Are Dried Fruits a Healthy Alternative To Fresh Fruits?

Dried fruits are fresh and tender fruits in their origin that have been subjected to a drying process ( dehydration ) giving way to what we know as dried fruits.This process reduces their size by turning them into a small dried fruit with condensed energy.Among the most common dried fruits, we have  figs, dates, plums, peaches, and raisins .you should not mistake them for nuts that are naturally dry, such as hazelnuts, almonds or pine nuts.

Dehydration of food and, in this case, fruit, is a conservation method used since ancient times.The processes of fruit dehydration are diverse: natural drying in the sun, although in this case, the fruit is susceptible to contamination and exposed to rodents and insects, and drying by hot air, which is the method used to dehydrate the fruit at the industrial level.As an added advantage the drying process allows foods to be preserved with all of their nutrients.

However, the product is reduced up to five times during the dehydration process. When losing moisture, the fruit volume is greatly reduced, so that to have a good amount of some dehydrated fruit, you will need several kilos of fresh fruit.

This increases the good period (shelf life) and inhibits the proliferation of microorganisms and eliminates a significant part of the water contained in about 20% of the original weight of the treated variety, although this depends on the fruit used.

To give us an idea, if we dry a peach that weighs 100 grams, the result will be the same peach weighing 20 grams. The decrease is tremendous, but you have to consider the large proportion of water that most fruits have.

Dried fruit vs. Candied fruit

Do not confuse naturally preserved fruits with those preserved in sugar. The glazed fruits are marinated in syrup until thoroughly impregnated and preserved by sugar, such as jams. Sweet dry fruits known as candied fruit are partially dried fruits that are also allowed to absorb sugar to keep them maximum.

Dried fruit has unique properties, and the first and most striking is its appearance concerning its state before drying it. The most popular dried fruits, such as those mentioned above, are those that are often used in traditional recipes, both in salty dishes, for example as stuffed roast poultry or to incorporate in sauces, as in sweet recipes, cakes or puddings.

Normally, although it is not a fully dehydrated fruit and in certain stews is going to rehydrate during the cooking, it is advisable to favor this hydration before including it in the culinary preparation.

Is dried fruit good for you?

Mercat de la Boqueria, sweets and dried fruits
Mercat de la Boqueria, sweets and dried fruits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a study published in “Nutrition Research” in June 2012, eating dehydrated fruit is associated with a low body weight and consuming more nutrients in food.As we can see, dried fruits, while possessing more natural sugars and more calories per 100 grams than fresh fruit, also concentrate right nutrients that can favor our diet and health care.

The evaporation process results in a higher concentration of carbohydrates, fiber, proteins and mineral salts. They are an excellent source of calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. Some contain copper and manganese. They are also rich in vitamins A and B, although lacking D and E and have little vitamin C because it is lost during drying.

They provide vital energy. A ration of dehydrated fruit (25-50 grams) contributes 50-70 Kcal to our food intake due to the high concentration of sugars (40-65 grams per 100 grams). The most energetic are raisins (278 Kcal / 100 g) followed by dried figs (248 Kcal) and plums (172 Kcal / 100 g). They are therefore highly recommended to compensate for part of the energy we consume in our daily work,

dehydrated fruits

Dried fruits are less perishable than fresh fruits because of their preservation method, which can help particular conditions such as long trips, excursions or even extreme survival situations.

Many of the fig varieties are delicious when they are dry. It takes 4 to 5 days to dry in the sun, and the longer they are drying, the tastier they are. The dried figs can be preserved between 6 and 8 months.

They are high in group B vitamins. They are also rich in  peptic fiber , used to remove toxins from the body. They contain a high level of sugar and many minerals, including iron and calcium, in addition to polyphenols. It has been shown that fig extracts have antibacterial and antitumor properties.

Disadvantages of dried fruit

The amazing benefits of dried fruits

Dried fruits contain a high fiber content and significant amounts of antioxidants; however, they are full of calories and sugars, which can be a problem if consumed in excess. Some dried fruits also may contain  sulfites , substances added to preserve color and may cause certain reactions in some people.

But the added chemicals may not be the worst part of the consumption of dried fruits. To make them tastier, the vast majority of companies add sugar to those fruits that are not naturally sweet, such as blueberries, strawberries or blackberries.

To give you a little idea: one of those boxes of raisins contain up to 25 grams of sugar, almost all the daily amount recommended for an adult. Although raisins bring us great benefits, this great disadvantage throws us back without a doubt.

How to dry fruit at home

As a recommendation, we can tell you that you can make your own dried or dehydrated fruits at home from scratch and without additives harmful to your health.Several methods are used to dehydrate fruits and vegetables, however, at home level, we can do it using the oven, electricity or solar energy.

For all those who are interested in preserving their fruit and vegetables, a dehydrator is without a doubt a handy device but it can also be more expensive or take up a lot of space in the kitchen, and it only makes sense to have it if you dehydrate food very often.

Here is the simplest and most natural method to make dried fruit: Cut them to your liking, leaving them 15 minutes in lemon juice then place the fruits on a large tray or platter and put them in the sun all day, flip them around and be sure to put a mesh so that the bugs or dirt do not touch the fruit. At night, leave them in a cool, dry place.

There is another method to dehydrate the fruit much faster and clean: the oven. To do this, place the tray with the fruit slices and heat at low temperature, flipping them occasionally. It should often be checked so that it does not burn.

The time varies with each fruit and the amount of water they have, taking between 3 and 6 hours.If you keep them in cardboard boxes, they can last for up to one year in your pantry, as long as they are dry and you will get your healthy snacks.

In summary, dried fruits can be a healthy alternative as long as they are consumed in moderation and included in a balanced diet.

DIY Dried Fruit

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