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.
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Choose dried fruit wisely
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.
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Do you have a favorite dried fruit? Do you like them as snacks or in recipes? Let us know in the comments below!