We have all grown up snacking on dried fruit, believing that it is really good for us. What no-one ever told us is that too much dried fruit can actually be bad for you!
Some dried fruits are full of preservatives that are detrimental to your health, but even the completely natural and organic varieties should be eaten sparingly.
Read this article before deciding for yourself whether or not you will be re-stocking the dry fruit on your next shopping trip.
The Healthy Aspects of Dried Fruit
1. Dried fruit is high in fibre
Dried fruit has had most its water removed during the drying process. The fruit that is left is like a condensed version of regular fruit. It’s high in fibre, much higher than regular fruit, which is part of why it aids the digestive process for people who struggle with constipation.
2. Dried fruit is nutrient dense
Dried fruit also has about three and a half times the nutrient content of regular fruit! This makes it a nutrient dense food. People who eat dried fruit regularly have been found to have much higher nutrient levels in their bodies than people who don’t. So if you are looking for a nutrient boost (and you don’t have any other health issues) then dried fruit is a good snack for you.
3. Dried fruit is high in antioxidants
Dried fruit is about 60% higher in anti-oxidants than regular fruit. Anti-oxidants are extremely important for helping your body to fight off the free-radicals which are believed to cause cancer.
4. Dried fruit is an energy booster
So eating dried fruit has very definite health benefits. It’s very high in fibre, nutrient rich and full of anti-oxidants. Dried fruit is also energy dense. It contains high levels of energy and carbohydrates which can act as an energy booster to anyone who is training or trail hiking.
Why is dried fruit so energy dense? When the fresh fruit is dried out, all of the nutrients, carbs and sugars that were in the original fruit are packed into a much smaller package. That’s why even a few small pieces can boost your energy levels and satisfy your hunger pangs. Not to mention the fact that it’s sweet and delicious because the flavour is concentrated too!
5. Dried Fruit doesn’t spoil
Another reason that dried fruit is a popular choice for trail mixes and snacks is that it doesn’t spoil easily, making it safe to take with you anywhere from a long car ride to a three day hiking trail, because it doesn’t need to be kept cold and it doesn’t bruise like regular fruit.
The Bad Side of Dried Fruit
Unfortunately dried fruit is not all good news. I have mentioned that dried fruit is concentrated. But the concentration is where some of the problems start to come in.
1. Dried fruit is naturally high in sugar
Because the sugar content of a normal piece of fruit is condensed into something about a third of its size, dried fruit is very high in sugar without any juice to dilute it. Even though it contains fruit sugars (fructose) and not cane sugar, they still have the ability to cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Sudden spikes in your blood sugar can cause insulin resistance and ultimately puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes.
And of course high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance are very much connected to belly fat.
2. It’s easy to over eat on dried fruit – which can make it fattening
The carbohydrate content of the fruit is also condensed when the fruit is dried which makes it much higher in carbs than regular fruit. Carbs also have an influence on your weight, belly fat and blood sugar levels. That is not to say you should not eat any carbohydrates at all, on the contrary, carbs are essential for your daily energy needs. The problem is that because dried fruit is so small and condensed (and sweet and yummy) it is very easy to eat too much in one go.
If you over eat on dried fruit your body will be forced to deal with an over load of sugar and carbs.
3. Too much dried fruit can dehydrate your system
Because your body can’t process something in a dried-out state, it will first reconstitute the fruit with water from your own body before you digest it. While it absorbs water the fruit starts to swell back to its proper size. The result? If you ate moderately, it’s nothing to worry about. But if you over ate, as it’s so easy to do, you might start feeling bloated and dehydrated.
Remember to drink plenty of water when you do eat dried fruit to replace what your body will use to digest it.
4. Some dried fruit contains preservatives and added sugar
Unfortunately, as with so many supposedly natural products, some manufactures still add sugar and preserving agents.
Dried fruit sometimes has Sulfur Dioxide (a sulphate) added to it to maintain the color and the taste of the fruit as well as increase the shelf life of the packaged product. Although the U.S. National Library of Medicine doesn’t recognize Sulfur Dioxide as a direct health threat, it is still considered in-advisable to allow a 21kilo person (the average ten year old) more than 15mg a day – this would be the equivalent of one piece of dried fruit!
Some manufactures also add more sugar to dried fruit to enhance the natural sweetness. These can be syrups, sweeteners or cane sugar, but they all compound the high sugar level problem discussed above.
So is dried fruit ultimately good or bad?
With all of the sugars and carbs it contains, dried fruit is definitely not a good idea for anyone on a low carb diet or trying to lose weight. Diabetics with type two diabetes should be careful of eating more than one or two pieces at a time due to the high sugar levels it contains.
But if you have no health concerns or issues, eating dried fruits moderately is not a bad idea.
How can you get the benefits of dried fruit without overloading on sugar and carbs or eating preservatives?
Check the Ingredients
The best thing to do is to check the labels of dried fruit products. Make sure that they are organic and don’t contain any added preservatives (look out for the words Sulfur Dioxide or Sulphates) or added sugar or syrups.
If you are responsible and make sure you eat small amounts of dried fruit at a time, you can still enjoy its high nutrient content. Two or three pieces of dried fruit as a snack or mixed into your trail mix is fine. Then let your body deal with that fructose (fruit sugar) load before you add any more.
Drink Plenty of Water
You should always drink plenty of pure water when you eat anything that has been dried to make sure your internal fluid levels aren’t compromised. You should also always drink plenty of water if you eat anything that contains sugar because it will help to flush excess sugar out of your body more quickly.
So the verdict is: Yes, organic, natural dried fruit is good for you, and the benefits definitely outweigh the risks for normal, healthy people. Dried fruit is great provided you can exercise self-control and eat it moderately. But if you don’t think you can stop at five pieces or less, you should probably avoid it all together.
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice. Check out her 4 foods to never eat for breakfast video to lose more than 18 lbs in 3 weeks.
Do you eat dried fruits? What dried fruits do you eat?
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