If regular fruit is healthy, dried fruit should theoretically be no different. They basically just suck out the water, right?
But the thing about dried fruit is that, because it essentially becomes a miniature version of the fruit it once was, you can easily end up eating way more fruit than anyone should ever have in a single serving.
As Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, explains, “When dried fruit is just dried fruit, it can be a healthy snack. It can provide a quick dose of natural sugar and calories. However, do note that since it’s dehydrated — the water has been removed, but not the nutrients — the calories concentrate significantly, while the portion size decreases significantly. Since many fruits are 80 percent water or more, when you dehydrate them, they compress to about a quarter of their size, while maintaining most of the nutrients and calories. So, just know that a portion size of dried fruit is roughly a quarter cup, whereas the same fresh fruit might be one cup.” A quarter cup, mind you, is about the size of a very small handful.
The Best Dried Fruit To Eat
The other thing to keep in mind is that dried fruit is naturally high in sugar — a tiny handful of dried mango delivers 20 grams, or five whole sugar cubes — and some companies add even more. “It really depends on which brand and whether or not they add sugar to their packaged dried fruit,” Hunnes says of choosing the best dried fruit. For example, one small handful of dried mango with added sugar contains 26 grams of sugar — only one gram shy of a Snickers bar.
The last thing you should watch out for is that some producers add preservatives called sulfites to their dried fruit. This preserves the fruit and prevents discoloration, but some people are sensitive to sulfites, and experience stomach cramps, skin rashes and asthma attacks after consuming them. You’ll know if you’re one of these people, but either way, sulfites are worth avoiding where you can.
All of this is to say that dried fruit has the potential to be healthy when eaten in very small amounts. It can provide fiber, nutrients and antioxidants, and the natural sugars in dried fruit (without added sugar) are less bad than the crap in sodas, for example. However, dried fruit should absolutely not be eaten by the handful, like many of us do. Even just a couple pieces is plenty. You wouldn’t eat seven mangos in one sitting, would you?