What’s healthier – fresh, dried or frozen fruit?
*Which one is better – dried fruits or freeze dried fruits?*
“Eat more fruit and vegetables” is one of the most common recommendations we hear when we’re encouraged to eat healthily. The idea that fruit is good for you is largely based on the fact that many fruits have a low energy (calorie) content and are packed with nutrients. Nutrients include vitamins, minerals, fibre and bioactive nutrients (often pigment compounds known as polyphenols and carotenoids).
Fruit also contains sugar, and the content can vary considerably. The type of sugar in fruit can also vary according to the type of fruit and also how ripe it is. Generally, the most common sugar in fruit is fructose, typically making up 40-55% of the sugar in most fruit. Sucrose (normal table sugar) makes up most of the rest.
*How does drying affect fruit?*
Drying (losing water) concentrates the fruit’s sugar dramatically. For example, apricot sugar levels rise from 9.5% when fresh to 54.2% when dried.
This is why some have described dried fruits as like sugar bombs. Although the World Health Organisation does not classify dried fruit as something we should limit in the diet.
Dried fruit can also be six times higher in energy than their fresh equivalents, due to a concentration effect through the removal of water. So, if you are trying to watch your weight, it would be sensible to watch your serve sizes of dried fruits.
Drying increases levels of some vitamins and minerals, again through the effect of concentrating the nutrients when water is lost. This means a 30g serve of dried apricots can contain over 5% the daily recommended intake of iron; you would need to eat 175g of fresh apricots to get the same amount.
*How about freeze-drying?*
Freeze-drying involves first freezing a fruit and then placing it in a vacuum under very low pressures. Low pressure causes ice crystals to rapidly sublime, turning them straight from solid ice into water vapour. This process removes water much more efficiently than traditional drying.
Effectively, the fruit’s water content is reduced but the fruit’s structure is maintained. This makes this method of preserving food particularly suited to soft fruit, like raspberries and strawberries, which are low in sugar.
So, fresh strawberries contain 4.9% sugar. But freeze-dried strawberries contain 71% sugar, a 14-fold increase. That’s a sugar content similar to some lollies. Like freezing, freeze-drying helps to preserve nutrients.