Dried fruit is a great ingredient to have on standby for all sorts of dishes – from porridge toppings to tagines and stews. We asked nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to explain the nutritional differences between dried and fresh fruit, and her top tips to fit dried produce into a balanced diet.
Is dried fruit as healthy as fresh produce?
There are many health benefits to eating dried fruit, but there are some significant differences in the nutritional value when compared to fresh produce.
Raisins and grapes, for example, contain similar amounts of protein and fat as each other. Raisins contain about 3g of protein and 1g of fat compared to grapes which contain around 1g protein and negligible fat per 100g. The main difference is in their carbohydrate content, which is all natural sugars. Raisins contain 62g of carbohydrates per 100g compared to grapes which contain just 16g per 100g.
However, raisins also contain more fibre at nearly 3g per 100g compared to grapes at about 1g per 100g. Fibre is important to support healthy digestion and can prevent heart disease, but it also helps to slow down the digestion and absorption of some of the naturally occurring sugars.
As dried fruit contains less water and is therefore a more concentrated source of nutrients, it tends to be higher in most vitamins and minerals per 100g when compared to their fresh counterparts. It is also significantly higher in calories per 100g.
How is dried fruit processed?
Generally, dried fruit are made by drying them out in the sun or using a dehydrating machine, which allows a lot of the water content to be evaporated.
How to choose the healthiest dried fruit
Check the label when buying dried fruit. Some brands will soak the dried fruit in juice to add to the sweetness, but this will also increase the sugar content. Also check for any other added extras such as salt, or if they have been coated in anything like yogurt or chocolate, as this will add calories and sugar.
How can I eat dried fruit as part of a balanced diet?
Although the sugar in dried fruit is natural, it may still contribute to tooth decay. It’s best to eat dried fruit with meals or with protein-rich foods, such as yogurt or nuts, rather than snacking on it throughout the day. If you are worried about the natural sugar content of dried fruit, keep an eye on portion sizes and consume alongside some protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds or yogurt, to help fill you up for longer and further slow down the release of the naturally-occurring sugars.
As dried fruit contains less water, the calorie content per 100g is much higher than for fresh fruit – it’s worth keeping an eye on portion sizes if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. For those who need to gain weight or who have smaller appetites (such as the elderly), dried fruit can be a great addition to boost your overall calorie intake.
How much counts as one of you five a day?
A 30g portion of dried fruit counts as one of your five-a-day – this is roughly equivalent to 80g of fresh fruit. 30g is approximately three tablespoons.
Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Healthy recipes using dried fruit
Fruit & nut breakfast bowl
Crunchy oat clusters with peach & yogurt
Dried fruit energy nuggets
Spaghetti with walnuts, parsley & raisins
Couscous with pine nuts, coriander & raisins
Apple & penne slaw with walnuts
This page was published on 30 April 2020.
All macronutrient and micronutrient analysis: McCance Widdowson’s Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset 2019.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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