Fruit is naturally high in sugars - aka carbs - leading many to believe this food group is forbidden on a keto diet. But there is such a thing as low carb fruit and it is possible to lose weight and enjoy this nutrient dense food group without kicking your body out of ketosis.
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Is Fruit Bad for You?
Fruits are whole foods, high in natural nutrition and contain no added ingredients. Like most plant based foods, fruits can provide a lot of essential nutrition to your diet - nearly all fruits are high in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. Plus they are naturally low calorie, low sodium, and low fat, making them a great food for weight loss.
Fruit intake is also associated with a wide range of health benefits including improved digestive health, heart health, mental health, and weight management, along with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (1,2,3,4,5).
Fruits also make a great natural sugar substitute for those that have a sweet tooth or are looking to cut added sugars from their diet. A small piece of fruit can often hit the spot and provide significantly more nutritional value than other “sweets”.
Can You Eat Fruit on the Keto Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a very low carb diet designed to help you minimize carb intake and support a metabolic state known as ketosis - a nutritional state thought to promote increased fat burning and utilization.
No food is truly forbidden on a keto meal plan - as long as you hit your daily keto macro goals. However, certain high carbohydrate foods can make achieving this a real challenge, including some fruits and vegetables.
You can absolutely enjoy the taste and health benefits of fruit on keto, it just depends on which fruits you choose and your serving size.
Sugar Content in Fruit Explained
Fruit is highly nutritious, but it's also a source of carbohydrates. In fact, fruits are some of the most naturally carb rich, whole foods you can choose.
It is commonly dinged for its naturally high sugar content, but the sugars found in fruits are not quite the same as the refined and added sugars that we commonly demonize.
Fiber is not easily digested and absorbed by the body - which can help push things through. It also helps draw out some unwanted compounds along the way, like cholesterol. For these reasons a high fiber diet is associated with better digestive and heart health (6,7). It is also part of the reason why fruit falls lower on the glycemic index scale (8).
Moreover, for your keto meal plan, this means you can enjoy fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, and stay in ketosis. Even though fiber shows up on the nutrition facts label in total carb content, the grams of fiber are often subtracted to give you a net carb count for the food.
What Fruits are High in Sugar?
To get into ketosis, most people need to eat less than 50 grams of net carbs per day. Considering some fruits have over 25 grams of total carbs per serving which can eat up more than half of your daily carb limit, the type of fruit you choose matters!
The fruits highest in sugar include tropical fruits, dried fruits, fruit juice, and certain whole fruits. These include the following common options and their associated net carb count per serving:
- Dates - 36 g per ¼ cup
- Cranberry Juice - 34 g per cup
- Raisins - 31 g per ¼ cup
- Dried Figs - 28 g per serving
- Bananas - 24 g per fruit
- Mango - 23 g per cup
- Pears - 22 g per fruit
- Grapes - 19 g per ½ cup
- Apples - 17 g per fruit
What Fruits are Low in Sugar?
The fruits lowest in sugar tend to be high in water content or fiber - allowing you to enjoy a larger serving size with fewer carbohydrates. These include many citrus fruits, berries, and some melon.
Best Fruits to Eat On Keto
Very few fruits can actually be considered low carb when you take into account a typical serving size. However, if you enjoy them in smaller quantities, they can fit into your daily macro goals and still provide meaningful nutrition.
Here are the best keto friendly fruits with less than 15 grams of net carb per standard serving.
1. Unsweetened Acai Puree
Net Carb Count: 1 g per 100g serving
Unlike its sugar filled, popular counterpart the acai bowl, acai as a solo fruit is actually not very sweet. Look for unsweetened puree or acai powder to enjoy this famous "superfruit" as part of a healthy low carb breakfast bowl or morning smoothie.
Net Carb Count: 3.5 g per fruit
This unique and visually appealing fruit, Starfruit or Carambola, is one of the lowest sugar options you can find. Unlike other tropical fruits which tend to be very carb heavy, one medium sized fruit has only 30 calories, 3 grams of fiber and less than 4 grams of net carbs total.
3. Shredded Coconut
Net Carb Count: 5 g per cup
Coconut, either fresh or dried, is also a unique low carb tropical fruit and it is very popular among keto dieters because it contains high amounts of MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides), a type of fat thought to support ketosis (9).
However, if you are looking to lose weight, just be mindful of your portion size as a single cup packs almost 300 calories. And avoid coconut products with added sugars.
Net Carb Count: 5 g per fruit
Lemons are very rarely consumed whole, but they are in fact very low carb and low calorie. They also provide a notable source of vitamin C - 51% of the daily value.
You can enjoy lemon juice as a garnish or in various recipes to capture their desirable essence, flavor, and nutrients.
Net Carb Count: 5 g per fruit
Similar to lemon, limes are not eaten as a whole fruit, but their juice is low sugar and worth considering. They also contain 32% of your daily value for vitamin C.
Net Carb Count: 6 g per cup
Blackberries are packed with fiber (almost 8 grams per serving!) and naturally lower in sweetness making them the top low carb berry to reach for. They also provide 50% of your vitamin C are linked to many positive health benefits due to their deep rich color (10).
Net Carb Count: 6.5 g per fruit
Naturally small in size, a fresh plum is a satisfying way to enjoy a sweeter fruit without overdoing it.
Net Carb Count: 7 g per cup
Similar to blackberries, raspberries are high in fiber and can be more tangy than sweet. One cup has eight grams of fiber and 53% of your vitamin C needs.
Net Carb Count: 8 g per cup
A favorite fruit among many low carb eaters, strawberries are enjoyed on their own or commonly paired with various recipes, ranging from savory to sweet. Grab a handful as a snack, toss them in a salad, or blend them into your morning keto shake.
10. Fresh Figs
Net Carb Count: 8.5 g per medium fig
While dried figs can pack a punch of sugar, fresh figs contain significantly less. In fact, one small fresh fig has only 6.5 grams of net carbohydrate.
Slice up fresh figs for a slightly sweet and guilt-free fruit topping on your keto bread - try this with goat cheese!
Net Carb Count: 11 g per cup
While not the highest fiber fruit, one cup of cantaloupe has only 50 calories and provides nearly 100% of your daily needs for vitamin C and vitamin A, making it worth making room for every net carb.
Net Carb Count: 11 g per cup
Falling higher on the glycemic index scale due to low fiber content, watermelon is a misunderstood fruit. Although naturally very sweet, it contains mostly water helping to bring down its total carb content.
Watermelon is also rich in nutrition containing a recognizable amount of vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. Watermelon also contains more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
So there is no need to fear this popular melon, just adjust your portion and dig in!
Pro tip: Pair with feta cheese to slow your sugar absorption.
Special mention: While not technically fruit, jicama, avocados, and tomatoes are all commonly enjoyed as such and make for great additional low carb choices to consider.
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