Are Dried Fruits healthy?

Dried-fruitArchaeologists have traced the use of Dried Fruits back thousands of years BC to ancient Egypt where they were prized for their sweetness and the long shelf life allowed them to be used for bartering (1)

Raisins, prunes, figs, dates, apricots, mangoes, pineapples, apples and bananas are some of the most popular dried fruits today, used as convenient snacks by many people who consider all fruits are healthy.

However, some fruits are high in calories to start with, and when dried, you can consume a lot more calories per serving than with fresh fruit.

Naturally High in Sugar and calories

Sugar-Content-of-Fruit2The sugar content (grams of sugar per 100 gram) of various fruits are shown in the chart at left, along with table sugar, some candy bars, and some dried fruits (2).

You can see that dates are VERY high in sugar (64), which is higher than the candy bars and at the lower end of the syrups and sugars.

Most fruits on this chart are around 10-18.

Dried Fruits are 40-73 – about  4x as much sugar per volume as whole fruits.

This is because the weight of a piece of fruit is 4x less with the water removed.

Some of these fruits have more sugars that are glucose, which is better for you than fructose or sucrose.

But 20–50% of this is fructose which can have very negative health effects such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease (3).

With the water removed, it is very easy to eat a lot more fruit with huge amounts of calories and sugars, leading to weight gain – All from something you might think of as healthy!

Dried Fruit often has Sugar added

sugar_wordle1There are many processing methods for drying fruits, such as drum dry, air dry, spray dry, freeze dry (4).

Sun dried fruits can be the most healthy, with no sugar added in the drying process.

With many of the other methods fruits have sugar, high fructose corn syrup or other fruit juices added in a process called infusing (5).

“Candied” Fruits have  sugar or high fructose corn syrups applied  after drying to make them sweeter.

It is important to read the labels carefully to make sure you are getting too much sugar along with the fruit.

Packed With Vitamins, Fiber and Antioxidants

vitamins, fiber, minerals in fruitsOn the bright side, dried fruits contain nearly all of the “good stuff” that whole fruits have, with very little lost in processing (67)

With all the water removed, by weight dried fruit has nearly 4 times as much vitamins, fiber, and minerals as the whole fruit.

So you can easily get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals (8)

Of course, this is just a generalization as there is a great variety in how different fruits are dried (9).

Also, some vitamins, such as Vitamin C are greatly diminished in most dried fruits (10).

Antioxidants in fruits have many health benefits such as better digestive health, blood flow, and protection against many age related diseases (11)

Dried fruit is super high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Just be sure to take into account all the sugar that comes along with many dried fruits

Weight Loss with Dried Fruit

Healthy Weight Loss

Healthy Weight Loss

There are several studies that show a positive correlation between consumption of dried fruits and increased weight loss ( 1213).

These studies were actually surveys of individuals self reported diet habits and weight loss, so are interesting but not the gold standard of proof researchers prefer to see (14).

There are no controlled double blind research studies that show a relation between dried fruit consumption as a nutrition source and weight loss.

There are some studies that show certain dried fruits such as Garcinia Cambogia can be effective in controlling hunger and increasing weight loss (15).

Consumption of dried fruits MAY be beneficial for weight loss, depending on the fruits sugar content and other nutritional profile, but there currently is no verified research.

Nutritional profile and health benefits of Raisins

raisin health benefitsSince Raisins are the most popular dried fruit consumed in North America, we take a peek at its nutritional benefits

Like many dried fruits, raisins are very high in  fiber, minerals, and plant antioxidants that are beneficial for humans (1617).

They are fairly high in sugar content (65 on the chart above), but half of that is glucose which is much better for weight control than fructose (18)

The  high fiber content in raisins help make them slower to digest and leads to a fairly low glycemic index around 60 and lower insulin index (1920).

Studies show that eating raisins may help Lower Blood pressure, Blood Sugar, and decrease Inflammation (2122).

Raisins are high in fiber, potassium and other plant compounds. Eating raisins may improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol, as well as decrease inflammation.

Dried Fruit May Also Contain Sulfites

sulfites in raisinsOur big supermarket chain supply systems demand longer shelf life and result in adding sulfites to help preserve dried fruits.

This makes the fruits look more appealing and marketable.

However some people are allergic to sulfites without even knowing it, so can have adverse reactions when consuming larger quanties of dried fruits (23).

 

Dried Fruits often contain added sulfites which may bother certain individuals immune system.

Final Thoughts:  Good Nutrition if you watch the Sugar content

Some dried fruits are high in sugar content so should only be eaten sparingly.

Even when not high in sugar, fruits are all high carb, so must be avoided on Low Carb diets like Paleo, Mediterranean, Nordic, Atkins, and so many others that are rapidly gaining popularity.

Dried fruits are very high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  So if the high sugar and carb counts aren’t a problem for you, they make a great snack food.