Fresh fruit has a number of health benefits, from fiber and antioxidants to vitamins and minerals, you can’t get anywhere else in such a convenient, and delicious, package. Doctors and nutritionists recommend a minimum of two to three fruit servings a day. But dried fruit also gets a lot of attention for its antioxidant content, shelf life, and tastiness. So how do the two stack up? Is a cup of dried blueberries as good for you than a cup of fresh?
First off, remember that dried fruit is just that - fresh fruit that has been processed and dehydrated. So a cup of dried blueberries might have four times as many blueberries, because they’ve shrunk, and thus four times as many antioxidants as a cup of fresh ones. Always start by reading the ingredients label on the package: if there is anything besides fruit, it might not be such a healthy snack. Many dried fruits contain sulfur dioxide, as a preservative, and added sugars. Sulfur dioxide can help preserve Vitamin A, for example, but actively destroys Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin. Thiamin helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy, so the loss of B1 may make dried fruit harder to metabolize. And if there are added sugars, it will increase the calorie count. The difference between a cup of fresh fruit versus a cup of dried fruit may be as many as 600 calories.
Fruits are often boiled briefly before drying to speed up the process and to kill microorganisms, but this blanching process can leach additional nutrients. Heat is then used to eliminate water and concentrate the calories, fibers, and nutrients into a smaller package. Dried fruit is great to pack light for hiking or camping, but it's no substitute for fresh. Your body requires high amounts of water to rehydrate and properly digest dried fruit, in fresh fruit, the necessary water content is included in the package. If you eat a lot of dried fruit without drinking enough water you may run the risk of dehydration and constipation. In apinch, grabbing a handful of dried fruit on the go can be a convenient way to get your nutrients and is certainly healthier than reaching for a candy bar! Just make sure to also continue eating plenty of whole, unprocessed fresh fruit in order to get the most out of your diet.
- Jeff Koelemay