between 18 and 28 grams of added sugar. That’s almost two glazed Krispy Kreme donuts.

Bottled smoothies on shelves are for sale at the supermarket.
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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When it comes to sugar consumption, juice is worse than solid foods. In 2013, a study in the British Medical Journal noted that sugary juices greatly increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. They can also erode your teeth, according to the British Dental Journal. If you want a smoothie, make one at home.

Orange Juice

Although juices are made from fruit, that doesn’t automatically make them healthy. Orange juice, for instance, has 21 grams of sugar per cup. A full orange that is juiced yields only seven grams, so the rest is added sugar. The sweetness overshadows any low amount of vitamin C, says Dr. David Perlmutter.

A woman drinks orange juice in a cafe.

“Calorie for calorie, fruit juice is worse for you than fizzy drinks,” obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig told BBC Good Food. In 2013, research in The BMJ found that fruit juice increases your risk of diabetes while whole fruit lowers the risk.

Canned Fruit

As with all preserved food, canned fruit secretly contains added sugar. For example, a half-cup of canned peaches provides 23 grams of sugar, more than two glazed donuts. This amount varies by product, as canned pears have far less–12 grams per half-cup, according to Dietitian and Nutritionist Toby Amidor of Food Network.

Canned food including fruit preserves is seen in a pantry.

In 2015, researchers discovered that those who eat canned fruit consume more calories and sugar. However, they also eat healthier than those who don’t. Overall, it’s better to eat canned fruit than no fruit, and it’s healthier to eat whole fruit than canned fruit.

Figs Are One Of The Sweetest

It’s no secret that fruit contains sugar. Usually, these sugars aren’t counted in dietary or health guidelines. When the American Heart Association measures sugar, for instance, they only measure added sugar–sweeteners that are not naturally occurring.

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

But that hasn’t stopped concerns about how much glucose is in fruit. People on more strict diets need to know if snacking on a pear will throw off their day. Are fruits really healthy with all that sweetness? And which fruits have more sucrose than others? Read on to learn the under-discussed truth about sugar in fruits.

Cherries Are So Sweet, You’ll Fall Asleep

An average cup of cherries provides 13 grams of sugar. Sweet cherries (different from red cherries) contain 20 grams of sugar per cup. As with most fruit, dried cherries have more added sugars than fresh cherries, with almost 30 grams per one-third cup.

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Ivano Piva/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’re looking for a fruity dessert, cherries are your best bet. According to research in the American Journal of Therapeutics, cherries help people sleep because they naturally produce melatonin. Tart cherries also reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, according to a 2018 study in Food & Function.

Grapes Are Sugary, But They’re Also Healthy

If you eat one cup of grapes, you’ll consume 15 grams of sugar. However, the sugar content varies by grape. Cotton candy grapes provide 23 grams per cup, while raisins raise the natural sugars to 25 grams. That’s why they’re so yummy!

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ThomasRosenthal.de/ullstein bild via Getty Images

This isn’t a reason to avoid grapes, however. They’re packed with vitamins C, K, and B6. Grapes have around 1,600 plant compounds, including antioxidants, most of which are in red grapes. These may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, according to the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Mangoes Have Some Of The Most Sugar

As with most tropical fruits, mangoes are filled with natural sugars. If you were to eat the whole mango, you’d consume 46 grams of sugar–more than most doughnuts! However, most people don’t eat that much. One cup of mango takes up half the fruit, which equals 23 grams of fructose.


Despite its high sugar levels, mangoes help blood glucose levels. During a 2014 study, participants with obesity who ate freeze-dried mango experienced better blood sugar levels. Although mango didn’t produce weight loss in the study, it still reduced the participants’ risk of diabetes.

Eat Sweet Kiwis For Your Respiratory System

Kiwis have fewer sugars than other tropical fruits because they’re so small. If you eat one kiwi, you’ll only consume around six grams of sugar. Increase that amount to one cup, and you’ll receive 16 grams. Since many people eat fewer kiwis per serving, they usually don’t have this much sucrose.


Along with having the usual fruit benefits–high fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants–kiwis also improve respiratory health. During a 2012 study, participants who ate four fresh kiwis daily had a lower risk of developing respiratory infections. This likely has to do with kiwi’s polyphenols and vitamin content.

Pears Aren’t That Bad

Compared to other fruits, pears are relatively high in sugar. A medium pear consists of 17 grams of sugar. This amount may vary based on the type of pear that you eat. While that may sound like a diabetes threat, research suggests the opposite.

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Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

In 2017, a study in Food & Function reported the eating apples and pears might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 18%. However, eating pears as juice does not have this effect. Eating a single serving of pears likely won’t result in negative consequences.

Bananas Won’t Hurt You

Have you ever wondered why banana bread tastes so sweet? It’s not just the added sugar. A medium banana has around 14 grams of sugar. That’s almost double what you receive from one cup of strawberries. But like the other fruits on this list, there’s no reason to dump bananas.

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Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

“Nobody gets fat or develops diabetes from eating too many bananas,” says Registered Dietitian Jessica Bihuniak. She adds that bananas are packed with fiber, electrolytes, potassium, and B vitamins. In 2014, researchers found that over-ripe bananas have a greater impact on blood sugar than under-ripe bananas.

Grapefruit May Help You Lose Weight

How much sugar do you think grapefruit has? Surprisingly, this sour fruit offers eight grams of sucrose, which is doubled when you eat a whole cup. Despite its high sugar content for a citrus fruit, research shows that grapefruit may help people lose weight.

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Vision Photos/ullstein bild via Getty Images

During a 2011 study in Nutrition & Metabolism, participants who supplemented grapefruit lost 1.7 inches of belly fat and 7% of fat overall. In another study, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that adding grapefruit to a diet aids weight loss. Even grapefruit juice helped.

Honeydew Is Mostly Sugar, But It’s Good For You

Honeydew melon is sweeter than other melons due to its sugar content. An average honeydew wedge has 10 grams of sugar, while a cup is closer to 14 grams. Since honeydew is mainly water, sugar accounts for 90% of honeydew’s calories. But these calories also offer fiber, which prevents us from feeling a sugar rush.

Honeydew Is Mostly Sugar, But It’s Good For You
Honeydew Is Mostly Sugar, But It’s Good For You

Honeydew is also full of nutrients that are vital for bone health. Its folate and B vitamins that maintain bone density over time, according to a 2015 study in Nutrients. This melon also supplies vitamin K, another mineral that contributes to healthy bones.

Are Oranges Sugary? It Depends

Sugar in oranges depends on their size. Large oranges, for instance, have up to 17 grams of sugar, while small ones have nine grams. On average, a medium-sized orange contains 12 grams of sugar. Tangerines have slightly more at 12.7 grams per fruit (again, depending on their size).

Are Oranges Sugary? It Depends
Are Oranges Sugary? It Depends

The main carbs in oranges are simple sugars–fructose, glucose, and sucrose–and fiber. They also provide vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins. In 2011, researchers noted that oranges have a blood-thinning effect that may lower blood pressure. Even orange juice has this benefit.

Lychees Taste Sweet For A Reason

Lychee is a tropical fruit that is often added to Thai foods and drinks. When you peel off the red skin, the white insides provide a burst of sweetness. One cup of lychees supplies 30 grams of sugar. If you use lychee syrup for drink recipes, you’ll eat even more sugar.

Lychees Taste Sweet For A Reason
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Antony Dickson/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

At the same time, a cup of lychees supplies well over your daily recommended vitamin C. They also have a healthy amount of copper and potassium. In 2006, an animal study in Cancer Letters found that lychees may prevent cancer cells from forming.

Pineapples Are Basically Dessert

As a general rule, tropical fruits have more sugar than temperate fruits. Pineapple is a good example. One cup of pineapple has about 16 grams of sugar. If you were to eat the entire fruit, you’d consume 89 grams of sugar! That’s about seven chocolate donuts.

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MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images
MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images

But pineapple isn’t like added sugar–it comes with a host of nutrients. One cup of pineapple provides 131% of your daily vitamin C and 76% of your recommended manganese. They also have a compound called bromelain that has combated cancer cells in test tube studies.

How Much Watermelon Should You Eat?

As its name suggests, watermelon is 92% water. But this tropical fruit also has a high amount of sugar. A medium-sized wedge of watermelon comes out to 17 grams of glucose; dicing the fruit into a cup lowers that amount to 10 grams. Fortunately, this isn’t as much sugar as some other fruits.

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Karen Radkai/Condé Nast via Getty Images

According to Today, eating too much watermelon can result in a blood sugar spike. But at the same time, watermelon lends 20% of your daily vitamin C, 17% of your vitamin A, and some fiber. Plus, it hydrates you. WebMD recommends limiting your portions to a slice or two.

Apples Likely Won’t Increase Blood Sugar

Although apples taste sweet, they have less sugar than other fruits. A cup of chopped apples has around 10 grams of sugar, while a whole, medium apple raises the amount to 19 grams. But most people don’t eat the entire apple when they avoid the core.

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Although some people worry that apples increase blood sugar, research suggests the opposite. According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, apples contain fiber and polyphenols that make them slow to digest. This makes blood sugar spikes unlikely, even in people with diabetes.

Peaches Are Worth It

Despite tasting sweet, peaches have less sucrose than other fruits. A single peach has 13 grams of sugar, and a cup of sliced peaches has around the same amount. A peach also supplies healthy antioxidants such as vitamin C, potassium, and iron.

Peaches Are Worth It
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Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Test tube studies suggest that peaches may lower blood cholesterol despite their sugar content. According to Food Chemistry, peaches contain bile acids that bind cholesterol. Eventually, your body excretes it, and you won’t receive a high cholesterol spike.

Apricots Have Low Glucose

Unlike their fruity cousins, apricots have very few sugars. A single apricot contains just over three grams of sugar, according to the USDA. If you increase that amount to one cup, you’ll eat 15 grams of sugar. They also supply vitamin A, copper, manganese, potassium, and vitamin C.

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Mark Leffingwell/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Apricots have a low glycemic index, which makes them safe for blood sugar levels. Dried apricots have an even lower glycemic index due to their high fiber. Plus, their high antioxidant level guards the body against diseases such as diabetes and stroke, according to the Journal of Functional Foods.

Blueberries Are A Very Sugary Berry

In general, berries have less sucrose than other fruits. But blueberries are at the higher end of the berry list. One cup of blueberries comes out to 15 grams of simple sugars. That same amount provides almost 30% of your daily vitamin K recommendation.

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Julian Stähle/picture alliance via Getty Images

Remember that when you eat blueberries, you aren’t just consuming sugar. You’re also eating antioxidants that improve brain health. Research in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that flavonoids in blueberries may decrease cognitive decline. Because blueberries provide antioxidants that remove stress from the brain, they may help people stay sharp.

Strawberries Have Less Sucrose Than Other Berries

With less than one gram of sugar per strawberry, they may seem like a low-sugar fruit. But let’s be real; few people eat only one strawberry. It’s more accurate to measure strawberries by cups, which raises the amount to seven grams. That’s still lower than many other fruits.

Sandra Mu/Getty Images
Sandra Mu/Getty Images

With their high amounts of potassium and vitamin C, strawberries are a natural anti-inflammatory. Not only are they slow to digest, but they slow down the digestion of other foods as well. A study from The British Journal of Nutrition indicates that strawberries can regulate blood sugar and insulin that way.

Plums Improve Your Blood Sugar

Plums aren’t spared from the high sugar fruit group. A single plum offers around eight grams of sugar, and a cup doubles that amount. Despite having many carbs as well, plums don’t cause blood sugar spikes, according to the World Journal of Diabetes. In fact, they produce a hormone that helps to regulate blood glucose levels.

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Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

There is also some evidence that plums combat metabolic syndrome. In 2012, scientists for the Texas AgriLife Research suggested that plums may ward off obesity. Not only do plums lower blood glucose, but they also reduce inflammation that’s related to metabolic syndrome.

Lemons Are The Least Sweet Of All

When most people think “sweet fruit,” they probably don’t consider lemons. These sour fruits have less sugar than most others. A typical lemon has less than two grams of sucrose, which adds up to only five grams per cup. It’s no wonder that lemonade requires sugar!

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The American Diabetes Association lists lemon as a superfood for its high amounts of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C. There’s a myth that lemons contain more sugar than strawberries, which isn’t true. Lemons have less sugar and more fiber than strawberries.