Is dried fruit good for us or is it just a big sugar hit?

Image: iStock.

From dried apple to apricots and all the dates in between, dried fruit has become a snack favourite among the health conscious.

But for all the healthy labelling and convenience, are they really the wonder snack you think they are? Sadly, not quite.

The main problem is the serving size. Because dried fruit is dehydrated, the water is removed from the fruit and it shrinks but the sugar and nutrient amount stays the same, meaning the concentration of sugar and nutrients increase – significantly.

“Generally the water content is around 70 to 85 per cent of the fruit, so when the water is removed, the serving size is 20 per cent of the weight with the same energy and nutrient content. As a result, your serving size in grams of dried fruit should be about one fifth of the serving size of the full fruit,” explains Integrated Fitness and Nutrition nutritionist Tom Fitzgerald.

To put that into perspective, a large handful of apricots is equivalent to eating five or six full pieces of fruit. (Looking for a healthy lunch idea? This quinoa recipe ticks all the boxes. Post continues after video.)

According to health and fitness space Studio PP founder Stephanie Prem, some dried fruits can also have sugar added to the outside for taste as well as preservatives and oils to give them a longer life, so it’s even more important to enjoy in moderation. (Post continues after gallery.)
 “A couple of dried fruits obviously won’t kill you but most of us have a sweet tooth and can’t contain ourselves and need more than a handful,” she says.
But although the sugar content is quite high in dried fruit – which is the case for regular old fruit too – you definitely don’t have to give them up completely.
“They’re still healthy because of the nutrient content, but people must be wary of the energy content. It’s easy to over-consume them, because of the small serving sizes and sweet taste,” advises Fitzgerald.
Image: iStock
As well as serving size, Prem recommends carefully selecting the type of dried fruit you eat.
"Peaches, apples and prunes would be my pick. They have fewer calories but are high in fibre which are great if your elimination system needs a kick," she says.

"If you have the self control to keep it to a few pieces (potentially mixed with some protein like nuts) then great, go ahead! If you know that's not you then I suggest avoiding it completely - grab yourself an apple instead."

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