There are nutritional differences between dried and fresh fruit because dried fruit is more concentrated. Dried fruit has a much higher calorie density compared to fresh fruit. Fresh fruit is mostly water, therefore, the calorie amount is lower.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes is associated with a lowered risk and mortality of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
Research (1) suggests simply increasing fruits and vegetables in the diet can help lower risk and prevalence of these diseases.
Even though this simple change has the potential to positively affect health, most people don’t get the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables.
Only about 1 in 10 American adults are estimated to meet the daily recommended fruit intake of 1.5 cups of fruit for women over 31 years and 2 cups of fruit for men over 31 years.
Therefore, most people can benefit from adding more fruit to your diet whether dried or fresh. It is important to note a cup of fresh fruit is considered a serving, but only a half cup of dried fruit is considered a serving.
There are nutritional differences between dried and fresh fruit because dried fruit is more concentrated. This is a main reason why dried fruit is a smaller serving size compared to fresh fruit.
Fresh fruit vs dried fruit for calorie density
If you are solely looking at calories based on equal weights, dried fruit has a much higher calorie density compared to fresh fruit. Fresh fruit is mostly water; therefore, the calorie amount is lower. As fruit is dried, the water leaves making the fruit more calorically dense.
For example, a cup of grapes is only about 62 calories. A cup of dried grapes, raisins, can be over 400 calories. The amount of grapes in a cup is fewer than the amount of raisins in a cup. The only difference is the water content.
Therefore, if you are trying to eat a high volume of food that is low in calories, eating more fresh compared to dried fruit will allow you to have a larger portion size for a certain amount of calories.
Fresh fruit vs dried fruit for added sugar
All fruit is a natural source of sugar. However, canned fruit can have even extra sugar added to it for preservation. Fresh fruit that has not been processed will not contain ADDED sugar.
However, sometimes dried fruit can have added sugar to it. This may also be a reason why dried fruit can be higher in calories.
Check dried fruit ingredient labels to see if it has added sugar in it. Sugar can hide in other names such as: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, etc.
Even if dried fruit doesn’t have added sugars, they are still a more concentrated source of sugar compared to fresh fruit.
Therefore, portion control is important especially for those watching calorie or carb intake (like those counting carbohydrates for diabetes).
Fresh fruit vs dried fruit of nutrient density
Both fresh and dried fruit can be considered nutrient dense. Dried fruit can actually have higher levels of vitamins, minerals and fiber based on an equal weight of fresh fruit. In fact, dried fruit is considered a good source for potassium.
A half cup of dried apricots provides about 22% DV of potassium which is one of the most concentrated sources of potassium.
Dried fruit is also notoriously high in fiber, and eating large quantities may cause digestive distress.
Is dried fruit healthy?
Both fresh and dried fruit should be added to your diet for health benefit. Fresh fruit can be lower in calories and higher in water content.
Dried fruit can be more concentrated source of energy and nutrients. For this reason, the serving size of dried fruit is smaller.
In some instances where you want to increase calories and nutrient density, dried fruit may be the preferred choice.
For example, some athletes who are trying to gain weight in a healthy manner may want to eat larger portions of dried fruit not because dried fruit is fattening- it just has a higher calorie density.
It also provides a concentrated source of nutrients that may be beneficial for athletes.
If eating dried fruit helps you increase your overall fruit intake, eat more dried fruit. Getting more dried fruit instead of no fresh fruit can be beneficial for health.
As with any food group, it is recommended to eat a variety of fruits. If you find yourself falling into the same rut with food choices, make a conscious effort to change up your foods within each food group to get a variety of nutrients in your diet.
A 2011 study (2) examined the effect of dried fruit intake with diet quality and indicators for obesity risk.
Researchers found those who ate dried fruit had significantly lower BMI and waist circumference compared to those who did not eat dried fruit.
How to get more fruit in your diet (fresh or dried)
Since almost 90% of American adults don’t get the recommended fruit intake, finding ways to add fruit to your diet can be helpful for most people.
Add fruit to your diet any way that is conducive for you; it doesn’t have to look one way. In fact, finding a variety of ways to add different fruits is recommended.
Here are some ideas on how to easily add more fruit to your diet.
Take fruit as a snack instead of chips or other packaged snacks
This can take some planning to get into the habit of packing fruit with you, but the health benefits are worth it. Before you walk out the door in the morning, grab portable fruits you can take to eat as a snack instead of unhealthy snack choices.
Examples of easy, portable include: bananas, apples, Clementine, small box of raisins or other cut up fruits in a to-go container.
Add fruit to dishes
Add fruits to salads, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal to your main stay foods. If you are used to eating cereal in the morning, you can keep your cereal just add fruit.
If you normally eat salads with dinner, try adding some fresh berries or apples to your salad.
Have fruit for dessert
Fruit is naturally sweet. A bowl of grapes, berries, watermelon, etc. can hit your sweet tooth while also providing some antioxidants, fiber and a lower calorie alternative.