Dissecting the dilemma – is dried fruit good or bad for the health

There is no one straightforward answer to the question on whether dried fruit is actually good or bad for the health. The various studies, opinions and overall information on this matter is rather confusing and often contradicting.

Dried fruitsWhile some maintain the view that dried fruits are a healthy snack which should be preferred to sugary foods, others are certain that dried fruits can be as bad as candy, or in some cases even worse.

Let’s start with the process of actually making dried fruit. Logically, it is removing the water from the fruit using different drying methods. The drying process leads to the shrinking of the fruit and turning it into a much smaller and yet full of calories product.

Almost all types of fruits can be dried and are turned into a durable and handy snack, but is it healthy or at the least – is it healthier that sweets and candy?

Well, first of all, dried fruit is really nutritious – come to think of it, it contains the same amount of calories as the fresh variant, but it is much smaller in volume, and thus usually could lead to the consumption of more than one or two at a time, which is easier controlled when the fruit is consumed fresh and in its original size.

So, the truth is that dried fruit is as nutritious as the equivalent of fresh fruits, but because of its smaller size, people tend to consume more, and thus it is more nutritious, has more calories per size because of its smaller package.

There are a few differences in the amount of different vitamins, minerals in dried fruits, such as the amount of vitamin C which is lower in dried fruits as compared to the fresh ones per serving, but dried fruits can provide more fiber than their fresh variant, which actually is an excellent source of polyphenols known to improve digestion and blood flow, and reduce the risk of developing certain serious illnesses such as prostate cancer.

So, in general we may conclude that dried fruits are excellent sources of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, which has great health benefits.

Some studies show that people who eat more dried fruits ingest more nutrients and yet tend to weigh less than those who don’t eat dried fruits. Thus it was found to help prevent and restrict obesity.

On the other hand, the small portions and the size of dried fruits often can lead to overeating with them, which can actually lead to weight gain especially if they have added sugar.

Thus, eating small portions of dried fruits regularly can assist weight loss, but like with almost any type of food or beverage overeating with them will have an opposite effect.

So, let’s take a look at the health benefits of the most popular dried fruits:

RaisinsRaisins are possibly the most popular dried fruits. They are dried grapes and are full of fiber, potassium and other health boosting compounds.

Their glycemic index is medium and their insulin index is low, so they do not promote those unhealthy blood sugar spikes and insulin levels after consumption.

Research has shown that raisins can actually help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, provide better control of the blood sugar levels, help inflammations and anemia, all of which can lead to the reduction of a risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes type II. They have been found to be beneficial for the eye sight, bone strength and dental health, and to help with some sexual dysfunctions.

So, overall, eating raisins in moderation could potentially have some health benefits, and will reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, hypothermia and diabetes type II.

Prunes too are very popular dried fruits and have proven to have certain health benefits.

They are dried plums, which for long have been consumed against constipation because of their natural laxative effect due to their high fiber and sorbitol content. Some argue that eating prunes promotes more bowel movement which is not necessarily the same as healthy digestion.

Nevertheless, prunes are an excellent source of vitamin K, potassium, fiber, vitamin A and other beneficial nutrients. Also, they are a good source of antioxidants, which help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Prunes are also a great source of boron, which is a mineral essential for preventing or helping cure osteoporosis in menopausal women.

Like raisins, prunes too are filling and thus don’t cause the unwanted spikes in insulin and blood sugar levels after consumption.

So, prunes are good for promoting bowel movement, and can help prevent the development of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

Dried datesDates, which are very sweet and are another popular type of dried fruit too have been found to have some health benefits after regular consumption. They are an excellent source of fiber, iron, and potassium and are actually one of the best sources of antioxidants among dried fruits

They have a low glycemic index and do not cause those unwanted blood sugar spikes after consumption.

Studies have found a correlation between eating dates in the final weeks of the pregnancy and the decreased need of an induced labor as they help dilate the cervix when the time comes.

Another study found that the consumption of dates helped resolve male infertility in animals, but still no such correlation for humans has been found.

So, in the end we can conclude that dates can help normalize blood pressure and blood sugar, reduce oxidative damage and help induce natural and timely labor in pregnant women.

But as with all other foods, consumption in the recommended quantities is key to getting all health benefits from these dried fruits, because they are high in calories and in natural sugars. For example, dates have a 64-65% natural sugar content, of which most is fructose and which in large quantities can lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes type II and the development of heart disease.

In fact, most dried fruits contain from 38 to 66% natural sugar and are high in calories per serving, which means that overeating with them can lead to weight gain and a number of health problems such as diabetes type II and cardiovascular disease.

An even bigger reason to worry about the sugar content and the caloric value of dried fruits is the fact that in some cases, the producers add sugar or syrup to the fruits before they are dried in order to make them sweeter and tastier. This obviously makes them more harmful than healthy if consumed in excess, and can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

So, it is important to always ensure that your dried fruit is organic and to read the package to make sure that there is no added sugar.

In conclusion, it can be said that some dried fruits which have added syrup or sugar can actually be harmful and pose a risk to the health.

Another risk of eating some dried fruits is the fact that some producers add some harmful preservatives to their fruits before drying them in order to make them look better and highly colored when they are fully dried. The sulfites which are added to these fruits could cause people who are sensitive to them to get stomach aches, asthma attacks and rashes.

Plus, you should also keep in mind that the dried fruit has been handled and stored properly in order to avoid it become contaminated with harmful fungi, aflatoxins and other toxins.

A good rule of the thumb is to make sure you look at the dried fruit’s color, the package and overall look of the product before consuming it, in order to avoid possible harmful side effects.

The final conclusion in the debate on whether dried fruits are healthy or harmful has no single answer.

It is true that dried fruits are rich in essential nutrients and are excellent sources of antioxidants, which can help keep the body healthy and reduce the risk of health problems and illnesses.

But when eaten in excess, the high caloric value and the high sugar content could have a negative effect on the organism.

The bottom line is, to remember to eat dried fruits in moderation, and after carefully examining their packages for extra added sugar or sugar syrup, as well as their appearance for added preservatives, or possible fungal and other toxic contaminations.

Also, it must be noted that dried fruits are high-carb foods which makes them unsuitable for low-carb diets. But still, dried fruits are definitely a better choice than unhealthy sugary snacks and processed junk food.

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