A Complete Guide on Dried Fruits: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Table of Contents

How Are Dried Fruits Made?

Information about dried fruits is very conflicting.

Some say it is a nutritious, healthy snack, while others claim it is no better than candy.

This is a detailed article about dried fruit and how it can affect your health.

What are Dried Fruits?

Dried fruit is fruit that has had almost all of the water content removed through drying methods.

The fruit shrinks during this process, leaving a small, energy-dense dried fruit.

Raisins are the most common type, followed by dates, prunes, figs and apricots.

Other varieties of dried fruit are also available, sometimes in candied form (sugar coated). These include mangoes, pineapples, cranberries, bananas and apples.

Dried fruit can be preserved for much longer than fresh fruit and can be a handy snack, particularly on long trips where refrigeration is not available.

 

BOTTOM LINE:

Dried fruit has had most of the water content removed. The most common varieties are raisins, dates, prunes, figs and apricots.

Simple Process


Drying foods is a pretty simple process. You can, of course, use a commercial dehydrator, but drying food in the sun as people have done for centuries requires little energy other than a bit from you and the rest from the sun.

 

Solar Drying

Spread a thin layer of fruits or vegetables on a cookie sheet or baking screen and place them in a sunny location, allowing for good air circulation.

 

If you’re crafty, make a frame and cover with cheesecloth, fine chicken wire, or dehydrator netting for an easy DIY drying rack. Cover the food with a mesh food tent or umbrella netting to keep the bugs away and find a spot that isn’t easily accessible to pets or animals. There are many types of commercially available drying racks from which to choose–-including raised ones for flat surfaces and those that hang to save space.

Solar dehydration takes about 3 to 5 days when the temperature is 95 degrees, perhaps longer in lowers temperatures. However, if the air is humid, or isn’t adequately dry and hot, drying in a dehydrator will do the trick.

 

 

The Good

They are Loaded With Micronutrients, Fiber and Antioxidants

Dried fruit is highly nutritious.

One piece of dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit, but condensed in a much smaller package.

By weight, dried fruit contains up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit.

Therefore, one serving can provide a large percentage of the daily recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, such as folate.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, the vitamin C content is significantly reduced when the fruit is dried..

Dried fruit generally contains a lot of fiber and is a great source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols..

Polyphenol antioxidants are associated with health benefits such as improved blood flow, better digestive health, decreased oxidative damage and reduced risk of many diseases.

 

BOTTOM LINE:

Dried fruit is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is also high in phenolic antioxidants, which have numerous health benefits.

Health Effects of Dried Fruit

Several studies have shown that people who eat dried fruit tend to weigh less and ingest more nutrients, compared to individuals not eating dried fruit.

 

However, these studies were observational in nature, so they can not prove that the dried fruit caused the improvements.

 

Dried fruit is also a good source of many plant compounds, including powerful antioxidants.

BOTTOM LINE:

Dry Fruits are high in fiber, potassium and other plant compounds. Eating raisins may improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol, as well as decrease inflammation.

 

May Reduce the Risk of Certain Diseases

They are packed with fiber, potassium and various health-promoting plant compounds.

They have a low to medium glycemic index value, and a low insulin index.

This means that raisins should not cause major spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels after meals.

 

Studies show that eating raisins may:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Improve blood sugar control.
  • Decrease inflammatory markers and blood cholesterol.
  • Lead to increased feeling of fullness.
 
 

All of these factors should contribute to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Dried Fruit is High in Natural Sugar and Calories

Fruit tend to contain significant amounts of natural sugars.

Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, this concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller package.

For this reason, dried fruit is very high in calories and sugar, including both glucose and fructose.

Below are some examples of the natural sugar content of dried fruit .

  • Raisins: 59%.
  • Dates: 64–66%.
  • Prunes: 38%.
  • Apricots: 53%.
  • Figs: 48%.
 

About 22–51% of this sugar content is fructose. Eating a lot of fructose may have negative health effects. This includes increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease (Source).

A small 1-ounce portion of raisins contains 84 calories, almost exclusively from sugar.

Because dried fruit is sweet and energy-dense, it is easy to eat large amounts at a time, which can result in excess sugar and calorie intake.

BOTTOM LINE:

Dried fruit is relatively high in calories and sugar. Common dried fruits contain 38–66% sugar, and eating too much of them may contribute to weight gain and various health problems.

 

The Bad

Avoid Dried Fruit with Added Sugar (Candied Fruit)

To make some dried fruit even more sweet and appealing, they are coated with added sugar or syrup before being dried.

Dried fruit with added sugar are also referred to as “candied” fruit.

Added sugar has repeatedly been shown to have harmful effects on health, increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and even cancer.

To avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar, it is very important to read the ingredients and nutrition information found on the package.

Dried Fruit May Also Contain Sulfites, and May be Contaminated With Fungi and Toxins

Some producers add preservatives called sulfites to their dried fruit.

This makes the dried fruit look more appealing, because it preserves the fruit and prevents discoloration.

This applies mainly to brightly colored fruits, such as apricots and raisins.

Some individuals may be sensitive to sulfites, and may experience stomach cramps, skin rashes and asthma attacks after ingesting them (Source).

 

To avoid sulfites, choose dried fruit that is brown or grayish rather than brightly colored (Source).

Dried fruit that is improperly stored and handled may also be contaminated with fungi, aflatoxins and other toxic compounds 

BOTTOM LINE:

Sulfites are added to some dried fruit to preserve color, which may cause adverse effects in sensitive individuals. Dried fruit that is improperly stored and handled may also be contaminated with fungi and toxins.

 

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The Ugly

Not all dry fruits are superfoods, neither is uncontrolled consumption of them good for health.

Dried fruit is relatively high in calories and sugar. Common dried fruits contain 38–66% sugar, and eating too much of them may contribute to weight gain and various health problems.

 

Here Are 5 Problems That Can Caused After Eating Too Many Dried Fruits

1) Gastrointestinal problems

 

 Fiber is an essential mineral for human health. It helps in regulating bowel movements and ensuring good gut health. We are advised to consume fibre-rich foods and dried fruits are high in fibre but there is a catch. Too much of fibre can cause side-effects. Surprisingly, it can irritate your stomach and cause cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, etc. issues. If you have diarrhoea, try these home remedies.

2) Weight Gain

Overconsumption of dried fruits can make you gain weight faster. How? It is because dried fruits have high calorific value that contributes to weight gain. If you munch on a lot of dried fruits daily, you would become fat in no time. So, be careful with the quantity. Instead of having a lot of one fruit, have varieties.

3) Tooth Decay

Dried fruits naturally contain fructose which is healthy but a lot of dried fruits come coated with additional sugar, making them extremely unhealthy. Apart from weight gain, this sugar would also cause tooth decay. Dried fruits are sticky and sugar coating makes them stickier. They get stick to your teeth and cause tooth decay.

After eating anything sweet, you must brush your teeth to get rid of the sugar content. Also, drink water after consumption to prevent the risk of tooth decay.

 

Also Read: DIY Toothpowder For Sparkling White Teeth

4) Sugar Crash

A lot of dried fruits come sugar-coated, as mentioned above. They also have a high glycaemic index which causes an instant upsurge in blood sugar levels. However, these drop-down suddenly causing sugar crash and leaving you fatigued.

Out of all the dried fruits, raisins are believed to have the highest glycaemic index and prunes have the lowest.

5) Asthma

So you know that sulphur dioxide is used as a preservative in preserving dried fruits? This is a dangerous component that is also widely used as a bleaching agent and disinfectant. As per reports, sulphur dioxide won’t cause any harm if consumed in a very small amount but as you exceed its consumption, it is highly likely to cause allergies and trigger asthma. Asthmatic people should strictly avoid the overconsumption of dried fruits.

In a nutshell, you should never binge on dried fruits as they can take a toll on your health. Better consume dry fruits in the natural form to avert all these potential health risks. When consuming dried fruits, you must have them in smaller amounts.

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How to include Dry Fruits in one’s Daily Diet?

Not all dry fruits are superfoods, neither is uncontrolled consumption of them good for health.

Only a handful of dry fruits per day are more than enough to meet one’s daily need. Dry fruits are either sun-dried or are dried artificially, in both cases water is removed from the produce which may mean losing of nutrients and minerals in some cases.

In many a cases chemical ingredients may be added such as artificial colors and more. To avoid these shortcoming ensure that one only purchases natural and organic produce of dry fruits.

Another factor to keep in mind is calorie intake; many dry fruits can be high on calories. Also as volume of dry fruits is less many a time a person can consume a whole lot of the same without thinking much about it.

The best way to include dry fruits in one’s daily diet is to use them as snacks or to include them in daily cooking and in various dishes.

 

Take Home Message

Same as with many other foods, dried fruit have both good and bad aspects.

Dried fruit can boost your fiber and nutrient intake and supply your body with large amounts of antioxidants.

However, they are also high in sugar and calories, and can cause problems when eaten in excess.

For this reason, dried fruit should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods.

They should not be eaten by the handful, because it is very easy to eat too many calories from dried fruit.

Also, they are a high-carb food, making them unsuitable on a low-carb diet.

At the end of the day, dried fruit is far from perfect, but it is certainly a much healthier and more nutritious snack than chips or other processed junk foods.

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