Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Basics of Dried Fruits

The availability of dried fruits in supermarkets, coffee shops, and even gas stations has steadily risen over the past few years.  Not only are dried fruits increasing in the marketplace, but many health conscious folks are making dried fruits in their own kitchen.  Many people question whether dried fruits are a healthy option.  Let's explore the basics of dried fruits to better understand if they are a healthy alternative to fresh fruit!
  • A Dried fruit means the removal of free water through natural sun or special dehydrators in the fruit.
  • Dried fruits retain the majority of the nutritional value of fresh fruits.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture recognizes dried fruits as fresh fruits in their standardized recommendations (myplate.gov)
  • Traditional dried fruits are devoid of added sugars.
  • During the process of fruit dehydration and water removal the natural sugars become concentrated, which may lead to high calorie content (per volume)  compared to natural fruits.
  • Raisins are the most widely dried fruit available and consumed.
  • In some cases dried fruits are infused with a sweetener - for example: cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries are some examples.  This is done because these fruits lack a natural sweetness.
  • Dried fruits are resistant to spoilage and have relatively long shelf-life, therefore they are convenient to transport.
Here are some tips when eating dried fruits:
  • Try to choose dried fruits that have an ingredient list available
  • Only choose dried fruits that are 100% pure fruit.  The ingredient list should only include the fruit.  Here is a great example (and my favorite dried fruit)

  • Try to avoid dried fruits that include sugar on the ingredient list.

  • When in doubt about the sugar content of dried fruit make your own.  Most fruits can be dried when baked at 150-200 degrees fahrenheit for 2-8 hours. See a previous post "Chewy Apple Chips" for one easy recipe.
  • Dried fruits can be mixed with salads, trail mix, cereal, and many other foods.

Bottom line: Dried fruits are a healthy and convenient way to increase your daily fruit intake.  They are excellent snacks and treats for all ages.
(Sources: Wikipedia.com, eatright.org)

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