There is no better snack than a crisp apple or a juicy peach, especially during summer. But what to do when you can’t eat fresh? Dried fruit is a great option for times when fresh fruit is not available or simply not convenient – you know, when you can’t have plum juice dripping down your chin at your desk? Perfect for bringing to the beach or sprinkling on top of a breakfast on the go, dried fruit offers many of the same benefits as fresh.
Not all types of fruits are created equal, though. Here are some things to keep in mind about dried fruit to snack healthily this summer!
What is dried fruit?
Dried fruit – whether apricots, cranberries, grapes or plums – is made by removing the water from fresh fruit. The dehydration process is actually one of the oldest methods of preserving food – Americans have been enjoying dried fruits and vegetables since the first Europeans settled here! While drying fruit was once as simple as baking it in the sun, today there are a number of pretreatments and preparations that cause their nutritional value to vary.
Dehydrating means double the nutrients
When fruit is dehydrated, the nutrients actually become more concentrated, which means that the antioxidants in your raisins, prunes and dried apricots are about twice as much as those in the grapes, plums and apricots you might eat. The same goes for fiber. Many fruits are naturally high in fiber, which means their dehydrated versions offer a super-concentrated source of this nutrient, which is vital to your digestive health, can help relieve constipation and keeps you full longer.
Like fruit – but sweeter
The nutrients in dried fruit are intensified, but guess what else is? That’s right, sugar. One dried cherry has just as much sugar as its fresh counterpart, but they are smaller, which means you might eat more of them without realizing how much sugar you are ingesting.
Plus, many pretreatment processes involve adding sugars – whether natural cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Always read the ingredient list if you are buying dried fruits at the store. Sugar certainly makes these snacks tastier, but also less healthy. Cherries, cranberries and other naturally tart fruits often have sugar added. The ingredients list should only have the fruit – no sugars, preservatives or artificial colors.
Dried fruits can be a convenient way to fit fruit servings into your diet, since ¼ cup of dried fruit equals one serving. Just make sure to pay attention to the number of calories and grams of sugar, too.