Dried fruit has been present and a staple in many cultural diets for thousands of years, but is dried fruit healthy? And is all dried fruit created equal? Here is a complete guide to dried fruit; what it is, its benefits, its drawbacks, and an answer to whether it’s good for you or not.
What is Dried Fruit?
Dried fruit is fresh fruit from which the original water content has been removed through various drying methods. Fruit can be dried naturally, by the sun, or by specialized driers or dehydrators. As the fruit dries, water evaporates, shrinking the fruit in size, and leaving a smaller piece of fruit that is rich in carbohydrates, sugar, and fiber. Popular forms of dried fruit include raisins (dried grapes), dates, apricots, and prunes (dried plums). Cranberries, cherries, berries, pineapple, and mango are also common.
Dried Fruit vs. Fresh Fruit
|Nutrition per 100 grams||Grapes||Raisins|
|Calories||69 calories||299 calories|
|Protein||0.7 grams||3.1 grams|
|Fat||0.2 grams||0.5 grams|
|Carbohydrate||18.1 grams||79.2 grams|
|Fiber||0.9 grams||3.7 grams|
|Sugar||15.5 grams||59.2 grams|
Benefits of Dried Fruit
Source of Fibre: Much like fresh fruit, dried fruit is a good source of fiber. The reduced level of water in dried fruit allows it to provide, on average, 3.5 times the amount of fiber than fresh fruit, when compared gram per gram. (3) Thanks to their high concentrations of fiber, dried fruits, especially prunes, have been shown to support GI regularity and are commonly suggested as a tool for constipation thanks to their natural laxative effects. Per 1/4 cup, dates, figs, prunes, and raisins provide 8.0 grams, 3.7 grams, 3.1 grams, and 2.5 grams of fiber respectively. (4)
Source of Micronutrients: Dried fruit is a natural source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Although some of the water-soluble vitamins, specifically vitamin C, are lost as water is lost, dried fruit remains a good source of other micronutrients. For instance, prunes, raisins, and apricots contain iron, while peaches and apricots are a food source of pre-formed vitamin A known as beta-carotene. (5)
Efficient Source of Energy: Although this could be seen as a drawback, the high concentration of simple carbohydrates in dried fruit makes them a good source of quick-release sugar and an efficient source of energy. While this is certainly not required at all times, as part of a pre-workout snack, intra-workout nutrition source of fuel, or post-workout recovery carbohydrate, dried fruit is a great source of energy.
Convenient and Long Lasting: The loss of water in dried fruit helps to extend its shelf life by months, if not years in some cases. Dried fruit can be stored in the pantry or frozen for longer periods of time than fresh fruit. Not to mention, it’s also convenient and easily transportable in various storage and weather conditions.
Drawbacks of Dried Fruit
Concentrated in Sugar: While this is not inherently a bad thing (see above for benefit of being concentrated in carbohydrates), it’s important to remember that dried is more concentrated in natural sugar than fresh fruit. The loss of water in dried fruit increases the concentration of sugar per gram and, therefore, it provides more carbohydrates, sugar, and calories per serving. It is for this reason that the suggested portion size of dried fruit is typically much smaller than that of fresh fruit.
May Contain Additives: Depending on the type and brand, some versions of dried fruit may contain added sugars and vegetable oils. For this reason, it is important to read the ingredients to ensure that you know exactly what you are buying. Whenever possible, opt for versions with no or limited added sugar, and without added vegetable oils.
So, Is Dried Fruit Healthy?
In short, yes, dried fruit is healthy. Dried fruit is a natural source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as antioxidants. Although it is more concentrated in natural sugars than fresh fruit, it is still incredibly nutrient-dense and can be included in a healthy diet.
The Bottom Line
Dried fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Because dried fruit is more concentrated in sugar and calories than fresh fruit, it is important to be mindful of portion size. Some brands may contain added sugar, syrups, and oils, so be sure to read the ingredients when shopping for dried fruit.