Dried fruits are representative of natural ‘Health’ foods. As the name suggests fresh fruits are processed or dried in order to reduce or almost eliminate water content.
This makes dried fruit a concentrated form of energy and nutrients. Due to their high energy content, they serve as immediate energizers for those involved in sports and adventure.
When you ask for a mix of dried fruits you generally get a combination of dried versions of fruits and nuts. However in this article we are typically going to focus on dried versions of fresh fruits. So we mean raisins, prunes, dates, apricots, cranberries etc.
Definitely dried fruits are healthy and nutritious but their role in weight loss is disputed. Some say that they are high in calories and sugar and thus can cause weight gain.
While some say that they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and hence are satiating and nutritious. So today we are going to find out how helpful dried fruits are for those hoping to lose weight.
How are dried fruits prepared?
Dehydration is an ancient method of preserving fresh fruit. Removal of moisture retards growth of microbes. Also drying fruits helps in increasing shelf life and gives year round access to seasonal fruits.
Prior to drying, fruits undergo a few pretreatment where they are treated with sulphur dioxide or sulphites to preserve color and flavor and with fruit juices or ascorbic acid in order to replenish Vitamin C which is lost as a result of loss of water.
They are either sun dried or dried indoors using food dehydrators and ovens. They can also be freeze dried where fruit is frozen and then dried in the vacuum till the moisture evaporates.
To prevent them from sticking dried fruits are sprayed with oil prior to drying though. So it is ok if the ingredient list contains oil. However avoid dried fruits that have added sugar and in case you allergic to sulphur dioxide then look labels that say ‘no sulphite added’.
What does research have to say about dried fruits and weight loss?
A few observational studies suggest that consumption of dried fruits is associated with lower body weight. The NHANES survey conducted over the period of 1999-2004 assessed the intake of dried fruits in adults.
Body weight, BMI, waist circumference, prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity was all found to be lower in those consuming dried fruits than non consumers.
Researchers concluded that dried fruit consumption is associated with lower body weight and reduced abdominal obesity. It was also found to be linked with better diet and nutrient intake.
1.Dried fruit as appetite controlling snacks
A study was conducted wherein the effect of consuming dried prunes as a snack before meals on appetite was assessed. 45 healthy individuals were recruited for this study and were given either dried prunes or isoenergetic bread product prior to meals.
It was observed that those who consumed prunes ingested lesser number of calories at subsequent meal and also ate less amount of dessert. Hunger score was reduced in those who consumed prunes.
Since both preloads were of equal calories, researchers attributed the satiating power of prunes to their high fiber content.
Patel and his fellow researchers studied the role of raisin consumption in energy intake in children. After a regular day in school the children were given any of the four snacks: raisins, grapes, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies. Appetite was measured before after snack consumption.
Children consumed the least calories from raisins and grapes and maximum from chocolate chip cookies. However the weight or amount of raisins consumed was lower than the weight of grapes and chocolate chip cookies. Raisins consumption led to reduced total food intake.
Though these studies suggest that dried fruits are healthier alternatives to regular snacks what is important to note that we eat with our eyes. Dried fruits are smaller in size and higher in calories so if you do not restrict the serving size then you are definitely going to land up adding more calories.
What does this mean?
Limited research studies the role of consuming dried fruits as snacks and they can be used as measures to control appetite only if eaten in small quantities.
2.Dried fruits have a beneficial effect on metabolic parameters
Dried fruits apart from being power packed are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Research has been conducted to investigate whether they have a beneficial effect on metabolic health.
A clinical trial was organized to assess the potential of dried fruit consumption in reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women.
The effect of dried apple and dried plum was compared for a period of 1 year. Consumption of dried fruit did not seem to affect the total energy intake over the study period. However those consuming dried apples lost 1.5kg and similar changes were seen in dried plum group.
Positive changes in cholesterol level were noticeable within 3 months in dried apple group and 6 months in dried plum group. It was concluded that dried fruit consumption is beneficial to human health due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Research suggests that regular consumption of raisins can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. A novel product consisting of dried apple enriched with mandarin juice is found to reduce inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors in obese children.
What does this mean?
Dried fruit consumption is proven to be beneficial for treating metabolic changes caused in the body by obesity like high blood pressure and cholesterol problems.
Health benefits of dried fruits
Dried fruits are small bundles of resourceful energy. The most calorie-rich of these foods are raisins (320 kcal/100 g) followed by dates (300 kcal/100 g). That is why they are favorite energy boosters of athletes and sports persons.
They are also a rich source of fiber. Dried apricots, for example, contain 6.5 grams per cup, while fresh apricots contain just 3.1 grams. A cup of raisins contains 5.4 grams of fiber versus just 1.4 grams for seedless grapes.
Additionally they are higher in antioxidants than their fresh fruit version.
The main reason why people feel great while snacking on dried fruits is that they are highly nutritious. And indeed they are high in vitamins and minerals. Dried figs are a great source of vitamin E and B6 as well as potassium and calcium. Dried apricots are rich in Vitamin A, potassium and sodium.
Dried banana has the highest magnesium content. Prunes are high in copper and vitamins A, C and K. Dried goji berries, or wolfberries, are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of calcium.
Apart from that each dried fruit has a positive impact on certain health factors. Prunes act as a natural laxative and help in preventing a number of diseases like atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Raisins help in improving bone density. Dates lower cholesterol levels without affecting blood sugar.
What does this mean?
Dried fruits are an excellent source of energy, fiber and vitamins and minerals. They are a perfect version of health food.
Concerns about dried fruits and body weight
One of the major concerns about dried fruit is the serving size. Removing water from fresh fruit reduces the serving size by about 75%. Reduction in water content means loss of water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C. However vitamin C is replenished by treating the fruits in citrus juices prior to drying.
Take a look at the nutritional comparison between fresh fruit and its dried version:
|100g of fresh plums||100g of raw dried plums|
|Energy||46 Calories||240 Calories|
|Naturally occurring sugar||10g||38g|
So it is clear that the same serving size of dried fruit as fresh fruit can add a large number of calories to your plate. It is advisable to stick to 1/4th cup of dried fruits as a serving size.
Then again the other concern is the sugar content of dried fruits. The following table should give you a brief idea of sugar content of fresh and dried fruits:
|Dried fruit||Sugar content minus added sugar||Sugar equivalent in whole fruit|
|Dried apples||49 grams/ cup||2 raw apples|
|Dried apricots||69 grams/ cup||23 raw apricots|
|Banana chips||35 grams/ 100g||2 raw bananas|
|Dried blueberries||68 grams/ cup||4.5 cups of raw blueberries|
|Dried cranberries||10grams/cup||2.5 cups of raw cranberries|
|Raisins||25 grams/ 1.5oz||90 grapes|
|Prunes||66grams/ cup||4 cups of raw plum|
This again comes down to the serving size. 1 cup of grapes has about 104 calories while 1 cup of raisins has 434 calories. This is because raisins take up less space than fresh grapes.
If you were to assess calorie content by the number of pieces then 10 grapes has about 34 calories and 10 raisins have 16 calories.
Naturally occurring sugars in dried fruits is fructose and dextrose and fructose is said to be responsible for weight gain and sugar crash. However the mineral and vitamin content as well as presence of fiber prevents such negative effects.
Dried fruits have moderate glycemic index i.e. they do not have sugar in excess that could cause a blood sugar spike.
A few things to be kept in mind are that dried fruits are not supposed to taste like candy. Some dried fruits are tart like cherries and cranberries so to sweeten them manufacturers sweeten them with fruit juice or added sugar.
If your dried fruit contains added sugar then it would not be wise to snack on them if you are planning to lose weight.
Sulfur dioxide is used as an antioxidant and preservative to preserve color and flavor of dried fruits. Some people are allergic to sulphur dioxide and sulphites and it can initiate an asthmatic reaction or gastrointestinal disorder.
In that case you should avoid brightly colored dried fruits or go for packets that say ‘no sulphites’.
What does this mean?
The concern about the sugar content and calories provided by dried fruits can be resolved by keeping the serving size under control. Unlike fresh fruits stick to a serving size of ¼ th cup of dried fruits. Avoid dried fruits containing added sugar and sulphite preservative.
How much dried fruits to consume?
USDA recommends 1.5 – 2 cup of daily fruit intake for adults. Further they state that ½ cup of dry fruits is equivalent to 1 cup of fruit. 1/4 cup dried fruit is equivalent to 1/2 cup fruit or 1 small box raisins (1.5 oz).
Dried fruit consumption has been associated with lower body weight and lower prevalence of obesity but no study typically shows that eating dried fruits can lead to weight loss.
However if you have a small serving size then dried fruit can indeed serve as alternative to regular snacks and help to meet your daily nutrient intake.