Pros and Cons of Dried Fruit



Learn the pros and cons of dried fruit so you can make smart choices and decide which fruits you want to dehydrate at home! Dried fruit provides nutrients but too much can be unhealthy (like too much of anything).

happy hiker with a bowl of trail mix

Raisins and apricots are the usual go-to goodies when we want a bite of fruity sweetness but I want to help you understand why dried fruit might seem deceptively sugary but how it still holds its place in a balanced diet. Operative word: balanced.

TOP Frequently Asked Questions:

Is dried fruit healthy?

Yes, when eaten in proper amounts, i.e. eaten "mindfully." They can increase your fiber intake and they're packed with antioxidants. But - dried fruit is also loaded with sugar and calories, so overdoing it can lead to some issues. Enjoy dried fruit in moderation and ideally, pair them with other healthy foods.

Is dried fruit gluten-free?

Yes, dried fruit is naturally gluten-free. How so? Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Since dried fruit does not contain any grains, therefore it does not contain gluten. Here are some (dried) fruits that are gluten-free:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Strawberries

Regular plain old dried fruit with zero additives is gluten-free and makes it a healthy snack option for those of us on a gluten-free diet.

Moderation is still recommended - even though it's natural fruit - since dried fruit is higher in sugar due to the dehydration process.

Watch out for "added ingredients" on the package's label (if you buy pre-packaged dried fruit, that is) as some manufacturers may have added oats or cereal extracts - even malt-vinegar - as those do contain gluten.

Does dried fruit cause gas?

Eating a lot of dried fruit can indeed cause gas for some people.

Here are a few reasons why:

Fiber-rich - Dried fruits are condensed sources of fiber. They contain up to three- to five times more fiber per serving compared to fresh fruit. Remember, fiber is not easily digestible, so it can cause gas as it passes through our digestive systems. The high sorbitol content in some dried fruits can also act as a natural laxative.

Fructose - Dried fruit has a higher concentration of fructose than fresh fruit. Fructose is on the FODMAP list (see Question 4) that some people don't absorb well, causing the partially-digested fruit to ferment in the colon - which produces gas.

Sulfur dioxide - Some dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, and raisins are treated with sulfur dioxide as a preservative when you buy pre-packaged dried fruit. Sulfur dioxide can cause gas and bloating in sulfur-sensitive individuals.

Chewing and swallowing - As you know, dried fruit is sticky and dense. We may easily swallow larger pieces that we didn't chew properly, making it harder to digest, therefore causing more gas.

Portion sizes - It's easy to overeat dried fruits since their condensed nature tricks us into thinking we haven't eaten "that" much. Overeating dried fruit can increase gas.

So in summary, fiber, fructose, sulfur dioxide treatment, and condensed calories can make dried fruit a gas-producing food for some people who are prone to gassiness.

Moderating portions and drinking plenty of water can help reduce undesirable gas and bloating when eating dried fruit.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols... (and makes me happy I'm NOT narrating this in an audiobook).

In simple terms, FODMAPs are a group of short-chained carbs that some folks have trouble digesting. They include fructose (found in fruit), lactose (found in dairy), and polyols (like sorbitol) found in some artificial sweeteners.

For the record, foods high in FODMAPs include:

  • apples
  • beans/legumes
  • garlic
  • honey
  • onions
  • mangoes
  • milk
  • wheat

and the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and mannitol.

So in summary, FODMAPs are particular types of carbohydrates that can be hard to digest for some folks, causing gas, bloating, and other GI issues. Reducing FODMAP intake can provide relief for those sensitive to them. Consult a dietician for guidance.

What is Dried Fruit?

Dried fruit is simply fruit that has been dehydrated either by natural methods, i.e. "the sun," or mechanical methods, i.e. "a food dehydrator," (see the Nesco and Excalibur brands that I use).

When you dehydrate fruit, the water evaporates and it leaves behind a nutrient-dense version of the fruit. That makes sense, right?

So, ounce per ounce of fresh fruit versus dried fruit - "dried" will outweigh the "fresh" in sugar content. Keep that in mind.

Dehydrating fruit does not remove the sugar; only the water!

The Good Stuff (Antioxidants) in Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is pretty darned sweet as we all know, but that doesn't stop it from packing a nutritional punch when it's included in a balanced diet.

happy antioxidants

Good Antioxidants (aka Polyphenols)

There are several types of polyphenols including flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, and stilbenes, each with their own set of health properties.

The polyphenols (antioxidants) in dried fruits can help fight against harmful free radicals in the body and work wonders in lowering inflammation in our bodies.

The fiber in dates and prunes famously help us "go number two," assists our digestion, and lowers our risk of disease - all due to the antioxidants they contain.

Candied Oranges - a no-no

Dried Fruit vs. Candied Fruit

Many people have asked me if dried fruit is the same as candied fruit. Nope. Even though both types of fruit have been dehydrated, dried fruit is 'naturally' sweet.

Candied fruit is soaked in a sugary syrup before dehydrating! Beware! (My dad used to love candied oranges...)

Obviously, the candied variety has tons more sugar and boosts the calorie count which is important to note if you're on a calorie-counted/restricted diet.

The Pros and Cons of Dried Fruit Consumption

Here's a Rundown of the Pros and Cons:

PRO: Dried fruit is easy to tote around and is a great snack for the great outdoors (or indoors!)
CON: Dried fruit contains more calories than fresh fruit - and you can easily eat too much of the dried variety... (ask me how I know!)

PRO: Dried fruit is fiber-rich and improves gastrointestinal health.
CON: Folks with diabetes need to watch out where dried fruit is concerned due to its high sugar content which creates unwanted sugar spikes.

PRO: Raisins and prunes provide natural sweetness with artificial (or added) sugars.
CON: For those on low-carb (keto) diets, youi'll probably ditch the dried fruit due to its high-carb content!

PRO: Dried fruit can give us a quick energy boost due to the natural sugars it contains.
CON: But you can't enjoy an energy boost if it's not stored properly! It can develop fungi - and that's not fun, guys. (Sorry, couldn't resist). See how to safely store dehydrated goodies here.

Dried Fruit Tips for Diabetics

While we've covered a lot of the pros and cons of dried fruit - here are a few more tips for diabetics and (pre-diabetics) to ponder:

  • Unsweetened dried fruits are best, as they have no added sugars. Look for no sugar added, no artificial sweeteners or preservatives when buying store-bought dried fruit.
  • Some of the lowest sugar (dried fruits) are cherries, cranberries, unsweetened apples, and pears. A 1⁄4 cup serving has around 15-20 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Stick to smaller portions: 1-2 tablespoons per serving of dried fruit, paired with a protein or a healthy fat, helps control blood sugar level spikes.
  • Avoid dried fruits with added sugars such as sweetened cranberries, mangoes, pineapples, and bananas. Sadly, these contain a much higher amount of carbs and sugar.
  • Mind your GI - fruits like dates, raisins, and figs are higher on the glycemic index and will affect your blood sugar levels more.
  • Stay well-hydrated when eating dried fruit to prevent sugar spikes. The dehydration process of drying fruit concentrates natural sugars.
  • Dehydrate your own fruit: grapes, apples, bananas, and more here.

Here's How to Check Your Blood Glucose Level:

Test your blood sugar levels 1-2 hours after eating dried fruit to see your individual tolerance levels.

Check out this Prodigy Glucose Monitor Kit at Amazon.com*

Overall, unsweetened dried fruits eaten in very small portions can fit into a diabetic diet - again, in moderation.

Pay attention to your portion sizes. If you're not sure, consult a registered dietician who can help identify the best portion sizes and options for you.

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no price increase to you. Read disclosure here.

Wrapping Up The Pros and Cons of Dried Fruit:

Eating dried fruit "every now and then" certainly isn't harmful, sugar-wise. But for those with diabetes, be extra careful with the quantity you consume.

To keep a healthy balance, try making trail mix with our recipe below!

Stir in some mixed nuts (for protein) with your dried fruit (cut up the bigger pieces of apricots, for instance) and there you go. Remember, the protein from the nuts will help balance out the sugar in the fruit.

Other dried fruits that are perfect for a trail-mix blend are raisins and dates.

Simple Dried Fruit and Nut Trail Mix Recipe

Trail Mix in a bowl - recipe below

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1⁄2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1⁄2 cup unsweetened dried cherries
  • 1⁄2 cup raisins
  • 1⁄4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional: Stevia-sweetened 55% cocoa)

Reduce SUGAR even more with these Lily's Dark Choc baking chips with Stevia.

I eat 'em all the time... (well, not ALL the time! ... You know what I mean!)

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no price increase to you. Read disclosure here.


Instructions:

  1. Mix together the almonds, cashews, and pepitas in a bowl.
  2. Add in the dried cranberries, cherries, and raisins.
  3. Mix in dark chocolate chips, if desired. (If desired? Ha!)
  4. Store trail mix in an airtight container.
  5. Enjoy 1⁄4 cup-size servings (in small bags or containers) for hiking, work snacks, or for on-the-go energy.

Try different dried fruits and nuts to suit your taste buds.

Think about walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, dried banana chips, dried mango, or dried coconut. Jeez, now I'm gettin' hungry.

Enjoy this nutritious homemade trail mix!

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