Unfortunately, dried fruit often gets a bad, and incorrect, rap as not being good for you because, some say it contains too much sugar, food additives/preservatives, and can make you gain weight.
In reality, properly dried and prepared fruit, in its natural state, can be an excellent part of any eating pattern.
The trick is to know how to choose the healthiest dried fruit products, or how to make your own dried fruit, and how much a serving size really is.
Nine Benefits of Consuming Dried Fruits (without additives)
1. Depending on the specific fruit, they can be a great source of:
Minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and iron
Vitamins, such as A and K
Antioxidants that lower oxidative stress damage within the body
Phytochemicals such as phenols, and tannins
2. They are a portable and convenient substitute for fresh fruit when it is unavailable during certain seasons, in some geographical areas, while traveling, and for people on-the-go, running to an appointment or your child’s sports practice.
3. During the drying process, many varieties of fruit end up with higher amounts of phenols (antioxidants) and fiber than what they have when they are fresh.
4. Good brands of dried fruits, especially organic, usually avoid adding unhealthy preservatives such as sulfites, food dyes to make them look more vibrant, added fats, and added sugar to make them taste sweeter. Never assume and always read the ingredient list.
5. Some dried fruits, such as raisins, have been shown to help maintain blood sugar levels within normal limits, which means the insulin response is lower.
6. Dried prunes, can naturally relieve constipation by promoting regular and normal bowel movements.
7. Dried dates are full of fiber, vitamins A and K, iron, potassium, lutein and zeaxanthin, and much more. All of this helps maintain healthy eyes, cholesterol levels, red blood cells, blood pressure, and so much more.
8. Dried apricots can be used in sweet and savory recipes. They provide an amazing number of antioxidants, carotenoids, fiber, and more to any meal or snack.
9. Dried or desiccated coconut meat can add copper, manganese, selenium, and fiber to any meal or snack.
Caution When Choosing Dried Fruits
1. The serving size for dried fruit is important to be aware of and adhere to because, dried fruit contains much less water due to evaporation, so it has a much higher concentration of sugar and calories per serving when compared to the same serving size of fresh fruit.
2. As far as serving sizes go, it is often suggested that, when eating dried fruit, you consume half of your normal fresh fruit portion size. For example, ¼ cup dried apricots would be equal to ½ cup of fresh apricots.
3. Dried fruit can contain additives that negatively impact the health benefits, which is why it is important to read all ingredient lists.
AVOID these Additives:
A. Added sugars, regardless of whether or not it’s natural sugar such as 100% juice, honey or others, because the added sugar dramatically increases the calories, sugar content, and negative impact on blood glucose.
B. Added fats, because this adds unnecessary calories and possibly unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated (trans) or saturated.
C. Added artificial sweeteners if that is something you avoid.
D. Added sulfur dioxide (a type of sulfite used as a preservative to stop browning), which can be very dangerous for people with asthma and can cause some negative gastrointestinal symptoms.
E. Any other unnecessary preservatives, such as sodium, and food dyes used to make the food look pretty or last longer on the shelf.
4. Due to the drying out process, dried fruit has lower amounts of nutrients, such as vitamin C and some B vitamins.
5. If dried fruit is not stored properly, it can spoil and become tainted with molds and other toxic compounds that can cause negative health consequences. Make sure you are purchasing products from reputable sources and/or drying and storing your own fruit using the correct methods (see resources area).
6. Remember to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth really well after eating dried fruit because, with its higher amount of concentrated natural sugar and sticky consistency, it can stay on the teeth and promote cavities.
Don’t be afraid to use dried fruit because you can easily incorporate it into any meal or snack. Some studies have shown that those who use both dried fruits and vegetables have a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables overall, which translates into higher nutrition benefits such as more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and much more.
Go get creative!
I googled the phrase “dried fruit brands without additives” and quite a few companies have products available.
You can also try some of the links below to make your own dried fruit to munch on or try adding some dried fruit in your breakfast oatmeal, in a muffin, like the beautiful dried cranberry muffins my sister makes, or in an awesome chicken curry recipe. The sky is the limit!
Although this recipe is listed a diabetic-friendly, I think it’s great for anyone looking for a healthy bar recipe. Quick-Fix Trail Mix Snack Bars with California Raisins: http://calraisins.org/recipe/quick-fix-trail-mix-snack-bars-with-california-raisins/
California Raisins recipe resource area: http://calraisins.org/raisin-recipes/
Food and Nutrition Magazine Article explaining how to easily make preservative free dried fruit, How to Make Dried Fruit without a Food Dehydrator: http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/October-2016/How-to-Make-Dried-Fruit-without-a-Food-Dehydrator/
Dried Fig and Fruit Salsa recipe: http://pbhfoundation.org/recipes/recipe_details.php?recordid=21193
Homemade Dried Fruit: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/how-to-cook/homemade-dried-fruit
Very cool!! Alton Brown shows you how to make your own dried fruit in a very creative way using furnace filters and a fan!! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/dried-fruit-recipe