Dried Fruit 101Wednesday, March 27, 2013
By Gail Watson, Contributing blogger
Dried fruits have long been the favorite of hikers and exercise enthusiasts. GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts) has made its way into many a backpack, and for good reason. But do they have the same nutritional punch that fresh fruit does?
Natural Vs. Commercially Dried
In the off seasons fresh fruits may be transported thousands of miles. In order to keep fruit from spoiling during transit, fresh fruit is often picked before it’s ripe, and sometimes force ripened with chemicals so they’re ready for the market. Long holding and refrigeration also diminishes delicate vitamins. Drying is another way to enjoy the goodness of fruit and can be just as healthy, depending on how it is done.
Dried fruit is simply fresh fruit from which the moisture has been removed. If the fruit is allowed to dry naturally, it should contain the same vitamins and minerals as fresh. Without the moisture, dried fruit has a long shelf life, which is a great alternative when fresh fruit is not in season.
Commercially dried fruit, on the other hand, may be a different story. Sulfur dioxide may be added as a preservative, which can reduce the availability of thiamin. High heat drying processes can also destroy delicate vitamin C. In addition, some fruits, like cranberries, pineapple and banana, have sugar added to them, making them less healthy than their fresh counterparts.
According to the USDA’s MyPlate, adults over 18 years of age should consume 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. Because it is so concentrated, ½ cup of dried fruit (like raisins) is equivalent to 1 cup of fresh. A study published Nutrition Research found that consuming dried fruits, such as raisins, might actually help you keep off the pounds by helping increase hormones that are associated with satiety. The study also showed that eating dried fruit had a positive effect on lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure.
To keep calories and added sugar in check, choose dried fruit with no added sugar. Opt for fruits that have not been treated with sulfur dioxide, making them less pretty, but just as delicious. When possible, try to find out the drying practices of the producer, especially if you’re buying from your local farmers’ market.
The Bottom Line
Both fresh and dried fruit have a place in a healthy eating plan. When in season, reach for fresh, especially those grown close to home. As the seasons change, dried fruits offer a great alternative in term of convenience and nutrition.