Are dried fruit healthy

Are dried fruit healthy?

Pawel Malczewski
facebook twitter google pinterest CONFIRMED
 

Summary

Dried fruit are healthy, but must be consumed with some precautions. If eaten in moderation, dried fruit can be a beneficial complement to a balanced diet, since they are full of fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. If overeaten, however, due to the high amount of sugars, they may add too many calories to our diet, raise the blood sugar levels and contribute a high amount of fructose.

Sulfites in some dried fruit may cause allergic reactions for a small number of people. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

Note: this article refers to dried fruit with no sugar additives. Any candied fruit belong to the “sugars” category and is considered as “junk food”.

The healthiness of dried fruit is not as “black and white” as some sources seem to portray it. It involves taking into consideration a few scenarios:

  • Sprinkle your rolled oats and yogurt with an ounce of currants or add 3 or so dried, sliced figs to your salad and you can call dried fruit healthy – rich in nutrients and fiber but not enough sugars to cause any harm.
  • Have a handful or two of raisins as a snack and you can call it unhealthy, since there is an overload of calories, and the amount of fructose may overpower the benefits of the nutrients, however nutrient-rich it may be. (1)Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 24, Issue 1, 2005. Available here.

Process of drying fruit

Dried fruit are simply fruit with most of the water removed. Drying fruit is an ancient method of preservation that began as early as 12,000 BC. (2)Nummer BA. Historical origins of food preservation. National Center for Home Food Preservation. May 2002. Available here.

The process of drying fruit now includes various methods such as using a food dehydrator, sun drying, or oven drying. If done on an industrial scale (as opposed to home methods), the fruit is then pasteurized to destroy any insects and their eggs. The dried fruits are then conditioned – its water contents are distributed evenly to prevent mold growth. Sulfites may be added to extend the shelf life, protect them from microbes and prevent discolorations. (3)Boyer R, Huff K. Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats. Publications and educational resources. Virginia State University. Available here. (4)Florin TH, Neale G, Goretski S, Cummings JH. The Sulfate Content of Foods and Beverages. Volume 6, Issue 2, June 1993, Pages 140-151. Available here.

The sun-drying process enhances the antioxidants’ activity in raisins, but has also been shown  to decrease other compound concentrations (e.g. vitamin C). (5)Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here.

List of dried fruit

The most common dried fruits are: raisins, dates, figs, apricots and plums (prunes).

Other dried fruits available include: apples, blueberries, jackfruit, mango, pears, shredded coconut, pineapple, goji berries, bananas and strawberries.

Recommended serving of dried fruit

The official standard serving size of dried fruit is between 1 – 2 ounces, depending on the sources:

  • 1 oz. (28g) is a standard serving according to the University of North Dakota (6)The University of North Dakota Dining Services. Fact sheet. Healthy recommendations and portion control. Available here.
  • ~ 1.5 oz. (¼ cup; 42g) as a standard serving size according to ChooseMyPlate
  • ~2oz (56g) as a standard serving according to the Sydney University’s Glycemic Index database database

The actual consumption of dried fruit varies greatly from none to excessive amounts.

Why are dried fruit good for you?

A unit of dried fruit contains approximately as much sugar (including fructose), fiber and minerals as a unit of fresh fruit (e.g. nutrients in 1 dried sultana approximately equal to those in one fresh sultana grape). While some substances are enhanced by the drying process (e.g. antioxidants), others are reduced (e.g. vitamin C) due to their heat sensitivity. (7)Morris A, Barnett A, Burrows OJ. Effect of Processing on Nutrient Content of Foods. Available here. (8)Boyer R, Huff K. Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats. Publications and educational resources. Virginia State University. Available here.

Bottom line, dried fruit are:

  • A great source of fiber (9)Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 24, Issue 1, 2005. Available here.
  • An important source of vitamins and minerals (although the amount of some vitamins may be reduced due to the heating process). (10)Agricultural Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. Available here.
  • A great source of phenol antioxidants (especially dates and figs). Dates have the highest concentration of polyphenols of all dried fruit. (11)Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 24, Issue 1, 2005. Available here.
    These antioxidants are associated with anti-inflammatory and blood pressure reducing properties. They are also known to kill or reduce the growth of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and protozoans and have an overall effect on reducing the risk of various diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers. (12)Landete JM. Updated knowledge about polyphenols: functions, bioavailability, metabolism, and health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Volume 52, Issue 10, 2012. Available here. (13)Chang SK, Alasalvar C, Shahidi F. Review of dried fruits: Phytochemicals, antioxidant efficacies, and health benefits. Journal of Functional Foods. Volume 21, March 2016, Pages 113–132. Available here.
  • Some observational studies show that people who eat dried fruit have a better nutrient intake,  an overall better diet and tend to be slimmer. However, this may be related to the overall trend of health conscious people eating more nutrient rich foods. Dried fruit is a great substitute for junk food snacks and choosing dried fruit over junk food certainly has weight loss benefits. (14)Keast DR, O’Neal CE, Jones JM. Dried fruit consumption is associated with improved diet quality and reduced obesity in US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):460-7 Available here.
  • The best choice of dried fruit is organic, with no added sugar. Most of the dried fruit varieties can be found in organic form.

When are dried fruit unhealthy?

Dried fruit may be unhealthy in certain circumstances:

  • Dried fruit are easy to overeat.
    Dried fruits are of a small size (smaller than fresh, whole fruits), taste sweet and are popularly considered as healthy, which makes them easy to overeat. If eaten in excessive amounts, dried fruit add high amounts of extra calories and fructose to the diet.
  • Dried fruit contain a high amount of fructose.
    Micro-nutrients are not the only nutrients occurring in high concentrations in dried fruit. Fructose contents in some dried fruit are also high. Since high amounts of fructose intake from sweetened beverages and from using excessive amounts of sugar sweeteners is associated with metabolic syndrome and many related health issues (read more..), fructose intake from other sources is still controversial and needs more research.
    Although fructose contents of fresh, whole fruit are not associated with negative health effects (read more..), fructose repercussions from eating high amounts of dried fruit are not yet well studied. A diet high in dried fruit contributes an unusually high amount of fructose.

    The table below shows the fructose contents in dried fruit per 60g.Fructose in dried fruit

  • Non-organic dried fruit usually contains sulfites.
    Sulfites may be present in some dried fruit (e.g. dried apricots or vine fruit such as Thompson Seedless raisins). They may cause an adverse reaction in some sulfite-sensitive individuals, especially asthmatics. (read more..) (15)Allergy UK. Sulphites and Airway Symptoms. Available here. (16)Lester MR. Sulfite sensitivity: significance in human health. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 14, Issue 3, 1995. Available here.
  • Dried fruit can be contaminated.
    If not processed, handled and stored correctly, dried fruit can be contaminated with mold, yeast, fungi and carcinogenic toxins produced by some types of mold and fungi such as aflatoxins, OTA, kojic acid and patulin. (17)Tournas VH, Niazi NS, Kohn JS. Fungal Presence in Selected Tree Nuts and Dried Fruits. Microbiol Insights. 2015; 8: 1–6. Published online 2015 May 21. Available here. (18)Trucksess MW, Scott PM. Mycotoxins in botanicals and dried fruits: a review. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2008 Feb;25(2):181-92. Available here.
    The most common dried fruit contaminations of aflatoxins occur in dried figs. When contaminated, they appear fluorescent bright green/yellow under ultraviolet light. OTA contamination is common in dried vine fruit (raisins, sultanas and currants), dried figs, apricots, prunes, dates and quince.
  • Some dried fruit may raise blood sugar level.
    Glycemic Load varies from low (e.g. apricots) to high (e.g. raisins) depending on the type of dried fruit and the serving size, as shown in the table above. A serving with a low Glycemic Load has an insignificant effect on blood sugar levels, while a serving with a high Glycemic Load causes sudden, high spikes in blood glucose leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. (19)The University of Sydney. Glycemic index of raisins. Available here.

    Note: Glycemic Load varies not only between different dried fruits, but also between varieties within the same type.
    Example 1: for the same serving size (e.g. of 2oz), raisins have a Glycemic Load of 28, while prunes only 10.
    Example 2: some varieties of dried dates have a Glycemic Load of 22, which is considered high, while others are only 14, which is considered medium.
    For more information on Glycemic Index or Glycemic Load use GlycemicIndex database.

    How does the Glycemic Load of dried fruit compare to fresh fruit? See the example below of raisins vs grapes.

    Glycemic index of raisins and grapes

    Food typeGlycemic indexServing (g)Glycemic load
    Raisins (20)The University of Sydney. Glycemic index of raisins. Available here.646028 (high)
    3014 (medium)
    157 (low)
    Grapes (21)Glycemic Index of grapes. Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney. Available here.491209 (low)

Conclusion

Back to top
As long as dried fruits are obtained from a trusted source (with no contamination) and you are not sensitive to sulfites, they are a great addition to a balanced diet if consumed moderately. Nevertheless, if possible chose fresh, whole fruit over dried fruit, but feel free to add a little dried fruit to your meals or use it as a snack or in a combination with other types of foods such as nuts and seeds.

Bear in mind, however, that dried fruits are highly concentrated not only with micro-nutrients but also with sugars, including fructose, and may have a medium to high Glycemic Load depending on the fruit type and serving size.

Save

References   [ + ]

1. Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 24, Issue 1, 2005. Available here.
2. Nummer BA. Historical origins of food preservation. National Center for Home Food Preservation. May 2002. Available here.
3. Boyer R, Huff K. Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats. Publications and educational resources. Virginia State University. Available here.
4. Florin TH, Neale G, Goretski S, Cummings JH. The Sulfate Content of Foods and Beverages. Volume 6, Issue 2, June 1993, Pages 140-151. Available here.
5. Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here.
6. The University of North Dakota Dining Services. Fact sheet. Healthy recommendations and portion control. Available here.
7. Morris A, Barnett A, Burrows OJ. Effect of Processing on Nutrient Content of Foods. Available here.
8. Boyer R, Huff K. Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats. Publications and educational resources. Virginia State University. Available here.
9. Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 24, Issue 1, 2005. Available here.
10. Agricultural Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. Available here.
11. Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 24, Issue 1, 2005. Available here.
12. Landete JM. Updated knowledge about polyphenols: functions, bioavailability, metabolism, and health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Volume 52, Issue 10, 2012. Available here.
13. Chang SK, Alasalvar C, Shahidi F. Review of dried fruits: Phytochemicals, antioxidant efficacies, and health benefits. Journal of Functional Foods. Volume 21, March 2016, Pages 113–132. Available here.
14. Keast DR, O’Neal CE, Jones JM. Dried fruit consumption is associated with improved diet quality and reduced obesity in US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):460-7 Available here.
15. Allergy UK. Sulphites and Airway Symptoms. Available here.
16. Lester MR. Sulfite sensitivity: significance in human health. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 14, Issue 3, 1995. Available here.
17. Tournas VH, Niazi NS, Kohn JS. Fungal Presence in Selected Tree Nuts and Dried Fruits. Microbiol Insights. 2015; 8: 1–6. Published online 2015 May 21. Available here.
18. Trucksess MW, Scott PM. Mycotoxins in botanicals and dried fruits: a review. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2008 Feb;25(2):181-92. Available here.
19. The University of Sydney. Glycemic index of raisins. Available here.
20. The University of Sydney. Glycemic index of raisins. Available here.
21. Glycemic Index of grapes. Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney. Available here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *