Eating Dehydrated Fruit Dried fruit consumption is in fashion. There is an increasing supply of this type of products in supermarkets. Where before we only found blueberries, raisins and dried apricots, now there is pineapple, kiwi, apple, coconut or dried mango. Their use has spread because they are no longer only consumed on time as a salad topping, but many people use them as snacks, sports equipment and even as a substitute for fresh fruit, but are they just as healthy? How many calories do they provide? Can you eat freely and without limits?
As CuídatePlus Inmaculada Luengo, a dietitian nutritionist at the European Medical Institute for Obesity (IMEO), points out, “dehydrated fruits are fruits that undergo a drying process to eliminate their water content”. Formerly “the fruit was dehydrated so that it did not spoil, being an ideal preservation method for those places where fruit was not available all year round”.
The process to obtain it is as follows: “The fresh fruit is heated in drying tunnels, where hot air is passed with the controlled relative humidity so that the external water evaporates and the interior migrates by capillary action towards the exterior . Through this process it is possible to lengthen the useful life of the food, since it hinders the development of spoilage reactions by pathogenic or altering microorganisms and, in addition, it reduces its size and weight, which facilitates its packaging, transport and storage. ”Explains María del Mar Montesinos Chacón, nutritionist, coordinator of the Nutripharma Nutrition Service and pharmacist in Almería, in more detail.
In principle, as Luengo points out, “all fruits can undergo this process”, however, “there are some that are better than others, such as apples, bananas, kiwi or mango, compared to other more fibrous ones, like oranges or tangerines ”.
But not only the industry can make this type of products, but it can also be done at home. “We can make dehydrated fruit at home and make sure it is 100% healthy,” says Luengo. “The first thing to do is cut the fruit into thin sheets and place them on the baking sheet with baking paper.”
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To achieve the most optimal result, the ideal is to “turn on the oven at around 60ºC and keep it at this low temperature so that they gradually dry out.” Also “you can dry the fruit in the sun or use a homemade dehydrator,” adds the expert.
In Later’s opinion, this would be the best option since “those that are purchased may contain added vegetable fats to give them better flavor,” he warns, so he recommends “read the label of these foods well and see that in the list of ingredients only the fruit in question is included ”.
After this drying process, it is worth asking if the fruits lose their properties, remain or, on the contrary, increase. According to Montesinos, “the nutrient content is similar to that of fresh fruit, although with a more concentrated content.” By reducing its water content, “all nutrients such as sugar, vitamins and minerals are concentrated,” Luengo reaffirms.
It is important to keep in mind that “they preserve all the nutrients of fresh fruits with the exception of water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, which is reduced almost entirely after the dehydration process,” says Montesinos.
“If the original fruit has a high content of a nutrient, the corresponding dried fruit will have multiplied the content of this nutrient at equal weight, as a consequence of the elimination of much of the water,” says José Luis Sierra Cinos, member of the group of Nutrition and digestive from the Spanish Society of Family and Community Pharmacy and professor of the Nutrition Degree at Isabel I.
What does change a lot with this process are the organoleptic characteristics of the fruit. “There are changes in color, due to browning reactions; in the flavor, by the concentration of the sugar, and in the texture, since they become more gummy due to the loss of water ”, details the nutrition expert from Almería.
The fact that dehydrated fruits have a higher concentration of nutrients does not mean that they have more calories, in fact they have the same calories as fresh fruit, however, “by reducing the size there is a risk of consuming more servings of this product, larger portions and, therefore, more calories than necessary, “says Montesinos.
For example, “a serving of dried fruit (25 grams) is equivalent to 100 grams of fresh fruit, so consuming 100 grams of dehydrated fruit would be equivalent to eating about 4 fresh apples and, therefore, consuming an extra 150 kcal”.
In Sierra Cinos’ opinion, “the two types of fruit can be healthy when consumed properly. It is necessary to take into account the caloric and sugar contribution that many of the dehydrated fruits suppose and to adapt their intake to these circumstances.” What must be taken into account is that dehydrated “does not replace the portions of fresh fruit that must be consumed daily”.
It is true that “they are more satiating”, indicates Luengo, due to their high fiber content (they provide from 5 grams of fiber for every 100 grams of food in the case of raisins to 18 grams per 100 grams in the case of plums ) “But if we eat a lot, this could lead to weight gain.” Therefore, his advice is “not to use them as a substitute for fresh fruit but to contextualize the intake.”
According to this, dehydrated fruits would be “an excellent option for athletes, since they have a high energy content, and about 100 grams provide between 250-300 kcal”. The nutritionist also recommends its use in children, infants and pregnant women, “since, undergoing the drying process, increases its safety.” And, although it seems contradictory, it also recommends them in weight loss diets, however, “taking into account the amount consumed and the daily physical activity of each person.”
In the case of diabetics, Luengo advises against uncontrolled consumption of dehydrated fruits, due to the risk of consuming more sugar than necessary, but, he clarifies: “If they are going to be consumed, the ideal is to do it accompanying the consumption of protein and fat so that digestion is slower and emptying into the stomach as well. In this way, the pancreas can secrete insulin more progressively ”.
As for the recommended daily amount, Montesinos advises consuming “around 25-50g, which is equivalent to about 50-70 kcal”. “No more quantity is recommended due to the concentration of nutrients and sugar, although everything will depend on the level of activity of each person.” This amount could also be increased in “people who want to gain weight or those who have a very high energy expenditure”.
“We must remember that they must be limited and, if possible, not exceed 10% of the total calories consumed,” warns the Sefac expert. The best time of day for consumption would be “as a mid-morning snack or snack, since in addition to being a very nutritious option, it is ideal for moving and consuming between meals, so that it can constitute or be part of a good healthy snack ”, indicates Montesinos.
Also, they would be a good option for a breakfast before a workout, “since this type of fruit provides energy immediately.” In addition, “they can be a good replacement to reduce the use of sugar in the kitchen, since a puree of dates or raisins bring moisture, flavor and a lot of color to a dish, without the need to add caloric and low-nutritive sweeteners”.
In the case of dinner, the expert advises to limit its consumption, “since that extra energy that they suppose will not be used and our body would store it in reserve tanks (fat deposits)”. For his part, Luengo advises “take them before or after sports training or as snacks mid-morning or mid-afternoon” and warns: “Although they are rich in calories and satiating, they are not substitutes for main meals. If this were done, the consumption of other more interesting foods such as vegetables and legumes would be displaced ”.