Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Dried Fruit Bad For You?



Short answer

Dried fruits are nutritious but have higher sugar content and calories per serving than fresh fruits due to dehydration. They can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes, making moderation important. Sulfites used as preservatives can cause reactions in sensitive individuals. When choosing dried fruits, opt for no added sugars and sulfite-free options. Enjoy dried fruits mindfully as part of a balanced diet while being wary of portion sizes.



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Long answer

Sugar Content and Glycemic Index of Dried Fruit

Understanding the sugar content and the glycemic index (GI) of dried fruit is crucial when considering its impact on health. Dried fruits are often touted as healthy snacks due to their nutrient concentration. However, their sugar content can be significantly higher per serving compared to fresh fruit, as the dehydration process removes water and leaves a denser sugar content.

For example, a cup of fresh grapes contains about 15 grams of sugar, whereas a cup of raisins, which are dried grapes, contains around 86 grams of sugar. This stark difference exemplifies why portion control is important when consuming dried fruits. Here's a breakdown of the sugar content in common dried fruits per 100g serving:

  • Raisins: 59g
  • Dried apricots: 53g
  • Dried cranberries (unsweetened): 65g
  • Dried figs: 48g
  • Dates: 64g

Note that some dried fruits are coated with additional sugar or syrup before drying, further increasing their sugar content. Always check the ingredient list for added sugars if you're monitoring your sugar intake.

The glycemic index, which measures how quickly a food item raises blood sugar levels, is also essential to consider. Foods with a high GI can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, which can be of concern for individuals with diabetes or insulin resistance. The GI of dried fruit varies, but in general, tends to be higher than in their fresh counterparts:

  • Dried dates: High GI (over 70)
  • Raisins: Medium to high GI (around 64)
  • Dried apricots: Low to medium GI (around 31 when uncooked)
  • Dried prunes: Low GI (around 29)

It's important to recognize that while the GI provides a valuable indication of a food's potential impact on blood sugar levels, it doesn't take into account the amount typically consumed. The glycemic load (GL), which factors in the serving size, might be a more practical measure when considering the real-world impact of foods on blood sugar levels.

Incorporating dried fruit into a balanced diet requires mindfulness of both sugar content and GI. While dried fruits offer dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, moderation is key to preventing unintended increases in caloric and sugar intake. Including them with foods that have protein or healthy fats can help stabilize blood sugar levels and mitigate rapid spikes.

Individuals with specific dietary concerns should consult a healthcare professional or a dietitian to understand the role of dried fruit in their diet better. As always, the quality of dried fruit matters — choosing unsweetened, unsulphured, and organically grown options can make a difference in the overall health impact these snacks may have.

Preservatives in Dried Fruit: Sulfites and Health

Dried fruits are a popular snack due to their convenience, long shelf life, and concentrated source of nutrients. However, to maintain color and extend shelf life, many commercial dried fruits are treated with preservatives known as sulfites. Understanding the impact of sulfites on health is crucial for making informed dietary choices.

Sulfites, which include sulfur dioxide and other sulfates, serve as antimicrobials and antioxidants in dried fruits. They inhibit the growth of molds, yeasts, and bacteria, and prevent browning that can occur during the drying process. The most common fruits treated with sulfites are apricots, raisins, figs, prunes, and dates. While sulfites can help maintain the appealing appearance and edible quality of dried fruits, they can also pose health concerns for certain individuals.

For the general population, sulfites are safe to consume within the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recommended limits. The FDA considers sulfites as "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS); however, it requires that foods containing significant amounts must list them on the label due to potential health risks for sulfite-sensitive individuals.

The concern primarily arises for those with asthma or sulfite sensitivity. According to research, about 1% of the population is sensitive to sulfites, with asthmatics being at a higher risk. Sensitivity can trigger an array of reactions such as wheezing, chest tightness, hives, or in severe cases, anaphylaxis. An article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that sulfite sensitivity is a dose-related reaction, and symptoms often occur rapidly after consumption of a sulfite-containing food or beverage.

For individuals without sulfite sensitivities, it's still advisable to consume dried fruits in moderation. The preservation process concentrates not only the fruit's natural sugars but also any added preservatives, which can cumulatively lead to excessive intake if not monitored. Opting for organically certified dried fruits can be a safer choice, as these are often free from sulfites and rely on alternative, natural preservation methods such as freeze-drying.

It is worth noting that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) re-evaluated the use of sulfites in 2016 and concluded that certain population groups might exceed safe intake levels of sulfites through their diet, especially when consuming foods with high concentrations of these additives. They recommended intake should not exceed 0.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, a more conservative approach compared to the US.

Identifying Sulfites in Dried Fruits:

  • Check the ingredient list for terms like sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and potassium metabisulfite.
  • Look for labels that specifically state “sulfite-free” or “no sulfites added.”
  • Be aware that in the US, sulfites are banned from being applied to fruits and vegetables intended to be consumed raw, but not those intended for cooking or processing.

Individuals who are sensitive to sulfites or concerned about preservative consumption can take proactive steps to limit their exposure. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Purchasing sulfite-free dried fruits, often found in natural food stores or special sections within grocery stores.
  • Opting to dry fruits at home using a dehydrator or oven, thus controlling the dehydration process and ensuring no sulfites are added.
  • Experimenting with freeze-dried fruits, which do not typically contain added sulfites and retain much of the nutritional content.

Ultimately, the key to including dried fruits in a healthy diet is to be mindful of the potential addition of sulfites and to manage portions accordingly. For those with sensitivities, knowledge and vigilance in selecting sulfite-free options are essential to avoid adverse reactions.

Calorie Density and Portion Control with Dried Fruit

Understanding the concept of calorie density is crucial when incorporating dried fruit into a balanced diet. Calorie density refers to the number of calories present per unit of food weight. Dried fruits have a higher calorie density compared to their fresh counterparts because they are dehydrated, which concentrates the natural sugars and calories in a much smaller package. This densification process removes water content, typically 80-95% of the original fruit, leading to a more calorie-rich snack.

For example, where a cup of fresh grapes contains approximately 62 calories, a cup of raisins can contain around 434 calories—a significant difference that highlights the impact of dehydration on calorie content. Despite being nutritious, the high calorie density of dried fruits can contribute to excessive calorie intake if consumed without mindfulness or portion control. This is particularly pertinent for individuals monitoring their weight or trying to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.

  • A cup of fresh apples: ~65 calories
  • A cup of dried apples: ~209 calories
  • A cup of fresh apricots: ~74 calories
  • A cup of dried apricots: ~313 calories
  • A cup of fresh banana slices: ~134 calories
  • A cup of banana chips: ~384 calories

Portion control is therefore a key aspect of enjoying dried fruit in a healthy way. A sensible portion may range from 1 to 2 ounces (approximately 30 to 60 grams), which roughly equates to a small handful. It's important to pay attention to food labels as well, where portion sizes and calories are clearly listed, to avoid overconsumption.

Additionally, many health organizations, such as the American Heart Association, suggest that individuals should be cautious with their intake of dried fruits due to their concentrated sugar content, which can affect blood sugar levels. A controlled portion not only keeps calories in check but also keeps sugar consumption aligned with dietary recommendations.

Finally, it is critical to remember that not all dried fruits are created equal. Some contain added sugars or preservatives which can further increase calorie content and reduce their nutritional profile. Opt for varieties with no added ingredients to gain the maximum health benefits of dried fruits without unnecessary additives. Navigating these nuances helps maintain dried fruit as a healthy option rather than a dietary pitfall.

Fruit Calories in Fresh (per cup) Calories in Dried (per cup)
Apples 65 209
Apricots 74 313
Bananas 134 384
Grapes (raisins) 62 434

Nutritional Benefits Retained in the Drying Process

When fruits are dried, a common concern is the possible loss of nutritional value. However, the drying process, while it does reduce the water content significantly, actually retains most of the fruits' original nutrients. Here's a closer look at the nutritional benefits that are preserved during drying:

  • Vitamins: Many vitamins remain intact after drying. For instance, Vitamin A, which is important for vision health, skin maintenance, and immune function, is largely preserved in dried fruits like apricots and mangos. B-vitamins, particularly folate, are also retained to a significant extent.
  • Minerals: Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron are hardly affected by the drying process. Dried fruits like prunes, raisins, and apricots are notable for their high mineral content, which is vital for various bodily functions, including nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and RBC formation.
  • Fiber: The fiber content of fruit remains virtually unchanged when dried. Dietary fiber aids digestion, helps maintain blood sugar levels, and lowers cholesterol. For example, figs and dates provide a substantial amount of dietary fiber.
  • Antioxidants: The concentration of certain antioxidants, like polyphenols, can actually increase in fruits when they are dried. Raisins and plums (prunes) are well known for their antioxidant properties, which can combat oxidative stress and support heart health.

One should note that the drying process does reduce the content of some heat and light-sensitive vitamins, like Vitamin C. Still, the overall nutritional profile of dried fruits remains quite beneficial.

Scientific studies have documented the comparative nutrient content of dried versus fresh fruits. For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated that the drying of fruits effectively concentrates nutrients, with the notable exception of vitamin C (PubMed).

When it comes to selecting dried fruits, opt for products with no added sugars or preservatives to ensure you are getting the full benefits of the fruit in its dried form. Unsulfured varieties are preferable for individuals with sensitivities to this preservative, and organic options may also limit exposure to pesticide residues.

It's also important to consider the glycemix index (GI) of dried fruits, which is typically higher than that of fresh fruits. The dehydration process naturally concentrates the sugars, making dried fruit a higher GI choice. However, when consumed in moderation and paired with proteins or healthy fats, dried fruits can fit well into a balanced diet.

In conclusion, dried fruits offer an impressive array of retained nutrients and can be an excellent healthful option when fresh fruits are not available or for their convenience as a non-perishable snack. Remember to account for portion sizes, as the reduced volume of dried fruits can make it easy to consume more calories and sugars than intended.

Comparison with Fresh Fruit: Nutritional Losses and Gains

When considering dried versus fresh fruit, it's essential to understand that the drying process inevitably alters the nutritional profile of the fruit. The fundamental difference lies in the water content; fresh fruits are high in water, while dried fruits have had almost all moisture removed. This concentration effect has both its losses and gains from a nutritional standpoint.

Nutritional Losses:

  • Vitamin C: Water-soluble vitamins, particularly Vitamin C, are sensitive to heat and air. During the drying process, Vitamin C is largely degraded, resulting in significantly lower levels in dried fruit compared to their fresh counterparts.
  • Folate: Another water-soluble nutrient, folate, also suffers losses during drying. This vitamin is crucial for DNA synthesis and repair, and its reduced presence in dried fruits makes them a less optimal source.
  • Antioxidant Capacity: Some antioxidants may decrease in concentration upon drying. The reduction can be attributed to the exposure to oxygen and light during the process, although the impact on antioxidant levels varies among fruit types.

Nutritional Gains:

  • Calorie Density: Without water, the energy content of fruits becomes more concentrated. While this means a higher calorie count per serving, it also provides a quick source of energy, which can be beneficial for athletes or anyone needing a portable, nutrient-dense snack.
  • Fiber Content: Although the absolute amount of fiber does not increase, the removal of water means that dried fruits have a higher concentration of fiber per gram. This can aid in digestion and the management of blood sugar levels.
  • Mineral Content: Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron are not lost during the drying process and become more concentrated in dried fruit. Thus, dried fruit can be a valuable source of these essential nutrients.

It's important to note that the method of drying affects the degree of nutritional loss or gain. For example, freeze-drying may better preserve sensitive nutrients compared to traditional heat drying methods. Below is a comparative table highlighting key differences between fresh and dried fruit in terms of specific nutrients:

Nutrient Fresh Fruit (per 100g) Dried Fruit (per 100g)
Vitamin C Varies significantly by fruit type Usually much lower than fresh
Folate Present in moderate amounts Reduced after drying
Antioxidants High levels in berry fruits etc. May be reduced due to processing
Calories Low due to high water content High, due to water removal
Fiber Moderate Concentrated, higher per gram
Minerals (Potassium, Magnesium, Iron) Varies by fruit, but generally present More concentrated due to reduced volume

For those watching their calorie intake or with dietary restrictions, it's wise to consider portion sizes. Dried fruits should be eaten in moderation, as it is easy to consume too much due to their reduced volume and increased calorie density. Lastly, some dried fruits contain added sugars, which can turn a healthy snack into a less desirable one. Always check the ingredient list for unnecessary additives.

Ultimately, dried fruits are convenient and can offer nutritional benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet. The key is to enjoy them mindfully, being aware of the nutritional changes that the drying process brings.

Choosing Healthy Dried Fruit Options

Dried fruit can be a nutritious and convenient option for a quick snack or an addition to various meals. However, not all dried fruits are created equal. When choosing the healthiest dried fruit options, consider the following factors to ensure you make choices beneficial to your health:

  • No Added Sugars: Many commercially available dried fruits come with added sugars, which can significantly increase the calorie content and reduce the nutritional value. Look for dried fruits labeled as "no added sugar" or check the ingredients list to ensure sugar isn't listed.
  • Sulfite-Free: Sulfites are often added to dried fruits to preserve their color and extend shelf life, but they can cause adverse reactions in some individuals, especially those with asthma or sulfite sensitivity. Select sulfite-free options when available.
  • Minimal Processing: The healthiest dried fruits are those that have undergone minimal processing. Avoid those that are candied or coated with syrups, as these additional processes can add unnecessary calories and reduce the health benefits.
  • Variety and Moderation: Different dried fruits offer varying nutrient profiles. For example, dried apricots are rich in vitamin A, while raisins provide iron. Including a variety of dried fruits can help ensure a broader spectrum of vitamins and minerals in your diet. However, it's important to consume dried fruits in moderation due to their high sugar concentration and calorie count.
  • Organic Options: Organic dried fruits tend to have fewer pesticides and chemicals. Choosing organic can be particularly important for certain fruits where conventional farming practices use a significant amount of pesticides.

It's also worth noting that despite the loss of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C during the drying process, dried fruits still retain substantial amounts of other nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants. According to a study published in the Nutrition Journal, dried fruits can support health and nutrition as part of a balanced diet.

Provided that you are selective in your choices, dried fruits can be part of a healthy diet. Always read labels carefully and consume in reasonable portions to avoid excessive calorie intake. If you are uncertain about the best options for your dietary needs, consult a nutrition expert or healthcare provider who can guide you based on your individual health goals and requirements.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, some dried fruits are lower in sugar such as dried apricots, plums (prunes), and apples. Always check the nutrition label, as some products may contain added sugars that increase the overall sugar content.

Yes, dried fruit can be a good source of dietary fiber. The fiber content does not decrease during the drying process, making it quite concentrated in dried fruits such as figs and dates. Regular consumption, in controlled portions, can support digestive health and help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

To better preserve the Vitamin C content, fruits should be dried at lower temperatures and shielded from light as much as possible since Vitamin C is sensitive to heat and light. Consuming dried fruits that are freeze-dried rather than heat-dried can also help in retaining more Vitamin C.

The glycemic load (GL) takes into account the serving size of the food along with its GI, providing a more practical measure of how the food will affect blood sugar. Since dried fruits are often consumed in small servings due to their density and sweetness, the GL may offer a better understanding of their actual impact on blood sugar compared to GI alone.

Ask a question about Dried Fruit and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • rapid blood sugar spikes
  • chest tightness
  • wheezing
  • hives
  • potential anaphylaxis in sulfite-sensitive individuals

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of dental caries
  • potential exacerbation of diabetes symptoms
  • risk of chronic diseases with overconsumption

Ingredients to be aware of


  • rich in dietary fiber, minerals, and certain vitamins
  • potential for increased antioxidant polyphenols
  • can offer a quick source of energy

Healthier alternatives

  • fresh fruits
  • sulfite-free dried fruits
  • organically certified dried fruits
  • homemade dried fruits

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Deglet Noor Dates

  • Rich in nutrients
  • Organic snack
  • No added sulfites
  • Non-GMO
  • Vegan-friendly
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-01-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-01-2024

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