Health researchers presented their views at the recent 30th World Nut & Dried Fruit Congress, recommending that food policy makers consider dried fruits equivalent to fresh fruits in dietary recommendations around the world.
The presentations recognized that traditional, no-sugar added dried fruits, such as raisins, dried plums (prunes), figs, dates, apricots and apples should be included side by side with fresh fruit recommendations by global policy makers.
Organized by the International Nut and Dried Fruit Foundation (INC), the 30th World Nut & Dried Fruit Congress brought together industry leaders and researchers in an international dried fruit round table. It was announced Friday, June 24.
The round table highlighted the collaboration by thirteen scientists from the United States, Greece, Turkey, Japan, and the United Kingdom on the paper entitled Traditional Dried Fruits: Valuable Tools to Meet Dietary Recommendations for Fruit Intake.
In addition to providing fiber, dried fruits rank among the top potassium sources in diets around the world, according to Arianna Carughi, Ph.D., C.N.S., Health and Nutrition Research Coordinator for the California Dried Fruit Coalition.
Dried fruits also contain a range of increasingly important bioactive phenolic compounds as well as specific vitamins and minerals unique to each fruit.
Not only did the researchers clarify the misconceptions that have perpetuated the idea that dried fruits may not be as healthy as their fresh counterparts, their work highlighted the added benefits that dried fruits provide.
One of the common problems encountered with comparing dried foods on nutritional grounds is the routine practice of equating on a weight for weight basis, for example, per 100 grams.
Not surprisingly, since the weight of water is removed in drying, the sugar content of dried versus fresh fruits appears disproportionately high, contributing to the mixed messages about the sugar concentration of dried fruits.
However, when portion size and water content are taken into account, the natural fruit sugars and calories become equal for fresh and dried fruits.
Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower the rates of obesity and chronic diseases. However, despite campaigns and educational efforts, a significant gap still remains between the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and the quantities actually consumed by populations around the world.
Considering their important nutritional qualities and because they are naturally resistant to spoilage, easy to store and transport, available year round, readily incorporated into other foods, and relatively low in cost, dried fruits represent an important means to increase overall fruit consumption, researchers argue.
The INC Foundation, based in Reus, Spain, is a non-profit organization. Its objectives are to undertake and promote scientific and nutritional studies, to promote international cooperation, and to be an international source of information on nuts and dried fruits for health, nutrition, and scientific issues.