Dried fruit – Mother Nature’s original candy! As a dietitian with a serious sweet tooth, I would like to dedicate this post to dried fruit. A powerhouse of calories, dried fruit will reward you with all the sweetness you crave along with nutrients and antioxidants. Consider it a delicacy and practice portion control unless you are trying to gain weight.
Dried fruit is fruit that has had most of its water removed so it is both smaller and lighter compared to its fresh fruit counterpart. This is especially useful if you need to travel light and want a nonperishable source of carbohydrates in the form of sugar.
We tend to eat more dried fruit than we would fresh fruit. If you have ever eaten dried mango, then you know exactly what I mean. I find it exceedingly difficult to limit myself to three pieces of dried mango (about 160 calories) whereas I would not have any problem eating only one fresh mango (about 135 calories). There is no mystery why. Fresh fruit is more than 80% water by weight – this helps us feel full and contributes to our daily water requirement.
To add fuel to the fire, dried fruit often has added sugar which is largely unnecessary since it is already high in naturally occurring fruit sugars. You can choose to purchase dried fruit without added sugar, but you will have to look a little harder to find it. I generally find dried fruit without additives (like sulfur or sugar) at natural foods coops and grocers.
Dried fruits are calorie dense – the calories per ounce will always be higher than their fresh fruit versions. See the table below for calorie content of dried vs. fresh fruit by portion size as well as by ounce. Data was obtained from MyNetDiary food and exercise tracker.
|Item||Calories||Calories per ounce|
|Dried mango, 3 larger pieces (1.5 oz)||160||107|
|Fresh mango, 1 fruit (7.3 oz fleshy part)||135||18|
|Raisins, 1 small box or ¼ cup packed (1.5 oz)||129||86|
|Grapes, 1 cup (5.6 oz)||110||20|
|Dried apple rings, ¼ cup (1.4 oz)||120||86|
|Fresh apple, 1 medium (4.9 oz)||72||15|
Unlike most candies, dried fruit packs its calorie punch with a nutrient kiss. The type and amount of nutrients will vary with the type of fruit. I offer this information to persuade readers to choose dried fruit over candy to satisfy their sweet tooth. Dried fruit also provides natural dietary fiber – something that candy does not. As well, some of the naturally occurring sugars in fruits (e.g. in prunes) have a laxative effect – this is especially helpful for regular bowel movements.
As with fresh fruit, many dried fruits are great sources of antioxidants. ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scores reflect a food’s antioxidant activity: higher scores mean more antioxidant activity. Take a look at the table of ORAC scores published by The Nutrient Data Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture. Even after accounting for appropriate portion size (e.g. 30 – 45 grams vs. 100 grams), dried fruit is still a good source of antioxidants.
Long Live Fruitcake!
I giggled when I read last week that the staff of my favorite pastry shop, A Grande Finale, planned to march down Main Street in Louisville, Colorado to bring back fruitcake. I missed the march, but I couldn’t resist visiting the shop to try the Brandied Fruitcake. It was fantastic – exotic dried fruits in a perfectly not-so-sweet cake matrix, all imbued with brandy. Eating the fruitcake brought back very happy memories of my mom – she also made a wonderful fruitcake every Christmas. Thank you, A Grande Finale, for doing justice to this holiday favorite.
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