Any dietitian will tell you when it comes to fruit, always go for the freshest thing.
But it’s also easier than ever to purchase dried fruit, and experts say for the most part, there are some nutritious elements to these fruits.
Andy De Santis, a registered dietitian based in Toronto, says, generally speaking, dried fruit is a great source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants just like any other fruit. He adds 1/4 cup of dried fruit is still considered a serving of fruit, according to the Canadian Food Guide.
And according to CNN, one study of 13,000 individuals found people who eat dried fruit not only weighed less, but also had better nutrient intakes compared to those who didn’t eat it regularly.
When is it unhealthy?
But De Santis adds there are things to keep in mind when buying and eating dried fruit.
“Since it is dehydrated, the sugar [and the] the calories are concentrated in a relatively small amount of food, which means it can be very easy to eat a lot of them without really realizing it,” he tells Global News. “This is the reason why it only takes 1/4 cup to make up a serving.”
And some varieties of dried fruit are also loaded with sugar. Packages of dried mango, he adds, often have sugar added in addition to all the natural sugar. “You should be wary of this, especially if you are trying to manage your caloric intake.”
When you are shopping for dried fruit, make sure you read the label to see if any additional sugar is added.
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But it’s also always a good idea to just make your own. “You can make your own dried fruit with a dehydrator or using your oven,” De Santis adds.
Recipe and food website The Kitchn even tried an experiment drying fruit in an oven. The site adds in about eight hours, they were successfully able to dry a pan of cherries.
“By the time they were done, the cherries had shrunk to the size of raisins and turned deep purple. We left them a tad chewy, but they seemed dehydrated enough that they should keep for a few months in an air tight container,” editors noted.
When to avoid it
According to Northeast Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics based in Humble, Texas, children should not be eating dried fruit. “Prunes are just dried plums, except just one cup of prunes contains more than 400 calories and 45 grams of sugar. However, one plum contains just 75 calories and 16 grams of sugar,” the site notes.
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The DC Dental group adds dried fruit is also often sticky, which means it doesn’t rinse easily through saliva alone and the fruit is more likely to stay on your teeth. “When this happens, the bacteria release acid, which erodes tooth enamel and causes cavities,” the site notes.
But De Santis says there needs to be more research done on how dried fruit can affect an adult’s dental health. “There is no strong evidence to support this claim and no cause for giving up dried fruit in your diet due to concerns over dental health.”
When to eat it
Kyle Byron, a nutritionist and personal trainer from Toronto, says dried fruit is great for people running marathons or taking hikes. When you’re doing these types of activities, you’re also burning calories — which isn’t the case if you’re eating dried fruit as a snack at work or on the couch.
“Another person who I’d say could eat dried fruit would be a young or a sick person trying to gain weight. But even then, you have to understand it’s mostly just sugar,” he tells Global News. He adds at the end of the day, if you’re trying to eat more fruit, just eat fruit.
“The healthy alternative is fruit. Why do people have to always wreck the stuff mother nature gave us?”