Dried fruit has long been used as a source of vitamins and minerals that can last year-round. There are records of the Persian and Arab cultures enjoying dried apricots more than a thousand years ago. In North America, dried cherries and cranberries were added to pemmican to sustain people on long trips in the 19th century. Whether baked in bread, added to trail mix, or appreciated all on its own, dried fruit is undeniably popular the world over.
There are different methods used for drying fruit. One of the oldest is to lay your fruit in the sun, turning periodically to ensure the moisture evaporates evenly. Baking in an oven speeds up the drying process, but it’s easy to burn the fruit if you aren’t careful. One modern method is to use a food dehydrator. They’re fast, efficient, and take most of the guesswork out of the process.
Whatever drying method is used, the end product is a food that is more durable, resistant to decay, and extremely flavorful. But is it healthy? To answer that, it’s essential to examine the nutrition facts of dried fruit more closely.
There’s a huge range of dried fruits available on the market, all with varied nutrient profiles.
One cup of mixed dried fruit contains approximately:
- Calories: 480
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 112 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Sugar: 92 grams
Generally speaking, the most common micronutrients found in dried fruit include:
For example, raisins are especially high in vitamin C and iron. Prunes, on the other hand, have more vitamin A.
Potential Health Benefits of Dried Fruit
The micronutrients in dried fruit have been linked to a few different health benefits. This means that these sweet treats aren't just empty calories.
Vitamins C and A have been shown to be beneficial in preventing and slowing the progression of cataracts. Vitamin C has also been associated with the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
Calcium is essential to maintaining healthy bones, particularly if you're trying to prevent the onset of osteoporosis. One dried fruit that packs an excellent calcium punch is kiwi.
A diet rich in iron has been shown to be vital to a healthy pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body needs to absorb large amounts of iron, meaning more needs to be consumed than usual. Try dried apricots for iron, as one cup offers a respectable 3.5 mg.
Potential Risks of Dried Fruit
For just about every type of dried fruit out there, health concerns come with their high concentrations of sugar, carbs and calories. When you dry fruit, you are concentrating all of its nutrients into a smaller package. That means you eat less dried fruit by weight to reach the same caloric threshold of fresh fruit.
While dried fruit is high in fiber, its high sugar content can actually lead to weight gain. Fresh fruit is a better option. In fresh fruit, the high fiber content is accompanied by a high water content. Both of these factors help you feel full faster, thus consuming fewer overall calories.
People with diabetes must be mindful about dried fruit. All fruit, fresh or dried, must be factored in when building your meal plan. Dried fruit in particular should only be consumed in small portions.