December 03, 2008

Dried Fruits and Vegetables, Seriously?

Yes, it's true--I am actually writing a post about dried fruits and vegetables.

Is that any indication of how jam-packed full of excitement my life is? Oh sure, I could try to imitate other more adventurous bloggers like Tokaiangel and join a rock band, or I could emulate Xenia the intrepid archaeologist and run a marathon in Florence or...

I could blog about dehydrated fruits and vegetables.

Yes, instead of starting my own rock band, Crabby and The Cranky Cupcakes, (hard to do if you can't sing, play an instrument, or stay up past 10 p.m.) I thought I'd try to find out the answer to an Important Nutritional Question:

Are Dried Fruits and Vegetables Virtuous Food Choices, or are They Evil Treats You Should Ban from Your Cupboards This Very Minute?

Blogger Blame

Actually, you can blame the Bag Lady for this post. She sent me some dehydrated spinach, along with some other delicious treats like the Best Pluot Jam Ever in the Entire Known Universe.

And the dried spinach was great! You can keep it in the kitchen cabinet for weeks (I think; I got to mine too fast to find out anything about shelf life), and then next time you're making pasta or cheese bread or whatever, you can throw it in, and voila, instant spinach!

(BunnyGirl is also responsible for bringing such an exciting topic to Cranky Fitness. When she's not out running marathons like Xenia, she posts all kinds of healthy cooking tips, and she got me all curious about the idea of dehydrating produce. Not quite curious enough to actually go out and do it, because that sounds like work. But curious enough to blog about it.)

Dried Fruit Has a Bad Rep

Here's the thing: I like dried fruit. Even though I'm not very exotic about it, I love to throw dried cranberries on my spinach salad (must also have goat cheese, they go great together!) and I scarf down Gorp (good ol' raisins and peanuts) even when I'm not hitting the trail for a hike. Dried apricots? They're a tasty treat I recently re-discovered. And love to I put dried blueberries into bran muffins. Don't like prunes though; never have.

However, many health and weight loss bloggers are all "No waaaay! It doesn't count as real fruit, you might as well be eating deep fried Twinkies!!!"

(Dried vegetables, on the other hand, don't tend to come up a lot, pro or con, as hardly anyone eats them).

So, are the Dissers of Dried Fruit right? Or can I continue to justify my frequent consumption?

What Drying Does to Nutrition

According to folks at the Colorado State Extension, changes that occur during drying include:

  • Calorie content: does not change, but is concentrated into a smaller mass as moisture is removed.
  • Fiber: no change.
  • Vitamin A: fairly well retained under controlled heat methods.
  • Vitamin C: mostly destroyed during blanching and drying of vegetables.
  • Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin: some loss during blanching but fairly good retention if the water used to rehydrate also is consumed.
  • Minerals: some may be lost during rehydration if soaking water is not used. Iron is not destroyed by drying.

Alice Weighs In

At Columbia University's Go Ask Alice site (which is a great resource for all kinds of health questions), someone asked how dried blueberries compared with fresh. In addition to the vitamin C and thiamine loss mentioned above, "Alice" pointed out some more problems with dried fruit:

  • Exposure to light and oxygen can further degrade nutrients.
  • High heat drying may reduce the Protein Efficiency Ratio, making it more difficult for the body to use the protein in the fruit.

But on the positive side:

  • Dried fruit can be higher in antioxidants than fresh;
  • It's high in fiber, so it may help relieve constipation, lower blood cholesterol, and control diabetes;
  • It's a good source of quick energy for athletes or others who burn lots of calories.
  • Many dried fruits are high in iron, potassium, and selenium — important for maintaining healthy blood and muscles, and especially helpful to people who suffer from anemia.

To Each Her Own

Bottom line: you still have to eat a LOT of fresh fruits and vegetables. But it seems to me, especially if you're not closely watching every calorie, that dried fruits are pretty darn nutritious, really convenient, and in my mind should "count" towards the bazillion servings a day of produce we're all supposed to get.

I'm under no illusions that 200 calories of raisins and peanuts will fill me up like 200 calories of fresh apples and oranges would. But sometimes I don't feel like a damn apple or an orange. If I also happen to know there is ice cream in the freezer... raisins can start looking like a very sensible choice for a snack.

Want to Dry Your Own Fruit?

Not lazy like I am? Then the always informative folks at Mark's Daily Apple have some helpful tips.

Gosh, What a Fun Subject to Comment On!

Anyone have strong feelings about dried fruit or vegetables? Do you Stay Away or indulge your Cravings for Craisins?


  1. I'm with you, as part of a balanced diet they are perfectly acceptable especially when choosing between say a box of raisins or a box of cookies. :)

  2. I do love dried fruit, and always felt it was better for me than candy. But dried veggies?....hmmmm, doesn't sound delicious so maybe I'll try some in January during my annual "OMG I can't believe I gained this much weight" diet.

  3. Tried to dry watermelon one time and it just disappeared.

  4. I've never liked dried fruit.

    Banana chips? Ew. Raisins? Only if they're covered in "yogurt", please. And by yogurt, I mean frosting. let's call it what it is, people.

    But then a blogger recently posted some of her top foods.

    And listed on them was orange-essence prunes.

    Ew, right?

    Well, all the other things on her list looked pretty good, so I picked up a bag, just to try.

    I've tried prune JUICE, mind you, and it tasted like liquid raisins. Ew.

    These orange essence prunes, on the other hand? Ho. Ly. Cow. YUM!

    I'm totally addicted (Don't worry, I never pass the recommended 'dosage'. There's a problem I don't need).

    They're awesome. I very highly recommend.

  5. I'm just going to sit here and wait until Baggie comes in. Then I'm going to hope she'll let me know how I can buy some of her dehydrated spinach. Don't worry, if it takes all day, I'll be sure to turn off the lights on my way out.

  6. I think it depends on how you eat now. If you're good with fruits and veggies and have a lot of time and money, then I think just stick with what you're doing.

    If you are substituting it for things you might want instead (ice cream, french fries, etc.) or want somethin a little different I don't think it's bad - and I definatley see a difference between that and fried twinkies! Just be careful and watch the ingredients and caloric break down to make sure you're not suprised (e.g., banana chips amazed me with how they make them sometimes. So wrong).

  7. Once you've had Bag Lady's cooking you can't go back.

    That aside, I love dried fruits.
    Raisins or craisins(dried cranberries)on the morning oats. Dried apricots are the best snack/hike thing ever.
    I once dried a ridiculous amount of celery and gave it as Christmas gifts. Very tasty and packed with flavour.

  8. I dont ADORE dried fruit so I skip it.
    in favor of sugars I DO adore.

    dont be me :)

  9. I like (most) dried fruits, but shy away from them due to the fact that they're more calorically (and sugarly) dense than their hydrated counterparts.

    But I LOVE dried vegetables: potato chips, Doritos, Sun Chips, ... yum.

  10. Raisins good. Not to excited about others. Never met a grape I didn't like, no matter how dehydrated.

  11. not a big fan of dried fruit. I prefer the raw form, as with veggies, however in Texas, The HEB (stands for Here Everything's Better...and it is!) has this dried veggie mix which is just amazing. If your in TX, hit it up, its totally worth it :)

  12. I love dried cherries - the natural kind, not with all the added sugar. Apricots I also like, but I have a limit on those.

    Pluot jam sounds awesome, I've never heard of such a thing! Pluots are one of my favorite fruits!

    I've never tried dried veggies, I'm not sure it sounds appealing. But then again, I haven't tried it, so if I come across them, maybe I should try...

  13. Mmmm, I'm with the dried cherry fans. SO GOOD. There are dried cherries in that little packet of fruits & nuts that Starbucks gives you for your oatmeal. Yum!

    The only thing is to watch what else they do to the fruits when they dry them - no good if they're coated in sugar, if your intention is a healthy snack!

  14. Oh, dried cherries... better than chocolate. Sigh.

    I love dried fruit. And I almost never eat it, because it is just WAY too easy for me to overeat. I mean, I'd eat a dozen cherries, but the dried ones go down by the handful, and it's a lot of sugar no matter how you look at it.

    But I do use dried cranberries (sparingly!) in salad or with sauteed carrots. It's a lot safer if you think of them as a condiment...

    (Let's not even mention the Godiva dried cherries in dark chocolate, ok?)

  15. I've never really been a fan of dried fruit, but I recently found Lara Bars in my grocery store and seeing them mentioned so often on the food blogs I read, I decided to try them. They are basically dried fruit, with nuts or coconut, etc.

    If you asked me if I liked dates, I would say no...I don't even like date squares, but the Lara Bars are pretty tasty and the main component seems to be...Dates.

    While I wouldn't give up fresh fruit in favor of dried fruit (or LaraBars), I can see a couple of advantages:

    1. It keeps longer than fresh fruit, so you could have it in your desk drawer or cupboard for snack emergencies.

    2. When there's no fresh fruit in season and all of the fruit in the grocery store tastes like plastic, it could be a convenient option. (Probably does not apply for those of you who live in nice, warm climates).

    3. Variety is good! The more ways you can find to get fruit into your diet, the better, right?

    I have no opinion on dried veggies, though the dried spinach sounds like a good idea.

  16. I'm a dried fruit lover: prunes, raisins, apricots, even peaches although they don't seem to retain as much flavor as apricots, currants in cookies because they fall through the cracks between your fingers if you try to eat them by the handful. (Banana chips don't taste like banana, so what's the point?)
    I've never tried dried vegetables, but after reading about Bag Lady's dried spinach it's on my list of projects for next summer.
    Reading the comments I'm drooling already.
    Childhood favorite: Grind up some apricots and/or raisins really fine (some parts to my grandmother's food grinder got lost when we moved, which is why we quit making this; now I want to experiment with the food processor) and form into balls. Roll thickly in crushed graham crackers. Eat.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  17. I have a sick addiction to dried cranberries.

    Especially on spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese.





  18. I recently found I liked it...turns o0ut my Mum just bought really crappy dried fruit when I was little, and I hadn't tried any good stuff. I love dates dried apricots and cranberries. I'll stick them all in a container with some pumpkin and sunflower seeds and keep them at work to fend off the "have a donut everyone is doing it" evils. The trick is to just not eat lots of them...I could easily eat a day's calories in dried fruit...:)
    Except for banana chips.

  19. Thanks for the shout-out, Crabby! I'm so glad you enjoyed my little offerings enough to post about them!

    Hilary - hmmm, I do have a little dried spinach badly do you want it? Perhaps I could auction it off....hahahahaha

    Thanks, Leah - that's sweet.

    Leth? I bought a case of pluots and we weren't eating them fast enough, so I made jam. Then I wished I had bought 2 cases! It was so good, the Rancher was eating a whole jar at a sitting!!

    (Sorry for hi-jacking your comment section, Crabby!)

  20. Just recently discovered dried blueberries and they go on everything that I eat for breakfast.

    And the epitome of gastronomic heaven is dried cranberries, creamy goat cheese and pecans. Yum! Yum! Yum!

  21. Dried ... vegetables?

    Dried vegetables?

    Dried Vegetables???

    Give me a minute. I'll wrap my brain around this concept. Eventually.

  22. Still snickering at Tom's dried watermelon experiment...

  23. Oh no, don't give me something else to avoid! :) I thought dried fruit, albeit calorific, was good for me!! :( well, at least in the Chocolate vs. Raisins debate, the latter must win out, surely... :) I like dried Apricots, Apple, Pineapple, Mango & Raisins, I do eat them sparingly enough though.

  24. I think I'll go with, it's better than eating a snickers bar. ^_^

    I am a huge fan of dried fruit as snack/treat food! Of course I was raised by granola crunching, tofu eating Hippie parents, so that was my childhood. All natural "Fruit leather" (like a fruit roll up without the chemicals) and Dried Apricots were my favorite (and still are!)


  25. Hooray, I'm not the only one who eats dried fruit! Though I suspect many of you folks are more sensible in portion sizes.

    And three cheers for the cranberry/goat cheese/walnut combo. Makes a salad an actual treat (though not a low cal one).

    Must try dried cherries, they sound good!

    So this is the first time I've pre-published the night before to have the post come up on East Coast time, then checked in on West coast time when I finally roll out of bed and get my coffee. I like it! Though it kind of feels like being late to my own party!

  26. I'm a fan of dried fruit, but i haven't been able to find them without added sugar.

    I adore frozen fruit though.

  27. I'd rather eat the non-dried stuff, but I'd never give up my dried cranberries in my oatmeal! :) And oatmeal-raisin cookies? Oatmeal-grape cookies just don't have the same appeal.

  28. I love dried fruit.

    I thought "Pluots" was a typo...oops!

    Off to do an Internet search!

  29. I"ve had freeze-dried corn before and I must say, it was yummy. Like, I couldn't stop eating it yummy.

  30. I am intrigued by your band, as I cannot go to see other bands because they are too late, so an early band would be nice :)

    I don't do a lot of dried fruits, but love dried cranberries & raisins in my oatmeal & granola. And now kinda want some dried spinach.

  31. Mostly it's too sweet and I really love fresh fruit so I don't eat too much of it, but I don't think it's unhealthy. It's easy to eat LOTS in one sitting, which isn't good, but as long as there's no sugar and stuff added to it, then its still just fruit. And that's good stuff! I consider dried fruit something of a treat (thinking about how its not so good for your teeth and all), and fresh fruit is going to be better, but dried fruit is still fruit.

    Never had dried spinach but that is such a great idea. I can't eat spinach fast enough before it goes bad- the bag is so big.

  32. Thanks for the mention, Crabby!

    To clarify, for those who are puzzled by the concept of dried vegetables, it's a way to store them for later use in recipes, not for straight snacking. Think how onion flakes are used and you'll get the idea.

    Fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated very easily just by tossing them onto into a dehydrator. Rotate the trays once or twice during the drying process and by the next day, it's ready to scoop into jars or bags and store for your next recipe.

    As for fruit, I go through phases where I eat a lot of dried fruit and where I only use it in recipes. I figure if I'm making cookies, quickbread, or granola bars, it's better to include raisins or other dried fruit than chocolate chips, since even though the calorie count is similar, I'm at least getting some nutrition.

    One thing I recommend eating plain, though, is dehydrated canteloupe. It sounds weird, but I was introduced to it at a retreat and it's so delish! Slice very thin and put in the dehydrator over night. Yummy!

  33. I looooooove dried fruit, but when I started eating the entire bag of Mariani island fruits, I decided it was time to give it up.

    Oh, the memories:

  34. Dried fruit is amazing! My mom used to dry apples, berries, apricots, peaches, etc, when I was little. I loved (and still love) to snack on it, sometimes straight out of the dehydrator. Although I quit doing that after I accidentally bit into a Habanero pepper my dad happened to be drying...

    Right. So, love the dried fruit, but make sure you know what it is!

  35. I got namechecked AND IT MADE ME LOOK COOL wooooo thanks Crabby!!

    For what it's worth I like slinging dehydrated things into places where they get rehydrated... dried mushrooms or seaweed in miso soup, raisins and dessicated coconut in oatmeal etc etc. Then they plump up and get delish again! And they keep in the cupboard for ages. I never feel like I'm getting enough bang for my calorie buck when I eat the stuff on its own, but that's just my silly brain...

    TA x

  36. i wish i liked dried fruit, but alas, i never developed a taste for it.

  37. And I thought I was the only (non college student) who read Go Ask Alice!! Love that site. And I love dried fruit too. We always have it on hand. I figure given that or candy, I'd rather my kids eats the dried fruit.

  38. I don't eat a lot of dried fruit, but there are definitely some that should not be passed up! Dried cherries and cranberries as some people have mentioned... pureed mango dried into a leather is amazing... and canned mandarin orange segments, rinsed and dried, are sheer flavor explosion on the tongue!

    I've used dried veggies before, mostly for backpacking, but found fresh/frozen/canned just as convenient in regular life.

  39. banana chips are the evil ones- not just dried banana at all, but deep fried, then dried, then covered in honey or sugar syrup. Dried apricots and nuts are my standby desk drawer snack if I have not got fresh fruit or end up working late. My solution to the portion control problem is to weigh out 20g of nuts, add a few apricots and wrap in food wrap as an individual "portion". If the whole bag is open in the drawer it is fatal!

  40. really good information.....I am agree, fresh food include vegetable and also fruits more better than in dried.....more healthy in fresh, thanks for the info

  41. My only problem with dried fruits is that you really need to be careful how they are dried.... many of them use large amounts of sulphur. Not sure if the same is true of veggies though and I do love sun-dried tomatoes, they've got a great flavour.

  42. I'm surprised that more people don't eat dried vegetables. There are probably others, but our local health food store carries a brand called Just Tomatoes that has a variety of dried veggies- tomatoes, peas, corn, carrots, etc. They're a great portable snack, and even my 1-year old loves them.

    Of course, it's a lot more expensive to buy them this way, so we recently bought a dehydrator and dried some peas ourselves. I thought we could skip the blanching because we used frozen peas, but they turned out kind of chewy (though still tasty). I'll try again this weekend.

  43. Having just downed the most delicious green tea, greek yogurt, spinach and dried apricot shake, I think I fall in the dried fruit is A-OK camp.

    Mind you, I try to eat fresh fruit more than dried, but I sure enjoy some dried fruit on occasion! The worry is that I can also, on occasion, lose sight of my goals and binge on the stuff.

    Thumbs down to prunes though... have never liked 'em. And I doubt I'd ever give up fresh spinach for dried, though I can see how dried might be handy.

    I got this free cat food from Petco... and it has dried carrots and banana chips in. My cats are not too fond of those banana chips.

  44. I love dried fruit! It is delicious and healthy

  45. I'm hopelessly addicted to dried strawberries. They're awesome! Great article, thanks!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  46. I just found your blog and I love it. :)You're funny and entertaining.

  47. I am excited for the work that is being done with the dried vegetables because it seems like a positive environment. Thanks for keeping me posted. I appreciate it!

  48. Dried zucchini slices are really good. Salt and vinegar kale chips (dip in vinegar, sprinkle with salt, dehydrate). Dried tomato slices are good. You can even sprinkle them with some garlic powder and basil for some added flavor. Carrot chips. Dried pickles. Eggplant chips (you can season those however you'd like since they absorb any flavor you want to add.)


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)