Nutrition of dried vs. fresh fruit
Originally Published: January 26, 2007
Do dried blueberries have the same health benefits as fresh blueberries?
Some research has shown dried blueberries to be as much as four times higher in antioxidants than their fresh counterparts. However, because most drying processes cause significant loss of nutrients and concentrate sugar and calories, fresh fruit is a better bet in terms of nutrition. Here's why:
- Pretreatments in the drying process, such as the addition of sulfur dioxide, help protect some nutrients while degrading others. Sulfur dioxide preserves vitamins A and C but destroys thiamine. (Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and also helps regulate metabolism, and vitamin C is important for growth and repair of body tissue. Thiamin [vitamin B1] helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy.)
- Often, fruits or vegetables are briefly boiled or steamed before drying to speed up the drying process and kill disease-causing microorganisms. This blanching helps to preserve carotene and thiamine but causes the loss of ascorbic acid (vitamin C). (Carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, the importance of which is described above.)
- Exposure to light and oxygen can further degrade nutrients.
- High heat drying may reduce the Protein Efficiency Ratio, a measure of the quality of proteins in food, making it more difficult for the body to use the protein in the fruit.
On the up side, besides antioxidants, dried fruit has a few other benefits. It's high in fiber, so it may help relieve constipation, lower blood cholesterol, and control diabetes. It's also a healthier alternative to other sugary snacks and a good source of quick energy for athletes or others who burn lots of calories. Many dried fruits are also high in iron, potassium, and selenium — all important nutrients for maintaining healthy blood and muscles. They're especially helpful to people who suffer from anemia, so you might consider a daily handful of raisins if anemia is a concern for you.
To sum things up, both dried and fresh blueberries have nutritional benefits. Dried blueberries can be a tasty treat, but dried fruit is not a substitute for the one to three cups of fresh fruit recommended every day. Maybe you can use some dried blueberries and fresh bananas to spice up your morning bowl of bran flakes, especially if the alternative is a bowl of Fruity Sugar Bombs.