Monday, March 2, 2009

Dried or Fresh Fruit - Your Pick

Have you ever had the experience of buying a bag of dried mangos, thinking only to indulge in a piece or two, and five minutes later find yourself walking over to the trash can to throw away your empty package? I certainly have. Same with dried cherries, dried blueberries, dried figs, dried plums, dried apricots, raisins . . . heck, even Craisins. But just because they’re fruit of the dried variety doesn’t mean we should let down our guard when consuming these delightful snacks. That’s why I've done some research with many a reliable online source to see what the pros and cons of dried fruits are – and ultimately, to figure out if we should just stick to the natural kind.

photo by Jonathan Coveney

So we all know why we have dried fruits in the first place. Before big bad chemicals came into existence, drying – or in other words, sucking the moisture out of the fruit – was an effective method of preservation. However, that moisture-sucking leaves the fruit with more concentrated levels of sugar (due to sugar formation during the drying process) and therefore denser calories. What’s more, because of its heightened sweetness and condensed size, the dried version becomes easier to over-consume. A quick look at some calorie comparisons between the natural and the dried (provided by gives us some answers as to which may be preferable for those who shy away from weight gain.

Fresh apricots: three, 50 calories, 2.1g fiber
Dried apricot: Six pieces (40g), 90 calories, 3g fiber

Fresh blueberries: 75 berries, 58 calories, 2.4g fiber
Dried blueberries (sweetened): ¼ cup (75 berries), 150 calories, 4g fiber

Fresh grapes: 1 cup, 62 calories, 0.8g fiber
Dried grapes (raisins): One small box (1.5 ounces), 129 calories, 1.6g fiber

Fresh cherries: 27 cherries (without pits), 116 calories, 3.9g fiber
Dried cherries: 1/3 cup (27 cherries), 160 calories, 1.5g fiber

Fresh: Raw mango (1 cup sliced), 107 calories, 3g fiber
Dried mango: 12 slices unsweetened (76g), 212 calories, 2g fiber

One thing you may notice from this information is that although dried fruits tend to be higher in calories, they tend to also be higher in fiber. Dried fruits, despite their high sugar levels, do have their nutritional merits in the form of higher fiber content and greater antioxidant content, as well as more complex carbohydrate levels.

So in the end, it’s really up to you. Dried fruits are nutrient-dense, but they’re also calorie-dense. They taste good, but there’s a danger of eating too much of them at once.
I do concede that dried fruit is super convenient in terms of preparation and mobility, as opposed to fresh fruit that you have to peel or slice. Oh, and the longer shelf-life is another benefit, of course.

But personally, my philosophy is to pick dried fruits over other snack choices such as chips and cookies, but when possible, pick fresh fruit over dried fruit. And when picking the dried fruit, I try to choose the ones that have less added salt and sugar, or preferably, all-natural. Now you just have to keep that in mind on your next 2 a.m. trip to Fresh Grocer.

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