Dried Fruit: Good or Bad?
Information about dried fruit is very conflicting. Does dry fruit have any benefits?
Some say it is a nutritious, healthy snack, while others claim it is no better than candy.
This is a detailed article about dried fruit and how it can affect your health.
What is Dried Fruit?
- Dried fruit is a fruit that has had almost all of the water content removed through drying methods.
- The fruit shrinks during this process, leaving a small, energy-dense dried fruit.
- Raisins are the most common type, followed by dates, prunes, figs, and apricots, mangoes, pineapples, melon, blueberries, cranberries, papaya, apple, cherries, inca berries (physalis).
- Other varieties of dried fruit are also available, sometimes in candied form (sugar-coated).
- Dried fruit can be preserved for much longer than fresh fruit and can be a handy snack, particularly on long trips where refrigeration is not available.
Dried Fruit is Loaded With Micronutrients, Fiber, and Antioxidants
- Dried fruit is highly nutritious.
- One piece of dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit but is condensed in a much smaller package.
- By weight, dried fruit contains up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins, and minerals of fresh fruit.
- Therefore, one serving can provide a large percentage of the daily recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, such as folate.
- However, there are some exceptions. For example, the vitamin C content is significantly reduced when the fruit is dried.
- Dried fruit generally contains a lot of fiber and is a great source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols.
- Polyphenol antioxidants are associated with health benefits such as improved blood flow, better digestive health, decreased oxidative damage, and reduced risk of many diseases.
Health Effects of Dried Fruit
Several studies have shown that people who eat dried fruit tend to weigh less and ingest more nutrients, compared to individuals not eating dried fruit.
However, these studies were observational in nature, so they can not prove that the dried fruit caused the improvements.
Dried fruit is also a good source of many plant compounds, including powerful antioxidants.
Dried Fruit is High in Natural Sugar and Calories
Fruit tend to contain significant amounts of natural sugars.
Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, this concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller package.
For this reason, dried fruit is very high in calories and sugar, including both glucose and fructose.
Below are some examples of the natural sugar content of dried fruit.
About 22–51% of this sugar content is fructose. Eating a lot of fructose may have negative health effects.
Because dried fruit is sweet and energy-dense, it is easy to eat large amounts at a time, which can result in excess sugar and calorie intake.
Dried Fruit with Added Sugar (Candied Fruit)
Dried fruit with added sugar is also referred to as “candied” fruit. Having a couple of pieces of candied fruit a day won’t hurt you, but eating 200 g a day might.
As any sugared product, it has to be limited to avoid harmful effects on health (increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease).
Dried Fruit May Also Contain Sulfites
Some producers add preservatives called sulfites to their dried fruit.
Sulfites are added to some dried fruit to preserve color, which may cause adverse effects in sensitive individuals.
Same as with many other foods, dried fruit has both good and bad aspects.
Dried fruit can boost your fiber and nutrient intake and supply your body with large amounts of antioxidants.
However, they are also high in sugar and calories and can cause problems when eaten in excess.
For this reason, dried fruit should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods.
They should not be eaten by the handful, because it is very easy to eat too many calories from dried fruit.
Also, they are a high-carb food, making them unsuitable on a low-carb diet.
At the end of the day, dried fruit is far from perfect, but it is certainly a much healthier and more nutritious snack than chips or other processed junk foods.
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