Here's How Healthy Dried Fruit Is, According to an RD

The healthiest dried fruit is the one that you consume in moderation.

If you've heard it once, you've heard it at least a thousand times: Eat more fruits and vegetables. For some, this task is as simple as whipping up a healthy, produce-packed smoothie. But for others, finding ways to incorporate more produce into their diet—or the diet of their little one—seems cumbersome. Of course, you could always sneak some banana chips into your bag. But is dried fruit healthy enough to make up one of your daily servings of fruit?

Dried fruit is sweet, snackable, and can be taken on the go a heck of a lot easier than a few easy-to-bruise bananas or bulky cartons of berries. But if you've ever reached the bottom of a bag in a single sitting and found yourself wondering how this snack stacks up nutritionally, you've come to the right place. We tapped nutrition expert Amy Shapiro, RD, to give us the lowdown on our dried fruit addiction.

Is Dried Fruit Healthy?

Dried fruit is healthy because eating fruit in any form is better than consuming zero fruit. "Also, since dried fruit is condensed by weight, it provides about 3.5 times the fiber and nutrients as fresh fruit," Shapiro explains.

Of course, the specific health benefits will depend on what variety of fruit you're snacking on, but you can count on digestive benefits and antioxidants regardless. "Dried fruits are a very rich source of fiber as well as antioxidants, especially polyphenols," Shapiro adds.

Dried Fruit vs. Fresh Fruit

So does dried fruit offer the same health benefits as fresh fruit? Yes and no. "On many levels, it does since [dried fruit] provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants," Shapiro explains. "It does not, however, provide hydration or volume, which both help you to feel satisfied from one serving while diluting the sugar content."

Additionally, she emphasizes that each type of dried fruit offers different nutrients—just as different fruits offer different nutrients and therefore health benefits. Shapiro points out some dried fruit-specific health benefits:

  • Prunes provide fiber, GI regularity, and calcium to strengthen bones.
  • Dates have been shown to assist with fertility and labor, are the most nutrient-dense of dried fruit options, and have a low GI index (so they don't affect blood sugar levels as intensely).
  • Apricots without sulfites are better than apricots with sulfites and are loaded with vitamin A.
  • Raisins, the most popular of dried fruits, can assist with blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, and aid in satiety. Plumped-up raisins offer even more flavor.

Drawbacks of Eating Dried Fruit

Despite the obvious health benefits, there are some serious dried fruit drawbacks that can discount all the positives if you aren't careful.

High Sugar Content

"Because dried fruits are concentrated (the water has been removed) they come in small, dense packages that are very high in sugar and calories," Shapiro explains. "This makes it easy to eat too many at one time, which can quickly lead to increased sugar and caloric intake, and in turn, weight gain."

Portion Distortion

Her point makes sense—after all, when was the last time you ate 15 apricots or four entire mangoes? When the substantial water content of a fruit is extracted, the entire thing shrinks your apple or apricot down to being bite-sized, which can cause major portion distortion (especially when you consider the amount of naturally occurring sugar that fruits contain.)

GI Distress

Too much dried fruit can cause an upset stomach in some people. "Due to the high fiber content and certain natural sugar alcohols, some dried fruits can cause GI distress from bloating, gas, and diarrhea," Shapiro says. She says that the most important step when shopping is to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists if you are prone to stomach issues.

Unhealthy Additives

Unfortunately, many dried fruits contain added sugars in the form of juices, syrups, or even crystallized sugar. "In order to maintain colors, some brands even use sulfites, and some individuals can be allergic to sulfites and react negatively. Finally, depending on how dried fruit is stored, it can contain fungi or toxins so know where you are getting them from," Shapiro says.

The Healthiest Way to Consume Dried Fruit

Eat dried fruit in moderation to maximize its health benefits. "I recommend limiting portions to one serving, cutting up larger pieces of dried fruit and mixing it in with nuts or into a salad to dilute their intensity while still allowing for some sweetness," suggests Shapiro.

"Enjoy fresh fruit instead some days. And even when buying from bulk bins, read nutrition labels to determine proper portion sizes and read ingredients to ensure you are avoiding unnecessary added sugars and preservatives. And lastly, consider dried fruit a 'treat.'"

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