As you may already know, fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet. It provides you with ample fiber and other nutrients that support optimal nutrition. Overall, fresh fruits have long been viewed as being somewhat superior to dried fruits. However, is there really evidence to back this up?
Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of snacking on dried fruit instead of fresh and fully hydrated options.
What is dried fruit?
People have been eating dried fruit for thousands of years. Dating back to around 1700 BC, people in present-day Iraq and other surrounding countries made dried fruit a dietary staple. Fruits like dates, figs, and apricots were commonly dried in the Sun. Now, these fruits can still be dried by sunlight or a dehydrator. As a result of the drying process, most of the water is taken out. This process ultimately shrinks the fruit and gives it a wrinkled and smaller appearance. This process also allows for greater preservation of fruit and, therefore, a longer shelf life. This makes these fruits more easily portable because they don’t require refrigeration.
So, is dried fruit healthy?
Yes. Dried fruit still contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals just like its fresh counterparts. In fact, per ounce, dried fruit actually has more gut-loving fiber and antioxidants compared to fresh fruit. However, since vitamin C is water-soluble (and a hallmark nutrient in many fruits), it does get significantly reduced in dried fruit since water is removed.
The main thing that dried fruit comes under fire for is its sugar content. Since most of the water content is removed, the sugar content is much more concentrated in dried fruits. This is why just two Medjool dates are 110 calories and ~36 grams of sugar, while you could eat about 30 grapes for that same amount of calories and even a little less sugar. This does not mean that dates or other dried fruits like it are bad for you, it just means that if you have diabetes, insulin resistance, or other diseases where excess sugar is contraindicated, just be mindful of your intake.
As with many foods, eating in moderation won’t lead to stress on the body, but overdoing it will. The concentrated sugar in these fruits doesn’t negate the health benefits of them. More importantly, watch out for dried fruit that has sugar added, such as candied varieties. Dried fruit is often inherently sweeter since the sugar is in a concentrated state, so you really don’t need to add any additional sugar that doesn’t already come with it naturally.
How can I incorporate more dried fruit into my diet?
Since dried fruit often doesn’t require refrigeration and can last much longer than fresh fruit, it’s pretty easy to incorporate into your diet with these tips:
- Packing them as snacks for work, school, traveling, or road trips.
- Make your own trail mix and add them in for a sweet component (making this at home is such an easy way to cut down on excess sodium and sugars).
- Make syrup! Date syrup is so easy to make and a completely refined-sugar-free option that goes great over pancakes. Covering dates with very hot water for an hour or so and then blending does just the trick.
- Add to salads. Fresh fruit in salad is nothing new, but adding some dried mango, figs, or dates could add a fantastic new flavor profile.
Dried fruit has a higher concentration of sugar compared to fresh varieties, but this does not make them less healthy. These fruits can be an amazing complement to an already balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, especially when eaten in moderation like everything else.