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The question: Is dried fruit healthy or fattening?

The answer: Many people think that dried fruit is loaded with calories because it's high in sugar. Neither is true.

Per serving, most types of dried fruit have no more sugar or calories than the fresh version. And dried fruit is a good source of fibre, iron, potassium and antioxidants.

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Because drying fruit removes its water content, the portion size shrinks by about three-quarters. If you dehydrate one cup of fresh apricots, you'll get 1/4 cup of dried apricots. (1/4 cup of dried fruit is considered one food-guide serving of fruit.)

As for calories and sugar, they're pretty much equivalent. One cup of fresh apricot halves has 74 calories and 14.5 grams of naturally occurring sugar; 1/4 cup of dried apricots halves has 78 calories and 17 g of sugar.

Of course, if you eat more than one serving (1/4 cup) of dried fruit, the calories will add up. And overeating died fruit is easy to do. It tastes great and it's less filling than fresh fruit due to the lack of water content. If you're watching your calorie intake, measure out 1/4 cup of dried fruit before eating. (Don't eat right out of the package!)

Some types of dried fruit, like cranberries, are sprayed with sugar before drying, which bumps up the calories. (One cup of fresh cranberries has 4 g of sugar and 46 calories; 1/4 cup of dried sweetened cranberries has 93 calories and 20 g of sugar.) Without added sugar, dried cranberries would taste as tart as fresh cranberries.

The nutrient content is similar between fresh and dried fruit. The main difference is that the dried version is often lower in vitamin C. That's because the vitamin deteriorates when exposed to the dry heat necessary for dehydration.

Still, dried fruit is a much more nutritious snack than junk foods like potato chips, chocolate bars and candy. And its nutrient content certainly beats out refined flour snacks such as crackers, cereal bars and pretzels.

Some dried fruit – golden raisins and apricots – are treated with sulphur dioxide before they're dried. This preservative allows dried fruit to retain their original colour instead of darkening during the drying process. However, sulphur dioxide can trigger asthma-like reactions in some people. Organic dried fruit does not contain the chemical; it's darker in colour and has a slightly different favour, often more like the fresh version.

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Dried fruit is a healthy snack. Enjoy it in a homemade trail mix or eaten on its own.

Raisins, dried cranberries, and chopped dates, figs and apricots are also delicious added to plan yogurt, oatmeal, whole grain breakfast cereals or homemade muffins and loaves.

Dried fruit details

  • Apricot halves, 1/4 cup: 78 calories, 17 g sugar, 2.4 g fibre, 378 mg potassium, 0.9 mg iron
  • Cranberries, sweetened, 1/4 cup: 93 calories, 20 g sugar, 1.7 g fibre, 12 mg potassium, 0.2 mg iron
  • Date (medjool), 1 piece (24 g): 66 calories, 16 g sugar, 1.6 g fibre, 167 mg potassium, 0.2 mg iron
  • Figs, three pieces: 63 calories, 12 g sugar, 2.4 g fibre, 171 mg potassium, 0.5 mg iron
  • Raisins, 1.4 cup, not packed: 108 calories, 21.5 g sugar, 1.3 g fibre, 272 mg potassium, 0.7 mg iron
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