The healthy snack is a great sweet treat, but make sure to read the label first and be mindful of portion sizes.
Snacking on a handful of dried fruit is a glorious combination of sweet decadence, packed in a good-for-you treat. After all, dried fruit is fruit. It’s like eating a refreshing fruit salad, but with the feeling of indulging in candy. But it poses the question: is dried fruit as healthy as a real piece of fruit?
The truth is, it’s complicated. There are a lot of benefits to consuming dried fruit. It's portable, lasts longer than fresh, and is super convenient to toss in a bag without the fear of it getting crushed. Many dried fruits provide high-quality fiber, which helps to prevent heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. Dried fruits also contain antioxidants like phenol, which has been linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
However, dried fruit has some downfalls. Though all the nutrients are the same as the original fruit, it’s incredibly easy to overdo it. Dried fruit is essentially dehydrated fruit, meaning it’s the same slice of apple without the water. Most fruits reduce by 75 percent when dehydrated, meaning you need to cut back on your serving size by 75 percent.
Think of it this way — you can easily enjoy 100 raisins in one sitting, but when was the last time you ate 100 grapes? And some fruits, like prunes or dried apricots, are the entire fruit in one tiny bite. Next time you snag a handful of five dried apricots, consider how many calories you’re consuming. Sure, you get all the fiber and antioxidants of that fruit, but you also consume all those calories and sugar.
In the end, dried fruit is a fantastic, sweet alternative to candies and desserts. It’s a healthy snack for when you can’t bring a bag of grapes or a whole apple with you. Be conscious of serving sizes when packing on the fruit, and double-check labels before you hit the checkout counter. Dried fruit shouldn't look pretty or be dusted with added sugar. Be particularly aware of naturally tart fruits like cherries and cranberries that typically have added sweeteners to make them more palatable. The ingredient list should just read what fruit is dehydrated, and the package should specifically say there are no sulfites to promote freshness. Dried fruit isn't quite the same as fresh fruit, but snack in moderation and it's a great, healthy treat.