The Health Benefits of Dried Fruit—Plus, the Best Types to Eat
Here's what you need to know before stocking the pantry with these sweet staples.
There are a lot of reasons to stock up on dried fruit. It has a longer shelf life than its fresh counterpart, and instead of taking up valuable freezer space (like bags of flash frozen fruits can), it can be stored in any cool, dry space in your home. Perhaps the best reason to keep plenty of dried fruit on hand is because of its health benefits. We spoke with two nutritionists who explained why you should be filling your cart with the dehydrated versions of your favorite fruits the next time you're at the grocery store.
Is dried fruit healthy?
Not only is dried fruit nutritious (it packs the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit), but it is a great source of antioxidants according to Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietician, certified diabetes educator, and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. "Compared by weight alone, dried fruit contains three to four times the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber as fresh fruit," she says. "Since dried fruit is more condensed due to water being removed, you can consume your energy and nutrient needs in a smaller serving, making it an ideal choice for some individuals."
It's a great snack.
Dried fruit is healthy snack option, but since the portion sizes are smaller, it's easy to overdo it. "If you find you are eating large portions of dried fruit, try combining it with other foods that are high in volume and low in calories, such as added on top of a salad or incorporated into a homemade trail mix made with air-popped popcorn and nuts," suggests Palinski-Wade. In fact, Ashley Shaw, a registered dietician and prenatal nutrition and infant feed specialist at Preg APPETIT says she likes to think of dried fruit as sprinkles. "You wouldn't eat just a bowl of sprinkles, [but] you will put them on your ice cream," she says. "Dried fruit should be sprinkled into other meals like mixed into a trail mix or as a topping on a salad."
Plan to eat the most nutritious types of dried fruit.
Palinski-Wade says the key to choosing a good dried fruit option is to check for any added sugars listed on the packaging. "Dried fruits containing added sugars (or added fats in the case of banana chips) often contain more calories (empty calories) and should be limited." Instead, she suggests looking for packaging that says "no sugar added" on it in order to meet your daily produce and nutrition goals.
Some especially beneficial dried fruits are prunes (which not only provide a good source of fiber to promote digestive health, but when eaten in servings of five or six per day have been shown to prevent bone loss, according to Palinski-Wade), tart cherries (which have a natural source of melatonin, and can promote better sleep if eaten before bed), and any fruit that has a naturally higher amount of fiber and lower amount of sugar, like berries. "Likewise, a sweeter fresh fruit with more water will produce a higher sugar and lower fiber dried fruit," according to Shaw, making those the ones you want to be sure to avoid while shopping.