Before There Was Candy There Was Dried Fruit

Raisin - from BING free images

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.

Calories

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

Nutrients

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.

Antioxidants

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.

I love reading comments!  Please share ideas and recipes by posting a comment.  Thanks so much for reading my blog.

Best,

Kathy

Katherine Isacks, Registered Dietitian, LLC

For more information about calories and weight control, please read my articles published at MyNetDiary and test drive their super diet and exercise tracker.

7 Responses

  1. Steve
    Interesting - I visited the A Grand Finale website and did not see any fruitcake. I even searched for fruitcake and friut cake. No hits.
    • Hi Steve - thanks so much for reading my blog and letting me know about the link issue. I provided 2 links - one to the general home page of "A Grande Finale" and one directly to the Brandied Fruitcake page. Both links work when I click on them (I just checked again). Sorry you had problems. Here's the link for Brandied Fruitcake: http://www.agrandefinale.com/proddetail.php?prod=HAGF0023 Hope that works for you.
  2. Jason
    Are the nutrients and sugar in dried fruits more bioavailable than in regular fruit? Do we lose anything valuable from the fruit when it is dried?
    • Hi Jason, The nutrients and sugars are not more bioavailable in dried form vs. their fresh fruit form. However, there could be some degradation of thiamin (one of the B vitamins) if the fruit is processed with sulfur or possibly loss of some vitamin C or other B vitamins with high heat blanching before drying. Generally, I recommend using dried fruit in small portions to add variety to the diet while satisfying a sweet tooth as opposed to using it as a fresh fruit replacement. Fresh fruit is satisfying, likely to contain maximal nutrient content, and is much lower in calories per ounce than dried fruit. Plus, your dentist would argue that fresh fruit is much better for your teeth! :) Great question - thanks so much! Best, Kathy
  3. Anne Zander
    Great article but then I have liked them all. I really enjoy reading your blog. You have done a great job and your topics are always so current. Keep up the great work Later, Anne
    • Hi Anne, Thanks so much - I'm happy you like the blog! I love writing it. Best, Kathy
  4. Martha Midgette
    Hi Kathy. Right on about "Before there was candy there was dried fruit." Here's my recipe for Sugar Plums, a modern take on an old dried fruit candy. At 22 calories each, I count 5 is a serving of fruit. 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds (5 ounces, 320 cal) 1 cup dried cranberries, no sugar added (1.3 ounces, 120 cal) 3 dried prunes (1 ounces, 100 cal) 6 dried apricot halves (1.3 ounces, 60 cal) 2 dried peach halves (1.8 ounces, 80 cal) 2 dried per halves (1.8 ounces, 75 cal) 2 dried figs (1.3 oz, 100 cal) 2 dried dates (1.3 ounces, 100 cal) 1/2 cup dried apples (1.7 ounces, 160 cal) 3/8 cup honey (320 cal) 1/4 cup powdered sugar (120 cal) 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (90 cal) 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon anise extract Change the mix of fruits as desired, making sure you keep some sweet, some tart, some dry, some moist. Cut up larger pieces of dried fruit. Pulse almonds and dried fruit in a food processor 20-25 times. Mix powered sugar and spices in a bowl, then add fruit/nut mixture. Mix. Add honey and anise extract. Mix with you hands to ensure it's sticky throughout. Wash hands. Put the 3T granulated sugar in a little bowl. Form marble-sized balls with tips of fingers and rolling between palms. Roll in sugar. Makes 70. Freeze for interesting chewiness. Note: anise takes like black licorice. If you don't like that, try another extract like almond or lemon.