Your Health

Delicious dried fruit loaded with vitamins, fibre and antioxidants

Mother applying sunscreen to daughter
Photo of Diana Doyle-Zebrun

ROSEMARY SZABADKA
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, August 11, 2017

Mention dried fruit, and I can’t help but think of Turkey.

About 25 years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to some of the rural areas in that country and witness first-hand how farmers would dry apricots on their roofs.

The technique of sun-drying fruit goes back a bit more than a quarter century. In fact, some experts say this method of preserving fruit dates back to at least 1200 B.C.

Needless to say, apricots dried this way are out-of-this-world delicious.

But times change. Today, fruit is usually dried by dehydrators or other technological processes rather than the sun (raisins remain an exception).

Nonetheless, dried fruit still tastes delicious. And they’re good for you, too.

Indeed, dried fruit – apricots, prunes, figs, dates and raisins, to name just a few – are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. The antioxidants, specifically polyphenols, are linked to many health benefits such as better circulation and digestion and cell protection, which may decrease the risk of certain cancers.

But there is a caveat.

Fruits can be up to 80 per cent water, so when the water is removed its portion size is a lot smaller, concentrating the fruit’s nutrient profile and natural occurring sugars.

For example, one cup of fresh apricots dehydrated becomes ¼ of a cup of dried apricots.

Because the portion is smaller, dried fruits become easy to eat, and if you are concerned about calories and sugars, they will certainly add up. A cup of fresh apricots contains 74 calories and 14 grams of sugar. Meanwhile, one cup of dried apricots contains 313 calories and 69 grams of sugar.

Dried fruits like cherries, blueberries, strawberries, mangos, pineapples, apples and cranberries are infused or coated with additional sugars increasing their sugar content. Dried bananas may be coated with palm or coconut oil, increasing their saturated fat content.

Because the sugar content of dried fruit increases, so does their fibre content. One cup of fresh apricots has three grams of fibre, whereas dried apricots have 9.5 grams. Dried apricots contain high amounts of pectin, a soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol and eases constipation.

Other merits of dried fruit are similar to fresh fruit. Dried apricots for instance are very high in the eye protecting form of vitamin A, known as beta-carotene, and potassium, a mineral responsible for regular heart beats and healthier blood pressures. Heat processing destroys vitamin C, so dried fruits will have less vitamin C then their fresh fruit counterpart.

In the year 2000, prunes where remarketed as dried plums, but their nutrition profile alone should be enough to sell this product.

A serving of four to five dried plums has three grams of fibre, 15 grams of sugar, 100 calories and is a good source of B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, boron and iron. They contain a mild laxative, sorbitol, which promotes colon health by relieving constipation. Dried plums are high in antioxidants, can reverse bone loss, help maintain blood sugar control and improve heart health.

Little kids love raisins, and that love should not end at childhood. Raisins are dried grapes that are high in fibre and linked to better blood pressure and blood sugar control. They also can improve cholesterol levels and can decrease inflammation in the body. A quarter cup of raisins contains 108 calories, 21 grams of sugar, and 1.3 grams of fibre. They are high in potassium and a source of iron.

Dates and figs are also delicious and contain similar nutrient profiles to other dried fruits

Since dried fruits can stick to your teeth, it is always recommended to rinse your mouth with water and brush and floss your teeth to reduce the risk of dental cavities.

Dried fruits are nutritious, convenient and economical and should be a pantry staple. A healthy snack that packs well for outdoor activities such as hiking, they can be added to salads, cooked grains and main meal meats dishes as well as breakfast cereals and baking. Enjoy their natural sweetness and goodness.

Rosemary Szabadka is a public health dietitian with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, August 11, 2017.

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