Is Dried Fruit As Healthy As Fresh Fruit?
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By Fiona Riddle
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a nutrient dense addition to a healthy diet and, as discussed many times in previous articles, offer numerous benefits for gut health and longevity. While it is clear that fresh fruit provides essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and nutrients, a common question is whether or not dried fruit maintains these same benefits. Is dried fruit as healthy as fresh fruit?
In terms of nutritional content, fresh and dried fruits are relatively similar. Dried fruit is essentially fresh fruit with the water removed and retains much of its original nutritional value, including vitamins and minerals. Like fresh fruit, dried fruits contain fiber as well many phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids, carotenoids, proanthocyanins, stilbenes, chalcones, dihydrochalcones, and phytoestrogens. Some of these compounds have antioxidant effects that may benefit your health.
“…dried fruit may contain added sugars and preservatives…”
The loss of water means dried fruit has much less volume. Consequently, it is easy to eat far more dried fruit compared to fresh, resulting in a greater sugar and caloric intake. For example, it is uncommon to eat 10 fresh apricots in one sitting and yet it is possible to do so when apricots are dried and bite-sized. Consuming large amounts of dried fruit, however, results in a much higher sugar intake, insulin spikes and postprandial blood glucose levels. Additionally, dried fruit may contain added sugars and preservatives, so it is important to always read the ingredient labels.
“…[dried fruit] does not have the same hydrating benefits that fresh fruit has.”
Fresh fruit is an excellent source of hydration and offers many benefits because of its water content. Since dried fruit does not contain water, however, it does not have the same hydrating benefits that fresh fruit has. The process for drying fruit does, however, concentrate the fiber and nutrients.
In many cultures and traditions, it is believed that it is best to soak dried fruits in water before consuming them in order to rehydrate the fruit to improve the nutrient content and digestibility. Raisins, for example, may offer more digestive benefits when they are soaked compared to those that are not soaked. Soaking dried fruit also removes natural or added sulfites, which can be helpful for those that are sensitive to the allergy-like side effects.
“…the consumption of dried fruit is associated with higher diet quality…”
There is also evidence suggesting that the consumption of dried fruit is associated with higher diet quality as well as “greater intakes of under-consumed nutrients.” Since this study shows an association rather than a causal relationship, it cannot be claimed that dried fruit consumption improves diet quality, however it does suggest that dried fruit may be a healthy part of a well-balanced diet.
“…it is a much healthier option than the ultra-processed packaged snack foods…”
Additionally, because dried fruit is shelf stable, it allows for those on-the-go or for those without access to fresh fruit to obtain adequate nutrients similar to fresh fruit. And while dried fruit is technically “processed” it is a much healthier option than the ultra-processed packaged snack foods that line most store shelves.
While fresh fruits and vegetables may have advantages due to their high water content and satiety factors, dried fruit, when consumed in moderation, can be a part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. As mentioned previously, however, it is important to check the ingredient labels for added sugars, preservatives and even oils that can minimize the health benefits. It is also important to moderate intake as it is very easy to overeat dried fruits.
Fiona Riddle is a Certified Health Coach with a degree in Psychology from UCLA. She is passionate about a holistic approach to health when working with her private coaching clients. She is an avid cook, constantly creating and sharing new recipes on her Instagram (@feelgoodwithfi) to showcase simple clean home cooking. She has helped clients take their health into their own hands and successfully boost their energy and confidence through sustainable lifestyle changes. www.feelgoodwithfi.com