If you're overindulging in dried fruit, you may want to dial it back. Find out why in this slideshow.
A Little Background
Dried fruit is exactly what it sounds like: dried, dehydrated fresh fruit. Dried fruits undergo a series of processes before packaging, contingent on the particular fruit. Most are pretreated to keep their color and dipped or blanched in a variety of substances such as ascorbic acid, pectin or juices.
Once washed, pitted, sliced, blanched and dipped, the fruit makes its way to the drying process (in the sun or oven). Then, they are packaged and shipped.
First, let's start with the pros.
Dried fruits are high in fiber, an essential ingredient for maintaining a healthy digestive system. They can help relieve constipation, lower blood cholesterol and keep your stomach full and satisfied.
Dried fruits are also high in potassium and iron. Depending on the specific drying process and treatments used, sulfur dioxide, a common additive, can preserve vitamins A and C. Unfortunately, sulfur dioxide also has the negative effect of destroying thiamine.
Now, on to the cons.
Many dried fruits have added sulfites. For those who are allergic, look for organic dried fruits.
Between the pretreatment and dehydration process, a lot of the nutritional value can be zapped.
Dried fruits are calorically dense.
One cup of fresh apricot halves has 74 calories, while about 1/4 cup of dried apricot halves (its equivalent) has 313 calories (more than four times the amount).
Similarly, one cup of fresh grapes has 60 calories, while about 1/4 cup of raisins has 130 calories!
All in All...
While nibbling on dried fruits can be a great alternative to munching on cookies, crackers, candies and other snacks, consume them in moderation; just because they're fruit, doesn't mean you should eat them in bulk. When eaten in large quantities, the calorically dense snack can contribute to weight gain.
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Stick to fresh fruit as much as possible, and when you still want dried fruits, keep your eyes peeled for organic varieties, without added sugars.
Try the following tasty fresh fruit recipes.
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Grilled-Fruit Bruschetta with Honey Marcarpone
Caramelizing the fruit on the grill intensifies its flavor. The grilled bread served alongside soaks up the sweet juices.
This fresh-tasting citrus relish will perk up even the most jaded appetite, and it goes well with chicken, fish or pork. Serve it with a simple salad of Boston lettuce, scallions and cilantro and Herbed Whole-Wheat Couscous.
Dried fruits have both pros and cons when it comes to your health. Many people assume that opting for dried fruits is always a smart choice. While it can be a good alternative to chips and candy, there are a few things you should know before reaching for that box of raisins.