Apples appear on low FODMAP no-no lists for good reason. Apples have high amounts of sorbitol, a known FODMAP. But many people react to the fructose in apples instead. In fact, my inability to digest apples was one of the first signs of fructose malabsorption. If, like me, you tend to have stomach pain or digestion issues after eating apples, this post can help you understand why.
Apples are very high in fructose. Fructose content differs by variety, but on average, a medium apple contains 10.75 grams of fructose, while 1 cup of sliced apples contains 6.41 grams. Both of these far exceed the low fructose diet recommendation of 3 grams of fructose or less per serving.
Here we’ll look at the fructose content in different types of apples. We’ll also break down the total sugar content in apples. Then we’ll look at apple juice and applesauce and whether these are lower fructose alternatives. Finally, we’ll discuss a few things other than (or in addition to) fructose that may prevent you from digesting apples.
How Much Fructose Is in Apples?
Note: all links in this post open in a new tab, unless otherwise stated. To learn more about how research for this site is conducted, please visit the data and methods page.
For this post, I researched five of the most popular apple varieties in the United States.3 I found that, on average, a medium apple contains 10.75 grams of fructose. This far exceeds the recommended fructose levels for both the low fructose/fructose reduced diet4 and the low FODMAP diet.5
The table below shows the fructose content for different varieties of apple at different serving sizes. You can see that fructose content differs considerably, both by apple type and size. However, all of these apples, even the small ones, can be classified as high fructose and high FODMAP.
Fructose Content in Different Apple Varieties (in grams)
|Variety||Small||Medium||Large||1 cup, Sliced|
As shown here, even tart tasting Granny Smith apples are high in fructose. You can, of course, alter the serving size, eating half a cup rather than a full cup of sliced apples, for example. That may work if you’re limiting fructose as part of a reduced sugar diet.
However, if you suffer from fructose malabsorption, even altering the serving size of apples may not help. That’s due to the fructose-glucose ratio in apples. Understanding this ratio is critical for those on the low FODMAP diet. You can read more about why in my post on whether apples are low FODMAP.
It’s important to understand the difference between low fructose and low FODMAP. Low fructose guidelines state that foods should contain less than 3 grams of fructose per serving, among other criteria.4 Low FODMAP guidelines state that “excess fructose,” that is, the amount of fructose relative to glucose, should be between .15 and .40 grams per serving.5 This is why a food, like bananas, can be low FODMAP but high fructose.
Fructose Content as a Percent of Total Sugar Content
Another way to classify the fructose content in foods is by how much it contributes to total sugar content. Typically, any food in which fructose contributes more than 50% of the sugar content is considered high fructose.6
The table below shows the sugar content for five popular types of apples. The data is for a medium-sized apple of each kind. While the amount of sugar in an apple varies by size, the percentages of sucrose, glucose and fructose stay the same. So, these percentages apply whether you’re eating a small or large apple, too.
Sugar Content in Different Apple Varieties by Percent
|Apple Type||Sucrose (grams)||Sucrose (percent)||Glucose (grams)||Glucose (percent)||Fructose (grams)||Fructose (percent)|
As shown in the table, fructose makes up between 52 and 60 percent of the sugar content in apples. So at this point, we’ve well established that apples are high fructose. In fact, apples have some of the highest fructose levels of any fruit, though pears give them good competition in this regard.
You may be wondering if changing the way apples are served reduces the fructose content. For example, cooking apples for applesauce or extracting liquid for apple juice. Neither of these things reduces fructose content. In fact, apple juice and applesauce have higher fructose levels than the raw apples from which they’re made.
How Much Sugar in Applesauce?
Sugar content in applesauce depends on whether it’s sweetened or unsweetened. Yes, despite the already high fructose content of apples, some food manufacturers add more sugar to applesauce. This is especially true for flavored applesauce. For example, Mott’s adds high fructose corn syrup to its cinnamon applesauce.7
The table below shows the fructose content for one cup of sliced apples versus one cup of unsweetened and sweetened applesauce.
Fructose Content in Apples versus Applesauce
|Raw apple, 1 cup, sliced||6.41|
|Applesauce, 1 cup, unsweetened||14.3|
|Applesauce, 1 cup, sweetened||17.9|
Remember, the figures in the table are for fructose only. One cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 23 grams of sugar, total. A cup of sweetened applesauce clocks in at just over 36 grams of sugar, total.
So, converting apples into applesauce increases the fructose content substantially, even before the addition of other sweeteners. This is one reason applesauce has such high FODMAP values.
Extracting fluids to make apple juice has a similar effect. It concentrates the fructose, making apple juice high in sugar. And again, that’s before any additional sweeteners are added.
How Much Sugar in Apple Juice?
A direct comparison of fructose content between raw apples and apple juice isn’t fair, since a dry cup and a liquid cup are different measurements. Thus, comparing a cup of dry, sliced apples to an 8 ounce cup of apple juice isn’t really helpful.
Instead, I’ve provided the sugar breakdown for a cup of unsweetened apple juice. You can compare the percentages of different sugars to the earlier table that showed sugar percentages in raw apples. This is probably the most fair comparison between dry, raw apples and liquid apple juice.
Sugar Content by Type in Apple Juice (grams and percent)
|Sugar||Grams||Percent of Total|
As shown, an 8 ounce glass of apple juice contains 14.2 grams of fructose, which is more than a medium raw apple. And, fructose contributes about 60% to the total sugar content, which is on the high end of this range. By comparison, of the five apple varieties studied for this post, only Golden Delicious has a fructose percentage this high.
Final Thoughts on Apples, Fructose and FODMAPs
If you have trouble digesting apples, it could be that you’re sensitive to fructose. After all, a significant percentage of the population is afflicted with fructose malabsorption.9
However, there could be other reasons why apples give you tummy troubles. As mentioned earlier, apples contain sorbitol, which is also a known FODMAP. It’s possible you’re reacting to the sorbitol in apples, not the fructose. It’s also possible you could be reacting to both.
Some fruits, like blackberries, are high in sorbitol but lower in fructose than apples. If you have the same reaction to blackberries as you do to apples, it’s likely sorbitol is the source of the problem. But you’ll have to test for yourself whether you’re reacting to sorbitol or fructose, or potentially to both.
Another possible cause of stomach pain after eating apples is fiber, specifically insoluble fiber. This is a type of fiber that humans can’t digest. Apples are high in insoluble fiber. It’s found mostly in the peel, so peeling an apple prior to eating could help.
It’s also possible that you’re reacting to all three things: fiber, fructose and sorbitol. If that’s the case, then avoiding raw apples may be your best option.
That’s what I do, actually. Through trial and error I’ve learned that I’m sensitive to fructose and that I also can’t handle much insoluble fiber. So I generally stick to fruits with more soluble fiber and less fructose. Fortunately, as I wrote in this post, there are quite a few low fructose fruits.
This is just an example of how, if you really pay attention, your body will guide you to the right food decisions for you.
About the Author
Amanda Coleman, PhD, studies food culture and teaches a popular Food and Society course. Years of digestive problems led her to live low FODMAP. Now she uses her research and analysis skills to help others understand FODMAP essentials, so they can lead better, healthier lives.