Dried fruit is a powerful food. By drying the fruit, the nutritional values are concentrated, so you get more of the nutrients in a smaller package. One of the greatest benefits is that drying concentrates the potassium, making dried fruits some of the most concentrated of the high potassium foods. The potassium amount in a given weight of food is often more than doubled.
However, you must be careful. Not all dried fruits are treated the same in the drying process. Some that are sold as “dried fruit” are infused with sweetener, and some are candied. The traditional or conventional dried fruits are dried in the sun or in a dehydrator. There is also freeze drying, in which the fruit is frozen and put in a vacuum, and then the fruit is heated to extract the water while still frozen. These are the fruits that many millennia ago were gathered after they had fallen from a tree and had spent several days drying in the desert sun. They are raisins, dates, figs, prunes and apricots.
Others, such as strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, and cherries are infused with sucrose syrup and then dried. And then some, such as pineapple, are actually candied. These all have a higher sugar content and most are not included in the table posted a few days ago.
The health benefits of the traditional dried fruit are the same as for other high potassium foods – reduction of hypertension, less bone loss and less risk of kidney stones. But the benefits go beyond the benefits from the high potassium alone. The fruits all have a low to moderate glycemic index – ranging from 29 for dried plums and apples, to 62 for dates. The glycemic index for raisins is 54, for figs is 61, for apricots is 30, and for peaches is 35.
Some of the low glycemic index is due to the high fiber content – they all have good amounts of fiber. We included that as a macronutrient in the table so you can compare. They typically give a significant percentage of the recommended daily allowance. High amounts of fiber aids transit time through the intestines, so there is less chance of accumulation of harmful byproducts of digestion, and less exposure of the intestinal wall to these byproducts.
Another great benefit is the high concentration of vitamins and phytochemicals that can fight oxidative byproducts such as free radicals. The vitamins and phytochemicals are at a higher concentration than in the undried fruit. Vitamins A and C, and polyphenols are felt to have antioxidant effects. These effects may be responsible for the reduction in cardiovascular disease and some cancers seen in populations consuming high proportions of fruit and vegetables.
The advantage of having nutrition concentrated into such a small size is that the food can be taken with you without spoiling. No need for refrigeration or special handling. There is a lot of nutrition with very little weight. So if you are going for a hike, or a long shopping spree, you can carry your nutrition with you and quickly revive yourself.