Dried fruit tends to get a bad rap for being too high in sugar. However, it can be a great way to boost nutritional, antioxidant and fiber intake and serve as a healthy portable snack option. In fact, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which examined data from 2001–2012, found the consumption of raisins and raisin-containing foods was associated with better nutrient intake and diet quality.
The key variation between fresh fruit and dried fruit is the fluid content. Dried fruit lacks the fluid naturally found in fresh fruits because it’s lost during the drying process. A serving size of dried fruit is about 1/4 cup, compared to a recommended 1-cup serving of fresh fruit. Dried fruits are typically sweeter and more energy-dense than fresh fruits, and similarly, contain higher concentrations of sugar and calories.
Here, a look at the nutritional differences between dried and fresh fruit and how to healthfully incorporate the former into your diet.
PROS AND CONS OF DRIED FRUIT
Dried fruit can contain up to 3.5 times the fiber, minerals and vitamins of fresh fruit, while also providing more concentrated antioxidants, like polyphenols, which are linked to several health benefits.
For example, raisins are a better source of iron, potassium and fiber than grapes, with 1/4 cup of raisins providing 2.5 grams of fiber, compared to less than 1 gram in a cup of grapes. Similarly, dried apricots provide more vitamin A, B and iron than fresh ones.
Not all nutrients are inflated in dried fruit. Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin that is sensitive to heat and water, is lost in the process of dehydrating and drying fruit. Since dried fruit is more concentrated and lacks the water content of whole fruits, it may not be as filling. It can be easy to overdo it if you’re eating a bag of dried fruit, so it’s important to stick to portion sizes.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
You can find packaged dried fruit with a short, simple list of ingredients of one: dried fruit only, like raisins, dates or dried apricots. However, many options on the market contain additives in the form of sugar, fruit concentrate and sulfites. While sweeteners may help balance out the tartness of some less-juicy fruits, sulfites are mainly added to preserve color, such as with apricots or mangos. Read the labels carefully and look for ones with minimal added sugar and zero sulfite additives if you have a sensitivity.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Both types of fruit can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. However, it’s a good idea to pair dried fruit with a source of protein to slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and add more satiety and satisfaction.