Picking fresh carrots from underground and biting into them directly after washing, plucking guavas, mangoes and melons directly from the plant and consuming it or boiling your garden-fresh vegetables and eating them sounds alluring and praiseworthy. Rather than to prepare fresh green garden salad simply by chopping all the vegetables and eating we have always had a passion for dressing them up as much as possible- sprinkling freshly crushed pepper, chopping cilantro leaves, squeezing lemons, sprinkling salt & chilli powder over guava pieces and so on. Isn’t it better to relish the original taste of each fruit and vegetable at least sometimes? Indeed cilantro, lemon and pepper are good for health and should be included in our healthy diet routine but consuming food in its natural state does have its perks. This not only saves immense time but also helps you understand each of the produce’s authentic taste and flavour. So, what about dried fruits and what’s their role in influencing our overall health? It goes without saying that to the common man dried fruits are nutrition-rich as they are only dried versions of our healthy fruits which are ought to be consumed regularly. But the arrival of too many varieties of healthy foods in our supermarket aisles confuse us rather than comforting us as it has become an immense challenge to the health-conscious customer to choose those foods that have authentic nutrition value as denoted in their food packaging and nutrition labelling.
The Traveller’s Best Friend
My friend often comes for outings with a box full of different varieties of dried fruits and even offers us the same during snacks. Every now and then she pops a raisin or a dried apricot besides eating an extremely portion-controlled lunch which mainly constitutes of vegetables. It isn’t news that fresh fruits are always welcome in our diet plans but getting hold of them anywhere you go or anytime of the day is sometimes impractical and dried fruits come to our rescue here.
Dried fruit are fruits that have almost all of their water content removed through drying methods. The fruit undergoes an enormous size shrink during this process resulting in a smaller, energy-dense fruit the most common of which are raisins, prunes, figs, dates and apricots. We also do have dried versions of mangoes, pineapples, cranberries, kiwis and strawberries available but these mostly exist as sugar-coated foods that contain ample sweet content.
So, when dried fruits are simply dried versions of the same natural fruit what is there to debate on their goodness and health benefits? Indeed these dried versions contain the same nutrient content as fresh fruits, one serving can fulfil the daily recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals (but there are exceptions as vitamin C content of dried fruits are much reduced than fresh ones) and are rich sources of fibre compared to fresh ones thereby existing as a great source of antioxidants. Basically, removing water content from fruits ups the fibre and nutrient contents which is good but too much of it can also cause cramps and bloating when the individual is not used to high intake of fibre-rich foods. At the same time, it also reduces serving size to about 75% (https://time.com/4082532/dried-fruit-prunes-sugar-raisins/).
A Green or Red Signal
Shrinking reduces the size of the fruit and such smaller serving size can easily promote overeating of the fruit among individuals. We rarely eat 3-4 fresh apricots or figs but consuming even a dozen of their dried versions doesn’t make us feel so full-one, due to the smaller size and two, as their water content has been completely drained out.
At the same time, there is enriched fibre content in dried versions of the fruit and increased phenol (antioxidant) levels too. The presence of fibre is beneficial in tackling heart disease, obesity and even certain types of cancer while polyphenols lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and degenerative brain diseases in individuals. Cancer, is one of the leading causes of death presently and there is clear-cut evidence that diet and lifestyle changes can avert 40% of cancer deaths. We have results of a systematic review published in the ‘Advances in Nutrition’ journal that clearly showed that increasing dried fruit consumption to 3-5 or more servings per week has beneficial health effects including reducing the risk of certain cancers such as the pancreas, prostate, stomach, bladder and colon. It also found that higher intake of dried fruits controlled risk of cancers of the digestive system (https://www.nutfruit.org/health-professionals/news/detail/dried-fruit-intake-may-help-in-the-prevention-of-digestive-cancers).
But, the scariest effect of overconsuming these dried fruits is the presence of abundant sugar in many of them. Such abundant sugar content can lead to digestion problems, the body experiences added stress trying to process all the sugar at once and inflammation is also on a rise. Already fruits are natural sources of sugar and dressing them with more sugar syrup makes them equivalent to a candy! It is recommended to always choose those dried fruits that don’t have added sugars in them.
Another important concern is overconsumption of dried fruits given their smaller sizes that can lead to greater consumption risks. This can lead to calorie addition and weight gain in course of time. But if you are looking out for weight gain tricks then dried fruits are the go-to foods as they are energy dense and provide the perfect platform to gain weight and stay healthy.
While raisins have always been our favourite dried apricots are popularity as they are rich in calcium (strengthen bones), magnesium (relief from muscle spasms and cramps), keep cravings in check, contain iron that improve blood health and hence are recommended for pregnant women in moderation (https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/dried-apricot-khubani-dr-harshvardhan-health-benefits-6150446/). HCA, a salt made from the rind of dried fruits is proposed to help reduce the absorption and increase the metabolism of fat, inhibit appetite and might also minimize the bad cholesterol levels.
Dried fruits are definitely a healthy choice for an evening or morning snack given that you pay close attention to the portion sizes, refrain from consuming sugar-laden varieties of the fruit and ensure that their intake don’t promote unnecessary weight gain.
Fruits that Help in Gaining Weight Naturally: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/fruits-that-help-in-gaining-weight-naturally/articleshow/70127128.cms
10 ‘Healthy’ Foods that Are Actually Bad For You: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2019/03/30/10-healthy-foods-that-are-actually-bad-for-you/#21dc9ddd1aa6
Ten Weight Loss Supplements You Need to Know About: https://www.forbes.com/pictures/eigl45hgff/hca-or-hydroxycitric-acid-extract-from-dried-fruit-2/#639c3a3b9c28
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