This year has opened our eyes to the importance of our health, and there's no doubt that diet is one of the most significant ways to either help or hurt it. While some foods are more obviously healthy than others, some foods seem to cause confusion. One question many people are asking is, are dried fruits and vegetables healthy?
While many people know that farm-fresh produce is one of the healthiest things we can get our hands-on, many people question if their dried counterparts offer the same health benefits. With recent data from the CDC showing that roughly 90% of Americans are not getting their daily servings (1), it’s clear that we need to be eating more fruits and vegetables. Understanding the differences between dried and fresh produce will help you know which is better for you and your health.
1: Added Ingredients
Many people prefer eating fruits and vegetables because they are whole foods, meaning that they consist of a single ingredient. Many processed foods contain a lengthy list of various artificial flavors, preservatives, etc., which can cause health issues when eaten often or in high amounts (2). Dried produce, mainly fruits, are sometimes paired with added ingredients to make them more desirable to consumers.
Added sugars are common in many dried fruits, such as mangos and papaya. Adding the extra sugar makes the fruit taste better - which keeps customers coming back for more. However, sugar is one of the most unhealthy things we can eat and is closely related to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and even depression (3). Another ingredient commonly added to dried produce is sulfur dioxide. It is used as a preservative to help maintain the color and flavor of dried foods. The problem is that sulfur dioxide can be harmful to small children, or people with asthma, as it is known to cause inflammation (4). Luckily, sulfur dioxide can be harmless to most people when eaten in small amounts.
*added ingredients are only found in some dried fruits and vegetables. It is important to read nutrition labels if you are concerned about added ingredients being in your food*
2: Water Content
Aside from diet, hydration is one of the essential components for maintaining your health. Research shows that about half of US adults drink enough water each day (5). One of the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables is that they contain water. Many foods such as cucumber, watermelon, and pineapple are made up of over 95% water! And, while dried fruits and vegetables are not entirely void of any water, the drying process does remove most of the water.
You might not think that the water in our food has much impact on our hydration, yet recent findings show that this might not be the case. Dr. Murad’s research at the University of California, Los Angeles, shows how the water we eat works differently in our bodies than the pure water we drink. He explains that the water in fruits and vegetables is encased in cells, which slows the absorption and keeps the water in our bodies for longer (6). Therefore, if you think you need to boost your hydration, it may be best to opt for fresh fruit and veg instead of dried!
Currently, 92% of the population is deficient in at least one essential nutrient. Many people, therefore, wonder if dried fruits offer the same amount of nutrients as fresh. Luckily, the answer is (mostly) yes! A benefit of dried fruits is that they do not lose any of their key micronutrients when dried. However, because the dried options have most of the water removed, the nutrients are more condensed (8). This simply means that the fruits or vegetables’ vitamins and minerals get shrunk down and are offered in a smaller package than before.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all dried produce is grown equally. Produce grown with herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and GMO products may not be as nutritious as their organic equivalents. Therefore, we recommend researching where your dried fruits and veggies are coming from, to make sure it is good quality!
Fiber is another one of the most significant benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps regulate gut health, remove toxins from the body, and increase metabolism, which aids weight loss and even impacts our mental health. Fortunately, dried produce has just as much fiber as fresh(9)! If you are worried that you aren’t getting enough fiber, then adding fresh OR dried produce to your diet will be a step in the right direction. If you are unsure if you need more fiber, look for fiber deficiency signs such as constipation, weight gain, and fatigue (10).We believe that dried fruits can be a healthy addition to your diet. Everyone's lifestyle is different, so you need to find what works best for you – and what is most important is merely eating more produce altogether. We use dried fruits and vegetables in our candy FAVES because we wanted to provide people with whole fruits and veggies that won’t go bad on the shelf!