When I first learned that I have fructose malabsorption, I worried about giving up certain foods. And I did have to quit some fruits, like apples, pears and watermelon. Most vegetables also contain fructose, so I researched those, too. Turns out, there’s better news here.
Vegetables are naturally low fructose. At normal serving sizes of one-half cup, most vegetables have less than 1 gram of fructose. This is well below the suggested guideline of 3 grams of fructose per serving or less.
In this post, we’ll look at the fructose content of dozens of vegetables. Some, like greens and squash, have many varieties, so get their own sections. Others are listed in a summary table near the bottom of the post. But let’s start by going over the different ways to measure fructose content.
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What Does Low Fructose Mean?
There isn’t a standard definition for what makes foods high and low fructose and scientists measure fructose in different ways.
One way, the excess fructose rule, is widely used in low FODMAP research, but isn’t really used outside the FODMAP community. The other two measures, percent fructose and total fructose, are much more common. Here’s a brief summary of each of these.
Excess Fructose Rule
FODMAP researchers define foods as high and low FODMAP, and thus high and low fructose, using the excess fructose rule. This rule looks at the amount of fructose and the amount of glucose in foods.
If there’s more glucose than fructose, a food has no excess fructose and is therefore considered low fructose and low FODMAP. If there’s more fructose than glucose, a food may be considered high fructose and high FODMAP.
Published guidelines state that foods containing .40 grams or more of excess fructose are high FODMAP and high fructose. If a food has less than .40 grams of excess fructose per serving, it’s low FODMAP and low fructose.
This is assuming that fructose is the only FODMAP present in a food. If another FODMAP, like fructans, is also in a food, then the amount of excess fructose should be less than .15 grams.1
Fructose Content Rules
|Excess fructose||less than .15 or .40 grams|
|Percent fructose||less than 50%|
|Total fructose||less than 3 grams|
Percent Fructose Rule
The percent fructose rules states that if fructose makes up less than 50% of the total sugar in a food, then the food is low fructose. If fructose accounts for more than 50% of total sugar, then the food is high fructose.2
Though this rule is fairly easy to understand, it does require you to know a lot about the composition of a food. Just knowing total sugar content isn’t enough. Instead, you need to know exactly how much of the sugar is fructose versus glucose versus sucrose. So, while easy to understand and remember, this rule is often hard to actually put into use.
Total Fructose Rule
This is the simplest of the three rules: if a food has three grams of fructose or less per serving, it’s low fructose. If it has more than three grams fructose per serving, it’s high fructose.3
In this post, I use the total fructose rule, as most recommendations for a low fructose diet are based on total fructose. For example, one study with patients suffering chronic kidney disease suggests limiting total fructose to 12 grams a day4, while another study on fructose malabsorption suggests keeping total fructose to 10-15 grams per day.5
Remember that the focus of this post is solely on the fructose content of foods, not the FODMAP values. Many vegetables contain other FODMAPs, like fructans. Just keep this in mind if you’re eating low fructose as part of eating low FODMAP in general.
Okay, let’s get down to business. For the sake of efficiency, I’ve included here foods that we tend to think of or eat like vegetables, even if they aren’t true vegetables. That’s why squash and mushrooms are on the list. There are many varieties of each of these, so I’ve given them their own sections, along with a section on root vegetables and one on greens.
Fructose Content of Greens
As shown in the table below, most greens have less than .10 grams of fructose per half cup. That’s the standard serving size for fresh vegetables, but most people use two or three times that much in a salad. No worries, though. Even two cups of most fresh, raw greens have less than a gram of fructose.
|Greens Variety||Fructose (grams)|
|Lettuce, green leaf||.077|
Fructose Content of Root Vegetables
Root vegetables are nutritional rock stars. If carrots and potatoes are the only root veggies you eat, consider expanding your palette. Now, I won’t go so far to suggest you eat turnips, but you might give beets or parsnips a try.
Beets are high in fiber and potassium and benefit hearth health by improving blood flow.6 Parsnips, which I wrote about in this post, are also high in fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties.7 Roasting brings out the sweetness of both beets and parsnips, but don’t be fooled, both are still low fructose vegetables.
|Root Vegetable||Fructose (grams)|
Fructose Content of Squash
Squash is another nutritional powerhouse. The vitamin C in squash may stave off vision loss, while the vitamin B6 may help alleviate depression.8
Squash is botanically classified as a fruit, since it contains internal seeds and sprouts from flowering plants. However, most people treat squash as a vegetable, so I’ve included it in this post.
Squash is a good example of how foods can be low fructose and high FODMAP at the same time. As shown in the table below, most varieties of squash have less than 1 gram of fructose per half cup. All are well below the suggested low fructose guideline of 3 grams per half cup.
But, as I discuss in this full post on squash, many types have excess fructose. While the total fructose content of squash is low, it does contain more fructose than glucose. This is enough to make many types of squash high FODMAP. Just something to keep in mind.
|Squash Variety||Fructose (grams)|
Fructose Content of Mushrooms
Like squash, many people treat mushrooms like vegetables when cooking, so I included them here.
Popular mushrooms, such as white button and crimini, are low in fructose. And some less popular varieties, like oyster mushrooms, have no fructose at all. However, if you’re eating low FODMAP, instead of just low fructose, know that most mushrooms contain excess polyols. You can learn more in this post I wrote on FODMAPs in mushrooms.
|Mushroom Variety||Fructose (grams)|
Other Vegetables Low in Fructose
As mentioned earlier, most veggies are naturally low in fructose, so the following table is a bit long. But, that means you have a lot of choices when trying to fit low fructose vegetables into your diet.
Again, keep in mind these values are for fructose content only. We know that many of the items on this list have other FODMAPs, especially fructans. For example, asparagus, brussels sprouts, onions and snow peas are all considered high fructan foods.9
Unfortunately, there’s no relationship between fructose and fructan content. Asparagus is very low fructose, at .067 grams per half cup. But, it’s high in fructans. The same is true for snow peas. So, you can’t look at the fructose value of a vegetable and make an educated guess about the fructan content. Believe me, I wish it were that simple.
If you’re only concerned with fructose content, this list may be all you need. But, if you have to watch FODMAPs in general, you’ll need to do more digging to figure out which vegetables can fit into your diet.
Low Fructose Vegetables List
|Bell pepper, green||.835|
|Bell pepper, red||1.685|
|Scallions (green part only)||.750|
Vegetables and Fructose: Final Thoughts
If you eat low fructose, adding more veggies to your plate is a good strategy. The majority of vegetables have less than 1 gram of fructose per serving. Just be careful of how you combine foods or you may exceed your fructose allowance in a given meal.
That said, if you have fructose malabsorption, you may have to experiment to find which of the three fructose measures really works for you. I began by following the low FODMAP excess fructose guideline but found this wasn’t helpful. It seems I’m more affected by total fructose content than by the ratio of glucose-to-fructose in foods.
And don’t forget we’re only looking at fructose here. If you eat fruits or vegetables that are within guidelines and still have digestive problems, it could be you’re reacting to fructans or polyols instead of (or perhaps in addition to) fructose. In that case, you may try eating only low fructan fruits and vegetables for a bit, to see if you can better isolate the problem.
Just be patient with yourself and remember that everyone’s digestive system is unique. It’ll take time, but you will find the foods that make you feel your best.
Posts Related to “Low Fructose Vegetables”
If you haven’t already, you may want to check out my post on low fructose fruits. It’s the companion post to this one on low fructose veggies. It lists over 15 fruits that are low or moderate fructose.
And because I couldn’t cover low fructose and high fructose fruits in the same post, here’s one on high fructose fruits. Fortunately, the list of high fructose fruits is much shorter, but there’s bad news for those of you who like grapes. Sorry about that.
Lots of foods besides fruits and veggies contain fructose. I cover many of those in detail in this post on high fructose foods.
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.
Disclaimer: the author is not a certified medical professional. Opinions expressed and content contained on this website are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Exercise caution and due diligence when using this site and the information contained herein and understand your experiences may vary.