6 Tips To Enjoy Summer Fruit Without Loading Up On Sugar

Summertime, and the living is easy. Fresh produce is hitting its stride and with so much fruit that’s ripe for the picking, it’s hard not to go overboard.

Rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants, these mouth-watering seasonal favorites are also packed with notable amounts of sugar — enough to interfere with diet and weight-loss goals as well as mess with blood sugar levels if you’re not paying attention.

While I do encourage everyone to eat fruit as part of a healthy, whole food, predominantly plant-based diet, remember that fruit isn’t necessarily a sugar hall pass. What you eat matters, as does the quantity and quality. So, to savor the fruits of summer (and beyond) smartly, manage your dose and keep the following thoughts in mind:

1. Eat whole, actual, unadulterated fruit.

Nature makes fruit healthy. Processing it makes it anything but. Supermarket staples like fruit roll-ups, fruit juice, fruit ‘flavored’ treats are, at best, nutritionally useless, and at worst, disease-triggering sugar bombs.

The big problem is that with processing, valuable nutrients and fiber are lost and lots of sugar is added, so most of the benefits you’d hope to extract from these faux fruit foods are simply no longer there.

2. Remember that dried fruit is processed fruit.

It’s a similar situation with most dried fruits: they lose much of their vitamin content in the dehydrating process and also gain a lot of added sugar to boot. And that shine you often see on dried fruit that makes it look moist? That’s usually a dusting of questionable vegetable oil ‘blends’ and sulfites to help maintain color and to prevent clumping. Um, no thanks.

If you must eat dried fruit, look for unsweetened, sulfite-free, organic or local versions, and go easy on ‘em. Add a few unsweetened, organic cranberries to your morning smoothie or a few goji berries or raisins to top off salads. Think garnish, not fistfuls.

3. Boost your intake of berries.

Berries should be your new BFF — as in your best fruit friend. They’re the total package: little sugar, lots of fiber, a nice dollop of vitamins and antioxidants, plus great taste. You might even think of them as nature’s candy.

To up your daily berry intake, keep a container of blueberries or raspberries with you at the office and dig in as needed. Pleasant side effects include feeling mighty virtuous for making such a wise nutritional choice and love-bombing your body with nutrients, instead of sugar and chemicals.

4. Create high-low combos of fruits.

A fruit salad of watermelon, pineapple, kiwi, mango and cherries is going to be a way-too-sweet one, with more sugar than you need. Instead, take the sweetness down a notch by balancing combinations of low sugar fruits and higher ones.

For example, try my favorite combination of ¾ cup of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, plus ¼ cup cherries and strawberries.

Also, if you’re frequently stepping up to the smoothie bar, tell your barista to always omit fruit juice from your blend.

5. Choose your fruits wisely.

When it comes to fruit, the wider the range you eat, the broader your nutrient intake will be. That’s a good thing — just don’t go hog wild on the super-sweet ones.

When shopping, bring along a copy of the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide. It identifies 50 fruits and veggies and ranks them in order of most pesticides to fewest so you can make informed purchasing decisions on organic versus conventionally grown produce.

6. Know the sugar highs and lows.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few of the widely available fruits (virtually year-round) that are high in sugar, and my favorite low-sugar options:

  • The high guys: They’re often the ones we think of as being the more festively colored tropical ones, such as lychees, kiwis, mangos, oranges, nectarines, pears, watermelon, bananas, grapes, figs and cherries. Think of these guys as special treats, and don’t eat them every day. Once a week is fine.
  • The low bros: Blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, as well as avocados, lemons, limes and grapefruits. Make a daily, half-to-1-cup serving of berries a tasty and healthy habit.
  • The average Joes: Apples, guavas, plums, peaches, papayas, cantaloupe and melons. Two or three times a week is plenty.

How many fruits you can or should eat daily is also determined by how well you metabolize carbs or if you are insulin resistant. If you do not metabolize carbs well or if you are insulin resistant, I recommend eating less fruit and trying to stick to the low-sugar fruits as much as possible. To help you work that out, check out 11 Clues You’re Eating Too Many Carbs.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

Frank Lipman, M.D.

Pioneer in Functional Medicine
For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How to Be Well, The New Health Rules, Young and Slim for Life, Revive and Total Renewal. After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non-Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness. He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, “If antibiotics are right, he’ll try it. If it’s an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things.” In addition to his practice, he is also an instructor in mbg's Functional Nutrition Program.
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Frank Lipman, M.D.

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