When buying dried fruit I recommend avoiding: sugar/sweeteners, sulfur dioxide, synthetic pesticides and artificial colors.
1) Sugar/sweeteners – many manufacturers add sugar, artificial sweeteners or fruit juices to their dried fruit to make it taste sweeter. I recommend avoiding these sweeteners because they don’t contain any nutritional value and only add calories. Sometimes the front of the packaging clearly states that the dried fruit has been sweetened. Dried pineapple, banana, cranberries or blueberries are a good example of this. However if you want to be sure you are avoiding the added sugar/sweeteners you will need to check the ingredients list, as the use of sugar/sweeteners does not always appear on the front of the packaging.
2) Sulfur dioxide – Sulfur dioxide is used in the production of dried fruit to block the browning that occurs when the fruit is dried. It is used largely on apricots, raisins and apples. For example golden raisins are produced from the same variety of grapes as normal raisins but they are pre-treated with sulfur dioxide to stop the browning process and to give them their golden color. Sulfur dioxide is particularly harmful to asthmatics with 5% risking adverse reactions. It is also believed that one out of every 100 people is sensitive to sulfur dioxide. So if you want to avoid consuming this chemical, choose fruit that is naturally dark in color. Some manufacturers now state on the front of the packaging that their dried fruit has been produced without the use of sulfur dioxide.
3) Synthetic pesticides – every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a dirty dozen list which names 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide content. In 2013, this list included 2 of the most popular fruits used for drying: apples and grapes. If pesticides are present in the fresh fruit, then they will also be present in the dried fruit. So if you want to avoid synthetic pesticides, it is best to buy organic.
4) Artificial colors – Dried fruit is often included in trail mixes. While eating small portions of dried fruit and nuts is healthy, the chocolate sweets that are included in the trail mix often contain artificial colors. Artificial colors are bad for our health, they have carcinogenic properties, and are best avoided. To find out if the trail mix contains artificial colors you need to check the ingredients list.
There are also some other things you may want to consider when making a decision on which dried fruit to buy:
1) Glycemic Index – Glycemic index measures how quickly blood sugar rises after eating a particular food. Most dried fruit has low to medium Glycemic Index but each fruit is slightly different. For example apples have a glycemic index value of 29, peaches 35 and dates 62. So if you are on a low GI diet or if you just want to minimize the impact the dried fruit has on your blood sugar levels, I recommend choosing dried fruit with low GI for example prunes, apples or pears. However you still have to keep an eye on the portions as eating low GI value dried fruit can still cause a spike in your blood sugar if eaten in large quantities.
2) Pre-soaked dried fruit – I have recently come across a brand of dried fruit that sells pre-soaked dried fruit. If you are a type of person who eats dried fruit out of hunger and tends to eat bigger portions of dried fruit, or if you just like to have that fuller feeling in your tummy, then I recommend you give this product a try. The dried fruit contains a higher amount of water and so gives that satisfying feeling much quicker.
3) Your taste – Don’t forget to choose dried fruit that you like. I like most dried fruit but dried papaya, mango and raisins are my favorite. If you wondering which brands to buy, here are some the brands that I really like: