A friend recently tweeted me asking if dried strawberries counted as a fruit. It’s a great question and I quickly responded with a short “no” because dried fruit is missing many of the nutritive properties that fresh fruit provides and it doesn’t really count as a serving of fruit. But dried fruit is good and it’s certainly not an empty-calorie food. I wanted to elaborate more on this subject but being on Twitter, it was difficult. So here’s the deal with dried fruit versus fresh fruit:
Dehydration: when fruits go through the drying process, which usually involves air, heat or both, they lose water, vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is largely lost in the dehydration process. A few diminished minerals such as potassium, stay behind. So, this is a better reason to eat dried fruit than picking up some artificial fruit snacks or a candy bar when looking for something sweet.
Equality: something to remember is that 1 cup of fresh fruit does not equal one cup of dried fruit. One cup of dried fruit is an amount greater than fresh. When snacking on dried fruit one can wind up eating more leading to a greater calorie intake, a possible higher sugar intake (see below) etc.
Sugar: speaking of higher sugar intake, many times, dried cranberries have extra sugar added during the drying process. That unnecessary sugar is something to keep an eye out for.
Calories: dried fruit is higher in calories. For example, three fresh apricots are about 50 calories. Six dried apricots (obviously smaller in physical size) can be about 90 calories. Taking into account the equality factor above, one has to eat more of the dried fruit to obtain the level of satisfaction that fresh fruit provides, therefore you ingest more calories. The water in fresh fruit decreases the calories and also helps to make us feel more full and satisfied.
Fiber: the fiber in dried fruit is pretty high considering the loss of almost everything else. If you need to add more fiber to your diet, dried fruits may be a way to go about it. A half cup of dried apricots is about 5 grams of fiber. Of course, fresh fruit is also a good source of fiber.
I hope this clears up any questions regarding dried fruit and fresh fruit. After all this, dried fruit is a decent, healthier snack, in moderation (stick to the serving size or less) but doesn’t compare nutritively (I think I just made that word up?) to a whole, fresh fruit and it doesn’t count as a serving of fruit. If the whole fruit is available, go for it. Dried fruit is yummy and will provide some nutrition and regardless, it’s better than sitting and eating a bag of artificial fruit snacks or potato chips. It also travels easier than fresh fruit.
What are your favorite recipes that call for dried fruit? (I love dried fruit with almonds and some dark chocolate.)
The World’s Healthiest Foods
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood