When it comes to the health benefits of eating fruits, most places and experts usually focus on fresh fruit. The truth, however, is that dried fruits can be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation.
Health Benefits of Dried Fruits
When it comes to nutrition, not all dried fruits are the same. Some, like raisins, contain lots of sugar but very few nutrients (except iron). Others, like dried apricots, are more nutritionally sound. A cup of dried apricots provides you with 94% of your daily requirement of vitamin A and 19% of your daily requirement of iron. Dried apricots also contain a small amount of calcium and vitamin C, as well as 9.5 grams of fiber.
Dried apricots are often cited as one of the healthiest options when it comes to dry fruits. They contain high amounts of pectin, or soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, ease constipation and improve digestion. Dried apricots also contain a good amount of potassium, which is essential for heart health. When it comes to nutrition, dry apricots are a better choice over fresh ones because they contain a higher concentration of carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that can protect you against the oxidative damage of free radicals, which can increase your risk of developing cancer and other diseases.
Dried Fruits vs. Fresh Fruits
Dried fruits tend to be higher in calories and sugar than fresh fruit. This is in part because drying a fruit shrinks it, so you’re likely to eat much more when compared to the fresh version. Another reason for the high calorie content is that most dried fruits have sugar added to them to make them more candy-like. You can look for unsweetened fruits in health food stores but be prepared for them to taste tart or bland in comparison to the real thing.
Another disadvantage of dried fruits is that some of them lose much of their nutritional content during processing. It’s hard to tell how a company processes their dried fruits unless they specify that on the label. Some processes add sulfur dioxide to dried fruit to preserve their color and taste. However, adding sulfur dioxide also degrades some nutrients, especially thiamine. Some companies blanch (boil or steam) fruits before drying them, in an effort to kill possible contaminants and speed up the drying process. Unfortunately, blanching kills vitamin C, as well as other nutrients.
Calories in Dry Fruits
Dry fruits are notorious for being high in calories. This could be a problem if you’re trying to lose weight, but a great thing if you’re looking for something to provide you with a quick burst of energy. This high-energy burst is the reason why dry fruits and nuts are a preferred choice among hikers and people involved in endurance sports. The sugar in dried fruits is converted into glucose quickly and effective, so it can keep you going when you’re tired and need something to push you along.
The caloric difference between dry and fresh fruit is very evident in the case of apricots. A cup of fresh apricots is 74 calories and contains 14.3 grams of sugar. A cup of dried apricots, on the other hand, contains 313 calories and a whopping 69.5 grams of sugar.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack, a handful of dried apricots could be a good choice. Just make sure you don’t eat too many or too frequently.