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Is Dried Fruit Healthy? A Complete Guide

Is dried fruit as healthy as fresh? Is it healthy for people with diabetes? For toddlers? What are the healthiest dried fruits? Read on for answers to all your dried fruit questions.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #602
The Quick And Dirty
  • Dried fruit is just as nutritious as fresh fruit and can be more convenient.
  • People who eat more dried fruit tend to have higher intakes of fiber and potassium.
  • Unless you have an allergy, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit are perfectly safe to consume.
  • Serving sizes for dried fruit are usually half the size of a serving of fresh fruit.
  • Dried fruit can contribute to tooth decay, so brush or chew a stick of sugarless gum after a snack.

Dried fruit such as apricots, apples, raisins, and prunes can be a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth than reaching for a candy bar or dessert. And a recent study finds that people who eat more dried fruit tend to have a higher intake of certain important nutrients including fiber and potassium. They also have healthier diets overall.

Interestingly, dried fruit consumption also tended to increase calorie intake on the days when dried fruits were consumed. Dried fruits are, after all, a much more concentrated source of calories and sugar than fresh fruit. But despite this observation, dried fruit consumption was also linked to lower body mass index (BMI), lower waist circumference, and lower blood pressure. 

Dried fruits are a much more concentrated source of calories and sugar than fresh fruit.

The researchers also note that most Americans do not eat the recommended servings of fruit and that dried fruit, which is more portable and shelf-stable than fresh fruit, could help to fill that gap. But how does dried fruit compare to fresh fruit nutritionally? 

Is dried fruit as nutritious as fresh fruit? 

Any form of processing, including dehydration, will cause some nutrient losses—particularly antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. (Dehydration has little to no effect on minerals or fiber content.)  

For all intents and purposes, dried fruit can be considered nutritionally equivalent to fresh fruit.

Keep in mind, however, that fruits and vegetables lose nutrients just sitting around on the counter or in the fridge, too. But that doesn’t mean they lose all of their nutritional value. And the recommended intakes for fruits and vegetables take nutrient losses into account when determining what's required to meet your nutrient needs.  

For all intents and purposes, dried fruit can be considered nutritionally equivalent to fresh fruit.

If you have a dehydrator at home, dehydrating fruits (and vegetables!) can be a great way to preserve excess produce and to create nutritious, portable snacks. 

What about freeze-dried fruit?

In addition to the more traditional styles of dried fruit, freeze-dried fruits have also become more popular and offer many of the same advantages in terms of portability and shelf-life. Freeze-dried fruits tend to be crunchy instead of chewy and include fruits (like berries) that aren't as commonly dehydrated. Just check the ingredients to be sure they don't contain any added sugars or oils. 

Should you avoid dried fruits made with sulfites?

Sulfites are often added to dried fruits to preserve their color and texture. Apricots dried with sulfites are soft and orange, for example, while apricots dried without sulfites are hard and brown. 

Sulfites also occur naturally in foods and they do not pose a problem for the vast majority of people.

Sulfites also occur naturally in foods and they do not pose a problem for the vast majority of people. But about one in every 100 people has an allergy or sensitivity to them. If you have asthma, your risk of developing a sulfite allergy is closer to one in ten. 

If you're allergic or sensitive to sulfites, then you'll obviously want to avoid dried fruits and other foods that contain them. But if you don't, they are perfectly safe to consume!

Is it safe to give dried fruits to toddlers?

For children under a year old, dried fruits can be a choking hazard.

Nutritionally speaking, dried fruits have the same benefits for young children as fresh fruits. But for children less than a year old, dried fruits can be a choking hazard. By the age of a year, your toddler should be able to handle dried fruits (cut into appropriately-sized pieces) just fine. 

Is dried fruit OK for people with diabetes?

Fruit and dried fruit are both perfectly fine for people with diabetes and can be a source of valuable nutrients (especially if deployed as an alternative to a less nutritious sweet treat). However, because fruit provides most of its calories in the form of sugar, it's important to keep an eye on the amount you're consuming. Make sure you're accounting for any fruit or dried fruit in your carbohydrate count for the day or meal. And although it may be fine to enjoy a couple of servings of fruit per day, it's probably best not to consume more than one serving of fruit or dried fruit at a time.

This brings us to a very important point ...

What's a serving of dried fruits?

Because much of the water has been removed, dried fruits are a more concentrated source of sugar and calories. As a result, a portion of dried fruit is going to be substantially smaller than a portion of fresh fruit. 

A portion of dried fruit is substantially smaller than a portion of fresh fruit.

As a general rule, the serving size for dried fruits is about half as big as the serving size for the corresponding fresh fruit. So, while the serving size for fresh apricots, apples, and grapes is about 1/2 cup (or 125 mL), the serving size for dried apricots, apples, and raisins is just 1/4 cup.

If you want to get a little more specific, the Diabetic Exchange system created by the American Diabetes Association defines a serving of fruit as 15 grams of carbohydrates and 60 calories. Depending on the fruit, that may be a bit more or less than a half-cup for fresh or a quarter cup for dried.

Dried fruit and your teeth

Dried fruit such as apricots, apples, and prunes—in moderation, of course!—can be a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth than reaching for a candy bar. But healthy or not, these sweet treats can still cause tooth decay. In fact, because they tend to be sticky and often a bit acidic, they can be even worse for your teeth than some candy!

Brushing your teeth after snacks will keep your pearly whites in good shape. If you can’t brush, chewing a stick of sugarless gum is almost as good. Brushing your teeth and/or having a piece of gum can also curb your urge to keep on snacking!

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.