Fruit is nature’s natural, ready prepared snack. Packed with vitamins, naturally sweet, high in fibre and low in calories. While the benefits of fresh fruit are readily acknowledged, dried fruit isn’t always viewed in the same light. However, dried fruit possesses the same nutritional benefits as fresh fruit and is just as healthy.
The health benefits of fruit
The health benefits of fruit are undisputed. They're rich in vitamins and minerals, especially antioxidants which can help fight off harmful substances in the body. They’re also beneficial in lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease as well as some cancers while the fibre they contain helps keep the digestive system on the move. Eating fruit on a daily basis can help with weight maintenance and regulating blood sugar levels.
What is dried fruit
Dried fruit is simply the whole, fresh fruit which has been dehydrated, having had most of its water content removed. Although some nutrients are lost during the drying process, the majority are retained, making dried fruit a concentrated form of fresh fruit with similar health benefits. Weight for weight, dried fruit contains more nutrients, fibre and sugar than its fresh counterparts. However, their high sugar and calorie content means that dried fruit isn’t always considered as healthy as fresh fruit.
Snacking on dried fruit
While dried fruit makes a healthy snack and can readily be included as part of a varied and balanced diet, it shouldn’t be eaten in the same quantities as fresh. However, because of their size, it’s easy to go overboard and eat too many of them in one go. When it comes to losing weight, it's even more important to eat dried fruit in moderation.
How much fruit should you eat?
Ideally include 1-2 servings of fruit each day, in addition to vegetables. I advise my clients to stick to berries and small citrus fruits as these are lowest in sugar. However, portion control is particularly important when eating dried fruit since high consumption inevitably means you’re taking in lots of extra calories and sugar. A useful way of monitoring dried fruit intake is to imagine the dried fruit in its whole form. For example, eating eight or nine dried apricots as a snack might seem reasonable, while munching through eight or nine whole, fresh apricots does not. A recommended serving of dried apricots is just two.
Advantages of dried fruit
Besides containing similar health benefits as fresh fruit, dried fruit has other advantages. For example, it has a long shelf life so they make a handy store cupboard standby for when fresh fruit has run out. They’re easy to carry around to eat as a convenient snack when no fresh fruit is available, and they require no washing or preparation beforehand. They’re versatile and can be added to baked foods or as a topping for breakfast cereals or yogurt.
What's not so healthy?
Some dried fruits, particularly lighter colored fruits such as apricots, apples, pears and peaches, are treated with sulphur-based preservatives. These are used to prevent discoloration as well as to protect them against insects. However, they are known to cause allergic reactions, so those who have allergies or asthma should choose dried fruit which haven’t been treated with this preservative.
Fruit, whether it’s fresh, dried, frozen, canned or even juiced, provides a range of important nutritional benefits. While dried fruit can be considered as healthy as fresh fruit, the higher higher concentration of sugar and calories in dried fruit means it shouldn’t be eaten in the same quantities as fresh.
Email: caroline @ nutritionrefit.com