How Eating Dried Fruit Can Lead To Better Overall Health

If you love raisins in your cereal, dried cranberries in your salad, and slices of dried bananas and goji berries tossed on top of a yogurt parfait, you're in luck: New research from Penn State has found that people who snack on dried fruit regularly are healthier than those who don't. Not only does dried fruit provide fiber, which is critical for healthy digestion, but also potassium, iron, and zinc (via Livestrong).

Those who opted for dried fruit as part of their daily intake tended to be more active and fit in general. "In our study, people who consumed dried fruits had a higher calorie intake but a lower BMI and waist circumference which suggests they were more physically active," said Penny Kris-Etherton, one of the researchers involved in the survey conducted with 25,590 participants (via Penn State). They also tended to have a smaller waist circumference and systolic blood pressure than their non-fruit-eating counterparts.

While eating fresh fruits regularly is the optimal way to get your fruit intake up, dried, frozen, and even canned fruits might be easier options for people on tight budgets or without easy access to grocery stores, Kristina Petersen, assistant research professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, explained.

Are there any downsides to dried fruit?

The study also found that those who ate dried fruit had a higher overall caloric intake, so if dropping weight or weight maintenance is a goal for you, tread lightly. "Dried fruit can be a great choice for a nutritious snack, but consumers might want to be sure they're choosing unsweetened versions without added sugar," Sullivan explained. 

It's important to remember that dried fruit is carbohydrate-rich, and high in sugar, so a small amount goes a long way. Skip dried fruit that has added sugar and look for natural options with a single ingredient on the list, or consider dehydrating your own at home. And don't take this study as a license to eat an entire bag of trail mix while watching TV: Inexpensive trail mixes are often packed with preservatives, sodium, and added sugars, so if you do want to munch on a combination of nuts and dried fruit, mix your own (via Healthline).

And remember to pay close attention to portion size: "Portion sizes can also be tricky, because a serving of dried fruit is smaller than a serving of fresh since the water has been taken out," says Sullivan. "But the positive is that dried fruit can help people potentially consume more fruit because it's portable, it's shelf-stable, and can even be cheaper."