Dried fruit is a tasty and convenient snack that can satisfy your sweet tooth while delivering nutrients. You've most likely been informed that in order to reach optimal heath, it's crucial to add at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet. Well, since dried fruit is technically still fruit, does this mean that this tasty snack counts towards your 5-a-day goal? Let's examine the nutritional content found in dried fruit to see if this food qualifies:
Nutritional Content of Dried Fruit
Since water breaks down the natural bacteria of foods, the drying process is necessary in order to preserve a fruit. However, when fruits undergo the drying process, they lose more than just water; an abundance of nutrients is also stripped from the fruit. These vitamins and minerals are decreased as a result of the heat, whether the fruits are dried by the sun or by commercial dehydrators. For example, vitamin C is dramatically reduced when exposed to heat, and therefore, fruits rich in this nutrient only hold on to some, if any, of the original vitamin content. Other nutrients that diminish in the drying process are potassium, calcium and vitamin E, while fiber, iron and phenol antioxidants don't suffer as dramatically.
Caloric Content of Dried Fruit
In addition to the nutritional content, the caloric content of dried fruit also differs from its fresh counterpart. This is partly due to the fact that fresh fruit is packed with water, therefore, it is not as calorically dense as the dried version. For example, a fresh, whole apple will fill you up more than that same amount of apple dried. You will need twice as much (or more) to feel satiated, thus increasing your calorie count. Let's go back to those apricots. One cup of fresh apricot halves clock in at only 74 calories, while the same portion of dried apricots deliver a whopping 313 calories. And, don't think you're doing your body any good by eating raisins, as a cup of dried grapes weigh in at 495 calories, while the fresh ones pack only 60 calories a cup.
According to the FDA, dried fruit contains about twice as many calories as fresh fruit, and for some fruits (like blueberries), the caloric content is even triples. Another thing to keep in mind is that some companies add sugar to dried fruit to enhance the flavor. Dried cranberries, for example, often contain additional sweeteners to make the flavor less tart. One fourth of a cup of the dried and processed cranberries deliver 90 calories, while you can eat an entire cup of fresh cranberries for only 44 calories.
As you can see, dried fruit contains less nutrients and more calories than fresh fruit. Therefore, it shouldn't count towards your 5-a-day, and you should instead turn to the fresh variety. With that being said, it is better to consume dried fruit than candy since it does hold some nutrients, but it should be viewed as that--a treat.