I love fruit. I can eat it in any form – fresh, frozen, dried, you name it – and be in heaven. But people warn me about eating too much dried fruit, especially with diabetes running in my family. Traditionally, many make the assumption that dried fruit like raisins or dates is loaded with sugar. Some commercial brands have added sugars. Dried fruit appears to have a higher concentration of sugar than fresh fruit in general. So, no one would blame you if you were to assume that dried fruit was not as healthy as fresh fruit.
Yet studies looking at the correlation between dried fruit and health risks show promising results for fighting cancer, losing weight, and lowering diabetes risk. Check out the video here:
better than fresh fruit
A review of studies done on dried fruit intake and cancer risk published in Advances in Nutrition, March 2020, shows that eating dried fruit specifically can lower your risk of various cancers. And, amazingly, fresh fruit does not seem to fare as well as dried:
Overall, data presented in this review indicate that increasing dried fruit consumption to 3–5 servings/wk may have health beneficial effects related to risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the pancreas, prostate, stomach, bladder, and colon. No such effect was found for lung or breast cancers. Another, and rather surprising, finding from the selected studies is that the associations between consumption of total/fresh fruits and cancer risk were generally weaker than the associations determined for dried fruit intake and cancer.
It's exciting to find out that I need not feel guilty about scooping up a big handful of raisins for a snack. I have a raging sweet tooth but cannot afford to indulge it very often. Consuming more dried fruits in the diet helps control diabetes feels like a relief to know. I love using dates in recipes that call for sugar or some sweetener, and now I won't skimp on the number I use anymore.
With so many brands on the shelves, I'm careful to read the ingredients now. Some fruit brands are nearly impossible to find without added sugars. Did you know that a typical serving of dried cranberries has around 26 grams of sugar in it? No way. Even mango slices, which you'd imagine to be naturally sweet, often have sugar added.
A warning about store-bought dried fruit: it's common to find sulfur dioxide added to store brands as a preservative. The sulfur can cause some irritation like asthmatic symptoms, stomach irritation, or itching for some people.
Dried berries, and in particular blueberries, are loaded with antioxidants. I've taken a liking to dried apricots, and they are a good probiotic source.
Use a convenient dehydrator at home
A friend of mine just told me that she's getting a dehydrator. Yes, I am already trying to figure out how to fit one into my pint-sized kitchen. As you can see from the video above, the taste and quality of homemade dried fruit is a richer experience than the dried fruit product offerings we typically see at the grocery stores.
I anticipate with relish how the seasonal fruit varieties will taste dried at home. I want my dehydrator to last and work well out of the box. While the circular model in the video is interesting, I like the look and convenience of a square model.
This one at Amazon is the top-selling brand with amazing reviews:
Do you have a favorite dried fruit? Do you like them as snacks or in recipes? Let us know in the comments below!
Vegan grilling makes my heart sing. Grilling vegetables on the barbecue is all part of the delicious fun of summertime. As a kid, our family enjoyed cookouts at least once or twice a week. But in those days, meat was about the only thing that went on the fire. As I grew older, we learned more about the art of grilling and best preps for veggies on the grill. Vegan grilling to perfection over a fire is part of a rite of passage for any cook in my book. In this post, I am going to show you a few of my favorite vegan grilling tips and how to prepare them.
How to prep your favorite veggies for the grill
The 11 vegetables featured below for vegan grilling are my favorites to throw on the barbecue outside, or grill ahead of time for a picnic. Each vegetable has a different texture, so they will take different lengths of time to cook. Some chefs say certain vegetables taste better if you soak them in a brine, add oil, or parboil. I feel a lot of that depends on your own preference. If you can forego the salt or use some spice blends as substitutes, like as we think in our diets, and other spices can provide just as much fun in your mouth.
Remember to clean and grease up the grill. Ideally, vegan grilling is on a separate frill than the carnivores. Do your best to keep the sections separate when sharing a grill, so you don't worry about animal grease.
Personally, I prefer little or no oil in my cooking. Yet I don't want the veggies to stick, in case I didn't brush enough oil on the food, so I always prep the grill.
To oil or not to oil in vegan grilling
Using a brush or a spray to oil your vegetables can save a lot of needless extra oil in your dishes. I've seen many cooks pour oil straight onto the vegetables and let it sit there, soaking it all up. For me, the lighter the better. I like to taste the fresh produce, not the oil. If you want to go completely oil-free, try a grill mat for non-stick veggies.
Another way to keep your veggies from sticking to the grill is to season them well. Some people add extra pepper or rubbing blends, for example. You've got all summer to experiment! The preps below are basics, and you can add your own seasoning choices.
Eggplant – Aubergine
Eggplant has a rich taste off the grill. Cut off and discard the stem end of the eggplant. Leave the skin on for grilling so the eggplant slices keep their shape on the grill and are easier to handle. You don’t have to eat it, but it's tasty and loaded with nutrients.
Cut either slice lengthwise about 0.2 inches / ½ cm thick or into 3/4 inch / 2 cm thick diagonal, crosswise, or lengthwise slices. Eggplant is one of the few vegetables that I brine. At this point, soaking the slices in salted water for a half hour and no longer than an hour helps the eggplant hold its shape. You can skip the brine if you're going to make a dip from it, or want the mushy texture for another recipe.
Brush with a little oil if you like and sprinkle with salt or your choice of spices. Squeeze lemon juice over it. Then grill until tender and grill marks appear, about 4-5 minutes on each side. If you love your olive oil, drizzle it on at the end, and even another squeeze of lemon for good measure, before serving.
Zucchini – Courgettes
Zucchini is a fun, easy vegetable to grill. Trim the ends, and always leave the nutrient-rich skin on.
Cut the squashes in half lengthwise or into lengthwise slices for thicker ones. If you prefer medallions, I suggest you put them in foil or use a grill basket. The small rounds easily fall through the grates.
Brush with a little oil (or not, as long as you have non-stick options) and sprinkle with salt or herbs. Squeeze lemon juice over the slices. Then grill until they get crispy lines and a tender juicy middle, just a few minutes on each side.
These babies are easy and fun on the fire. I simply throw them on the grill, either with or without oil, and keep turning until they're charred. Alternatively, you can slice off the stem. Cut into halves or quarters depending on the size.
These first three vegetables are also delicious when cubed, grilled, and tossed together into a ratatouille recipe. Cook them separately, though, to be sure you don't overcook or undercook any of them. You may want to add grilled onions or garlic, too.
Grilled corn on the cob is a staple of summer. And it can't be easier. Soak the ears, husk and all, in a big pot of water with about a quarter of a cup of salt (the salt's not important if you're watching your intake). Soak them for about 10-15 minutes. Then put them on the grill over medium heat.
Turn every five minutes for about 25-30 minutes. The water in the husk will provide steam so the corn stays tender, not dried and charred. I don't know about you, but I love unwrapping an ear of corn on the cob fresh off the grill!
Asparagus is one of my favorite foods to make and eat in the spring and summer because nothing beats their flavor when sprinkled with salt and quickly grilled. These yummy stalks are tender, but still with a little crunch. complete with smoky flavor and char marks. Seriously wicked good! I c an eat them like French fries.
Prep by simply brushing with a little oil and salt. Squeeze lemon or lime over the stalks. Put on the grill until they start to char and get grill marks. I like to put asparagus in tin foil on the grill. The steam created inside the foil keeps them nice and moist.
Cherry Vine Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow, and even “black,” and they're equally sweet and delicious when they ripen on the vine.
Put a whole vine on the grill and leave until the tomatoes start to pop.
Potatoes are the perfect summer side. We like the sturdiness and of a russet potato, but if you prefer to use a thin-skinned variety feel free! You just have to be extra careful not to boil them too much, or else they might be too tender and fall apart on the grill.
Parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes.
Cut into slices about ¾ inch / 2 cm thick or wedges same size or slightly bigger.
Brush with a little oil and salt until they start to look crisp and brown.