The answer is simple. When you dry fruits, you lose more than just water. You also lose nutrients. For example, when it comes to berries, much of their uniqueness is derived from their phytonutrients. Flavonoids like peonidin, petunidin, malvidin, and many others found in berries are susceptible to damage from heat, light, oxygen, and time-since-harvest. While some drying processes are harsher than others, no drying process can leave the phytonutrient content of these berries unchanged.
Since fruits lose water (and therefore volume) during the drying process, their nutrient, calorie, and sugar content become concentrated once they are dried. When you eat a handful of dried fruit, you are consuming more calories than you would if you ate that same amount of fresh fruit.
For example, one-quarter cup of dried apricots contains about 75 calories; for that same amount of calories you could actually enjoy a whole cup of fresh apricots. In contrast to fresh fruits, which I would place in the moderate sugar category, I would classify dried fruits as high-sugar foods (using the apricot example, the one-quarter cup of dried apricots actually contains more sugar'17.4 grams'than the entire one cup of fresh apricots, which contains 14.3 grams. While dried apricots do offer some benefits, fresh apricots are more concentrated in several vitamins and minerals because the commercial process of drying fruit in large quantities is very hard on some nutrients. The following chart illustrates some examples:
|Nutrient||Fresh Apricot Halves||Dried Apricot Halves|
|Calories||74 (1 cup)||313 (1 cup)|
|Vitamin A (IU/calorie)||40.1||15.0|
|Vitamin C (mg/calorie)||0.209||0.004|
The other thing to be aware of with commercially dried fruit is the addition of other ingredients, notably sweeteners. These are usually
always added to dried cranberries (and oftentimes other berries) since cranberries are very tart. In this example, I'd suggest looking for dried cranberries sweetened with a natural sweetener such as apple juice concentrate rather than refined sugar or corn syrup.
With the home dehydrating of fruit, however, it's a different story. A home dehydrator does nothing more than blow warm air up through the fresh fruit, and it's not nearly as harsh on the nutrients. The fruit is still "dried" and lasts longer than fresh fruit, but using a home dehydrator is gentler on the fruit than commercial processing. Even though home dehydration is not a bad way to go from an overall nutrient standpoint, it still causes some concern from a sugar and calories standpoint. Sometimes we might end up eating a lot more dehydrated apple slices, for example, than the amount of apple we would have eaten if we had a fresh, organic, whole apple in our hand. The chewing and whole experience of eating can also be quite different.
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Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Nieves Jr, C, et al. Immunity and antioxidant capacity in humans is enhanced by consumption of a dried, encapsulated fruit and vegetable juice concentrate. J Nutr. 2006; 136(10):2606-10.
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