Dried vs. fresh fruit

Author: 

Micaela Karlsen, MSPH

Question: 

Does dried fruit have the same nutritional value as its fresh counterpart?  I understand it has no water, and is therefore more calorie-dense, but does it have the same antioxidant and vitamin levels?

Answer: 

You are right that dried fruit is more calorie dense, per unit weight, because the water has been removed and the material is more dense. On the whole, dried fruit could be considered a very lightly processed food. There is a way to compare the nutrient content of various foods, but before we do that, let’s review some principles of a healthy diet.

The less animal food and processed food you eat, the less risk you will have of developing chronic disease. The more whole, plant foods you eat, the greater your protection against chronic disease. The total dietary pattern is what most determines health outcomes, so whether you are eating some amount of dried fruit or no dried fruit at all, if your overall diet is composed of whole, plant-based foods with plenty of fresh ingredients, the odds for good health are high.

To look up the nutrient content of any food, visit the USDA Nutrient Database. You can browse the list of 8,000 foods on file, or search by keyword. Because "dried fruit" is not listed, for an example we can look up "dried apricot", which will give us 3 choices. This example will use "Apricots, raw" and "Apricots, dried, sulphured, uncooked".

You asked about antioxidants and vitamin levels. The nutrient content changes between fresh and dried fruits, but this varies depending on which fruit you are talking about.  The chart below compares three  micronutrients that are considered to be antioxidants are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A).

Per 100.0 g Vitamin C (mg) Vitamin E (mg) Vitamin A, RAE (µg)
Summary of antioxidant differences between fresh and dried apricots
Apricots, raw 10.0 0.89 96
Apricots, dried, sulphured, uncooked 1.0 4.33 180

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, Vitamins C and E are much greater in fresh apricots, but not so with Vitamin A. This is just one example so, it's important not to take it as being representative of all dried vs. fresh fruits. It's interesting to contrast apricots with this study: Dried fruits: excellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants The researchers here were interested in antioxidant activity of figs, and they seem to be quite enthusiastic about their results. This study is not included in the PBR library because its focus is too narrow and the conclusions are out of context (their conclusions state that Americans could stand to increase their dried fig consumption because dried figs contain fiber. Well, so do all plant foods). However, it does show you that there are differences between the two types of fruits.

Here is another comparison chart for "Apples, raw, without skin" and "Apples, dried, sulphured, uncooked"

Per 100.0 g Vitamin C (mg) Vitamin E (mg) Vitamin A, RAE (µg)
Summary of antioxidant differences between fresh and dried apricots
Apples, raw, without skin 4.0 0.05 2
Appless, dried, sulphured, uncooked 3.9 0.53 0

 

You can continue to look up more foods using the USDA Nutrient Database and compare them. Just remember that a variety of whole plant-based foods is what is most important.

Comments

Raisins vs. dates

atm28vacations's picture

I've been using raisins lately in recipes that call for dates because they're cheaper. Is there a large nutritional difference?

Re: Raisins vs. dates

As long as you are eating a whole food, plant-based diet with plenty of variety, there is no need to worry about the specific nutritional content of one particular food over another.

Choosing raisins over dates because of cost is a great reason to eat them.