Fruit is a sweet treat that is packed with micronutrients. But all fruits contain carbohydrates. Can you eat fruit on a low carb diet? The short answer is yes! However, the amount of fruit and the types of fruit that you can eat and still lose weight will depend on your body’s carbohydrate tolerance.
In this post, I’ll explain what I mean by carb tolerance, discuss the natural sugars in fruit, and share the best choices for you as a low carb or keto dieter.
Can I Eat Fruit on a Low Carb Diet? – Summary
- How much fruit you can consume on a low carb diet is determined by your body’s carbohydrate tolerance.
- Carbohydrate tolerance is unique to every individual and depends on factors such as age, activity level, past health history, and genetics.
- Fruit has fiber and other nutrients that lock in the natural sugars and slow digestion. These factors dampen the blood sugar and insulin spikes seen with the consumption of table sugar, reducing fat storage.
- Good low carb fruit choices include avocados, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, coconut, lemons, watermelon, cantaloupe, limes, and peaches.
Can I Eat Fruit on a Low Carb Diet? [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The definition of carbohydrate tolerance.
- The difference between glucose vs. fructose.
- The best low carb fruit choices!
What is Your Carbohydrate Tolerance?
One of the main factors that determine the amount and types of fruit you can eat and still lose weight is your carbohydrate tolerance. You cannot plug factors like your age, activity level, past health history, and genetic profile into an online calculator and come up with the exact number of carbohydrate grams you can eat in your daily diet.
However, these factors impact how sensitive your cells are to insulin, and therefore how many carbohydrates your body can tolerate. I have discussed insulin sensitivity in several videos. The basic thing to understand is that insulin is the hormone that moves nutrients, like the sugar that comes from energy-rich carbohydrates, from your bloodstream to your cells.
If your energy-hungry cells, like those in your muscles and liver, are highly insulin sensitive, they will easily take up the sugar and use it rather than storing it as future energy, which is body fat.
As I mentioned, you cannot simply look at someone and say, “he will lose weight eating 100 carbs per day, but she will need to reduce her carbohydrate intake to 50 grams or fewer to make progress.” Determining your carb tolerance will take some trial and error.
The good news for those of you that are just getting started with a low carb diet is that simply reducing the number of carbs you are currently consuming will likely cause weight loss.
Stepping Down Your Carb Intake
I’ve found that taking a step-down method instead of jumping into a very low carb, keto diet, works well for many people. While the reason for this is not cut and dried, it may have to do with the amazing adaptability of the human body.
Your body is always looking to learn your routines and adapt to them to conserve energy. Just think about training for a 5K race. On the first day of training, you are throwing your body a major curveball. It was content sitting on the couch, so this whole running thing requires a lot of energy.
As a result, you might struggle to jog for just one minute at a time. But, with the repetition of training, your body becomes more efficient. This is great for getting you to the finish line because that efficiency requires less energy.
When you change from a high carb to a low carb way of eating, it is a big change for your body. At the start of your diet, your body has to work hard and expend a lot of energy to keep you going. Your body has not yet become efficient at burning fat for fuel, so it will utilize the carbs you give it in this early stage.
As you progress, your body produces the enzymes and pathways needed to use fat for fuel efficiently. This is what you want, but if you haven’t reached your goal yet, you may find that dropping your carb intake to a lower level helps. This step-down method is why I have three levels of meal plans in my Freedom Weight Loss program.
You can start at any level you like, but members who are new to cutting carbs can begin with the plans that have 25% of their daily calories coming from carbohydrates, such as fruit. If this works for their body, they can stay at that level or step down their carb intake and follow the meal plans that hold carbs to 10% or less, which is the keto range.
Natural Sugar in Fruit
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, fruit is a sweet treat. That sweetness comes from the natural sugars found in fruit. This natural sugar content causes confusion for many people when they wonder if they can eat fruit on a low carb diet.
The important thing to note is that fruit has fiber and other nutrients that lock in the sugar and slow the digestion process. This delayed digestion is beneficial because it allows the sugars to be slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, providing a more sustained level of energy and hunger satisfaction than added table sugar.
The slower absorption also slows the rise of your blood sugar and insulin. This gives your body more time to use or burn the sugar, limiting the amount that must be stored.
Fruit Sugars: Glucose vs. Fructose
When you hear the term blood sugar, it is referring to a simple sugar called glucose. The terms blood sugar and blood glucose are interchangeable. There is naturally occurring glucose in fruit, but that is not the only type of sugar. Fruit also contains fructose, which is often referred to as fruit sugar.
Unlike glucose, which goes straight into your bloodstream and raises blood sugar and insulin, fructose takes a less direct path. It must first visit the liver and be converted into glucose, so it doesn’t have the same quick blood sugar and insulin impact as glucose. That delayed rise of insulin is a good thing because low insulin levels encourage fat loss.
However, if you’ve had poor eating habits in the past (eating a lot of refined junk foods and fast foods, or drinking a lot of soda that contains high fructose corn syrup), your liver may no longer handle natural fructose as efficiently. This causes your body to turn it into fat more easily. This plays back to your body’s unique carbohydrate tolerance.
The answer to the question of how much fruit you can eat on a low carb diet is dependent on where your metabolism is today, which is influenced by past eating habits and other factors.
The Best Low Carb Fruit Choices
To be successful on a low carb diet, it pays to know that the carbohydrate and fiber content of different fruits vary. I recommend counting total carbs rather than net carbs because packaged foods can be manipulated to lower the net carb count in ways that block the weight loss benefit they promise. However, when it comes to fruit, it pays to pay attention to the fiber content.
Because the fruit sugars are locked inside the fruit’s fibrous structures, it takes time for your body to extract them. This results in the slower rise in blood sugar and insulin that you want for fat loss. When it comes to whole foods like fruit, the fiber-to-carb ratio or net carb content is important.
Here is a list of fruits showing those with the lowest to highest net carb count. For a fair comparison, the list shows a 100 gram or 3.5-ounce serving for each fruit.
You’ll notice that avocados are the best fruit choice for low carb dieters. I am a big proponent of eating avocados, yet I get that sinking your teeth into a ripe avocado is not what most people think of when they think about adding fruit to their diet.
However, as we move down the list, we find many traditional and popular choices. For instance, the next type of fruit you’ll notice is berries, specifically blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. If you are looking for a type of fruit to add to your low carb or keto diet, these berries are a good choice because they have a good amount of fiber and a relatively low total carb count.
Blueberries can also work, but their fiber to carb ratio is not as good, so they have a higher net carb count than the other berry choices.
To round out my top ten best low carb fruits, we have coconut, lemons, watermelon, cantaloupe, limes, and peaches.
All fruits contain natural sugars that contribute to their carbohydrate count. However, fruit also contains fiber and nutrients that slow the absorption of those sugars. Therefore, most people will find that they can enjoy some fruit as part of a successful low carb diet.
How much you can eat depends on your unique carbohydrate tolerance. The best approach to figuring out how to make fruit work for you is to choose lower-carb fruits, limit your overall carb intake to 25% of your daily calories, and go from there, stepping down your carb intake to continue losing weight.
If you’d like a plan to follow, to step down your carb intake, I encourage you to check out my Freedom Program!
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.