Low-Glycemic Fruits

You may worry that fruits are too high in sugar to fit into your low GI diet. Low glycemic index (low GI) fruits have lower levels of sugar compared to others and are a great option for everyday eating!

Various low glycemic fruits displayed on a round tabletop

Low GI fruits are high in fiber and essential nutrients, and they support stable blood levels.

What Are Low GI Fruits? 

Low-glycemic index (low GI) fruits contain less fructose (a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits) compared to others. They are rich in fiber, which slows down digestion and decreases the risk of “peaks and valleys” in your bloodstream2

Frequent swings in your blood sugar levels can leave you feeling exhausted, both physically and mentally2. Including low GI fruits in your weekly meal plan can help promote stable blood sugars throughout the day. 

The high fiber content also contributes to bathroom regularity, heart health protection, reduced risk of certain cancers, and satiety3

Our Top 8 Low-Glycemic Index Fruits

Low GI fruits are assigned a score of 55 or less. The following GI scores have been pulled from the University of Sydney database, a USDA-recognized institution for GI research4,5.  

                                                                                                                                                                                
FruitGlycemic IndexGI Category
Orange52Low
Apple44Low
Berries28-40Low
Grapefruit26Low
Mango51Low
Pomegranate53Low
Pears41Low
Peach28Low
Overripe Banana62+High
Watermelon72High

1. Oranges (GI: 52)

Oranges have a glycemic index of 52. All citrus fruits, including oranges, are rich in Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant and key player in immune function. 

Oranges have a glycemic index of 52.

Oranges also contain calcium, an important mineral to maintain healthy bones, dentition, and nerve function6

2. Apples (GI: 44)

Apples have a glycemic index of 44. Apples are rich in fiber, and vitamin C, and contain potassium. 

Apples have a glycemic index of 44.

Potassium is an electrolyte that contributes to muscle contractions throughout the body and regulates your heartbeat. It is also involved in the metabolization of carbohydrates7

3. Berries (GI: 28-40)

Berries (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry) have a GI range of 28-40. Sour blueberries offer the lowest GI, while strawberries are at the higher end (but still well within the cutoff). 

Berries have a glycemic index range of 28-40.

Dark-colored berries are rich in anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant compound8. They have been linked to reducing inflammation in the body, neutralizing harmful free radicals that wreak havoc on your system, and reducing the risk of certain cancers8. Red berries also offer some anthocyanin, as well as vitamin C. 

4. Grapefruit (GI: 26)

Grapefruit has a GI of 26. If you’ve ever tried a grapefruit you know they are anything but sweet. The sharp flavor is refreshing, and the bright pink fruit is rich in vitamin C and fiber. 

Grapefruit has a glycemic index of 26.

If you take prescription medications you should consult your doctor or pharmacist before eating grapefruit. It can be contraindicated for certain medications including statins, blood pressure, anti-anxiety, and corticosteroids9. Follow up with your health care provider if you have any concerns. 

5. Mangos (GI: 51)

Mangos have a GI of 51. It has a buttery texture and is rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Both of these essential vitamins contribute to immune function, and vitamin A supports normal vision and eye health10

Mangos have a glycemic index of 51.

6. Pomegranates  (GI: 53)

Pomegranates have a GI of 53. It contains polyphenols, a class of plant-based compounds that mimic similar body responses as antioxidants.

Pomegranates have a glycemic index of 53.

Current research is being done on the role of polyphenol consumption and lowering blood glucose levels11

7. Pears (GI: 41)

Pears have a GI of 41. The sandpaper texture you feel on your tongue when you eat a pear is fiber. 

Pears have a glycemic index of 53.

The high water content, combined with the natural fructose, renders a fruit that serves as a gentle natural laxative that may help when you feel backed up12. Pears also contain small amounts of copper and potassium.

8. Peaches (GI: 28)

Peaches have a GI of 28. They are rich in antioxidants and carotenoids. High dietary intake of carotenoids has been linked to reducing the risk of several cancers and cardiovascular disease13

Peaches have a glycemic index of 28.

High GI Fruits To Avoid 

Overripe Bananas (High GI)

Overripe bananas, or brown bananas, have a high GI14. Where is the extra sugar coming from? The organic breakdown of the fruit, due to natural aging, produces excess sugars. 

Most people do not eat brown bananas as a snack. Instead, they are used in baking or frozen and blended into smoothies.  

Unripened bananas are a great alternative14. The next time you’re at the grocery store, try and find bananas that are more green than yellow. They contain less sugar and should have less impact on your blood glucose levels. 

<p class="pro-tip">Learn more about: bananas and weight loss</p>

Watermelons (High GI)

Watermelon has a high GI of 724. Although watermelon is a nostalgic snack that reminds you of fun summer memories, it is wise to decrease your intake of this fruit when summer rolls around again. 

A ripe watermelon is high in sugar and low in fiber. The fruit is mainly comprised of water and fructose. Without adequate fiber present to slow down digestion, the sugary water can rapidly enter your bloodstream and increase your risk of a blood sugar spike. 

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Cantaloupe or honeydew melon are appropriate substitutions for watermelon. The GI for these fruits are <55, and they are both classified as low GI fruits1,4. </p>

An illustration showing how the fruits in this article fit on a scale of 0 to 100 glycemic index

Low GI Fruits: FAQs

What Is the Glycemic Index? 

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food affects blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI score have less impact on your blood sugars, causing your levels to rise slowly and steadily. 

Which Foods Have a GI Score? 

A GI score is applied to any carbohydrate-containing food1. These include: 

  • Grains and starches
  • Dairy products and milk alternatives
  • Fruits
  • Legumes and pulses

Choosing low GI foods is beneficial for people with diabetes, as well as those who are trying to stabilize their blood sugars. 

Is It Bad If I Eat a High GI Fruit? 

For most healthy, non-diabetic individuals, your overall health should not suffer if you consume a high GI fruit, but try to limit how much and how often you eat them.

Gaining awareness of high GI fruits and knowing they can impact your blood glucose levels is a powerful asset. You are equipping yourself with the knowledge you need to make nutrition choices that will support your long-term health goals. By prioritizing low GI fruits over high GI fruits, you are one step closer to achieving those goals! 

How to Add More Low GI Fruits to Your Diet

  • Decorate your morning toast with fresh berries instead of jam 
  • Add oranges and strawberries to your lunch salad 
  • Snack on apple and natural peanut butter 
  • Top high protein cottage cheese with cantaloupe slices
  • Sprinkle cinnamon on mango for a light dessert 

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Pick low glycemic snacks throughout the day. They will provide energy and satiety until you arrive at your next meal.</p>

Are Canned And Frozen Fruits the Same as Fresh Fruits?

Research on frozen fruits indicates that vitamin retention was unaffected despite being stored in the freezer15. Frozen fruits have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, and are better suited to certain recipes, like frozen smoothies. 

However, it is an excellent practice to review the food label and package before buying a product. Ensure you buy frozen fruits that are marked “no-sugar-added.” If present, these sneaky refined sugars will increase the glycemic index and potentially impact your blood sugars. 

Canned fruits are another very economical option. Research has shown canned fruits are nutritionally on par with fresh options16

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Choose canned fruits stored in water instead of juice. This research analysis shows that fresh peaches have a low GI of 28, but peaches canned in heavy syrup have a higher GI of 584.</p> 

Low-Glycemic Fruits: Takeaways

  • Low in sugar and rich in fiber
  • Digest slowly
  • Support steady and stable blood sugar levels
  • Different fruits offer essential vitamins and minerals that are required for good health. 

Add variety to your routine by choosing different low GI fruits throughout your week. You can include them in your snacks or incorporate them directly into your meals. 

<p class="pro-tip">Learn more about nutrition and blood glucose management.</p>

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References

  1. Diabetes Canada. (n.d.). The Glycemic Index (GI). Diabetes Canada.https://www.diabetes.ca/resources/tools---resources/the-glycemic-index-(gi)
  2. Salehi, B., Martorell, M., Arbiser, J. L., Sureda, A., Martins, N., Maurya, P. K., Sharifi-Rad, M., Kumar, P., & Sharifi-Rad, J. (2018). Antioxidants: Positive or Negative Actors?. Biomolecules, 8(4), 124. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316255/ 
  3. Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Fiber | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
  4. Barclay, A. (n.d.). Glycemic Index Research and GI News. Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI News. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://glycemicindex.com/
  5. USDA National Agriculture Library. (n.d.). Carbohydrates | Food and Nutrition Information Center | NAL | USDA. National Agricultural Library. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/fnic/carbohydrates 
  6. Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Calcium | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium/ 
  7. Harvard School of Public Health. (2019, July 18). The importance of potassium. Harvard Health. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-potassium 
  8. Khoo, H. E., Azlan, A., Tang, S. T., & Lim, S. M. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins:   colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1361779. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28970777/
  9. FDA. (2021, July 1). Grapefruit Juice and Some Drugs Don't Mix | FDA. US Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/grapefruit-juice-and-some-drugs-dont-mix 
  10. Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Vitamin A | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a/
  11. Kim, Y., Keogh, J. B., & Clifton, P. M. (2016). Polyphenols and Glycemic Control. Nutrients, 8(1), 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728631/ 
  12. Reiland, H., & Slavin, J. (2015). Systematic Review of Pears and Health. Nutrition today, 50(6), 301–305. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657810/ 
  13. Milani, A., Basirnejad, M., Shahbazi, S., & Bolhassani, A. (2017). Carotenoids:    biochemistry, pharmacology, and treatment. British journal of pharmacology, 174(11), 1290–1324. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27638711/ 
  14. American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Eating Well: Fruit | ADA. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/fruit 
  15. Bouzari, A., Holstege, D., & Barrett, D. M. (2015). Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 63(3), 957–962. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25526594/ 
  16. Miller, S. R., & Knudson, W. A. (2014). Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen, and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 430–437. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1559827614522942 

About the Author

Julia Zakrzewski Headshot
Julia Zakrzewski is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a background in primary care, clinical nutrition, and nutrition education. She has been practicing dietetics for four years.
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