It turns out that fruit is a controversial and sometimes confusing topic in the low-carb community. Some low-carb advocates argue that fruit should be severely limited or eliminated altogether, both because of the carbs and because they are cautious. fructose. However, some of the most loyal carnivore diet proponents now include fruit and promote a “meat and fruit” approach. That’s right, the carnivore considered the ultimate zero-carb diet now allows fruit (depending on who you ask).
Even for people who don’t have a particular philosophical bias against or for the consumption of fruit, it can be difficult to decide which fruits to include and how much if they are aiming to reduce carbohydrates.
That has always been my position fruit is a natural but not necessary part of the human diet. Sure, it contains more carbohydrates than meat or vegetables (on average), but fruit is also packed with fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants that are good for the body. Fruits can be a great way add carbs around workouts if you so desire. Biting into the first perfectly ripe peach of the summer is a thoroughly hedonic experience.
But for people who are watching their carb intake, and especially for those who are watching very low carb ketogenic dietEating huge bowls of fruit salad for breakfast won’t help. Here’s how I weigh the relative merits of the various fruit options.
Choosing the best low-carb fruits
There is no definitive algorithm that spits out a low carb acceptability rating for a given fruit, but the factors below are what I consider relevant to this question.
1. Start with the amount of carbs and fiber in a typical serving.
Carbohydrates because… obviously, and fiber because fiber is not absorbed and converted to glucose. Instead, it mainly passes through the gut, where the commensal microbes “feed” on specific species. This is why some people only count net carbs, which are total carbs minus fiber.
I’m not worried about getting that grainy. Counting total carbohydrates is less work and avoids the debate of whether to extract all the fibers from all sources or only some sources. Just understand that if you’re comparing two fruits with the same carb content, the higher fiber will have less impact on blood sugar.
You can stop there, or you can also…
2. Consider the antioxidant value.
Antioxidants are compounds that help mitigate cellular damage from free radicals, and fruits are a great source of antioxidants (although herbs and spices are even better). But not all fruits are created equal here. The antioxidant power of various foods is measured Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC. Higher is better.
3. Consider glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).
I don’t find GI or GL particularly worth worrying aboutbut you may be interested if your doctor has prescribed a low GI/GL diet.
The glycemic index measures how much individual foods raise your blood sugar when you eat a certain amount of carbs—50 grams of carbs from pineapple or 50 grams of carbs from cantaloupe—compared to 50 grams of carbs from pure glucose. The glycemic load takes into account the typical serving size of each food, making it more useful. Watermelon, for example, has a mid-range GI but a relatively low GL because it is mostly water.
- A GI below 55 is considered low, 56 to 69 medium and above 70.
- Low GL is below 10, medium is between 11 and 19, and high is 20 or more.
All else being equal, choose low GI/GL fruits.
4. Nutrient profile.
Finally, you may want to consider exactly what nutrients a particular fruit is particularly rich in. If you are trying to increase your potassium intake, you can go for avocado, guava or kiwi. For B6, choose durian (hold your nose).
Top 8 Low Carb Fruits
Without further ado, here are my not-entirely-scientific top 8 fruits I’d recommend for carb-conscious Primal eaters.
Note that the values below are approximate. Depending on which sources you use, you may get slightly different values.
Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, boysenberries are all good. Berries are going to deliver the most antioxidants (highest ORAC scores) of any fruit on this list.
- Carbohydrates per ½ cup: 7 to 11 grams (2 to 4 grams fiber)
- ORAC: >4000 (Wild Blueberry Clock: 9621)
- GI: 25 (blackberries, raspberries) to 53 (wild blueberries)
- GL: 2 to 4
Cherries are up there with berries in their antioxidant value.
- Carbs per ½ cup (about 10 cherries): 12 grams (2 grams fiber)
- ORAC: 3747
- GI: 25:00
- GL: 4:
Kiwis are underrated, probably because of their hairy skin and, let’s face it, dirty interior. But one kiwi provides about 85 percent of your daily vitamin C needs (almost twice as much as an orange, ounce for ounce) and 31 percent of your daily vitamin K needs.
- Carbohydrates per kiwi: 10 grams (2 grams fiber)
- ORAC: 862
- GI: 50
- GL: 7.3:
Half a grapefruit, which boasts a low glycemic load, will provide you with half of the day’s vitamin C. Just don’t spoil it by sprinkling sugar on it.
- Carbs for ½ medium grapefruit: 14 grams (2 grams fiber)
- ORAC: 483:
- GI: 22:00
- GL: 2.4:
If you’re looking for a bite-sized piece of fruit to satisfy a little sweet craving, look no further.
- Carbohydrates per apricot: 4 grams (1 gram fiber)
- ORAC: 1100
- GI: 34:
- GL: 3.8:
Cantaloupe is similar to bananas in potassium with about half the carbs. It’s also delicious when wrapped in prosciutto. Not every fruit can say that.
- Carbs per 1-cup serving: 13 grams (1.5 grams of fiber)
- ORAC: 319:
- GI: 65:
- GL: 4:
You may be surprised to see tropical fruits on this list because they tend to be high in carbohydrates. (Indeed, this is the highest carb option here, though it’s by no means astronomical.) One cup of guava blows other fruits out of the water, providing 500 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement (five times more than the average orange), 688 mg of potassium (about 1.5 medium bananas, which will pack 40 grams. carbs) , and 42 percent of the daily value for copper.
- Carbohydrates per cup: 24 grams (9 grams of fiber)
- ORAC: 1422-2550
- GI: 24:00
- GL: 5:00
Of course, we couldn’t have a list of the best fruits that left out the avocado. In addition to its healthy fat content (one of the reasons why avocados are a favorite of the keto world), they contain respectable amounts of B vitamins, folate, vitamin K, potassium, copper, and antioxidants.
- Carbohydrates per avocado: 12 grams (9 grams of fiber)
- ORAC: 1922
- GI: 10:00
- GL: 9:00
Do you like what you see?
I think I just pissed off or confused some of you. Be sure, jjust because your favorite fruit doesn’t appear here doesn’t mean it’s “featured”. This is all somewhat subjective.
Anyway, I don’t want you to think too much about these things. The point is to be mindful of what’s going into your body, rather than obsessing over the relative merits of one plum and three apricots. Such an obsession worse for your health than any fruit could ever be. Any fruit would be a better, better option than the over-processed junk lining your supermarket shelves.
Okay, that’s it for today. Which fruits would make your list? Are there any favorites you think I’ve overlooked here? Let me know in the comments!
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