Dried Fruit or Fresh Fruit
Dried fruit is fruit where the majority of the original water content has been removed either naturally, through sun drying, or through the use of specialized dryers or dehydrators. Dried fruit has a long tradition of use dating back to the fourth millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Internationally recognized health researchers presented their views at the 30th World Nut & Dried Fruit Congress on May 21, 2011, recommending that food policy makers consider dried fruits equivalent to fresh fruits in dietary recommendations. The presentations recommended that traditional dried fruits such as dried apricots, dried apples, dates, dried figs, raisins and sultanas, and prunes should be included side by side with fresh fruit recommendations. Dried fruits have the advantage of being easy to store and distribute, available year round, they are readily incorporated into other foods and recipes, relatively low cost and present a healthy alternative to sugary snacks. The scientific basis for recommending higher fruit intake is the epidemiological evidence that individuals who regularly eat generous amounts of these foods have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, several cancers, diabetes and other chronic disease.
Traditional dried fruit such as raisins, figs, dates, apricots and apples have been a staple of Mediterranean diets for millennia. This is due partly to their early cultivation in the Middle Eastern region known as the Fertile Crescent, made up by parts of modern Iraq, Iran and Syria, southwest Turkey and northern Egypt. Drying or dehydration also happened to be the earliest form of food preservation: grapes, dates and figs that fell from the tree or vine would dry in the hot desert sand. Early hunter-gatherers observed that these fallen fruit took on an edible form, and valued them for their stability as well as their concentrated sweetness.
Figs were also prized in early Mesopotamia, Israel and Egypt where their daily use was probably greater than or equal to that of dates. As well as appearing in wall paintings, many specimens have been found in Egyptian tombs as funerary offerings. In Greece and Crete, figs grew very readily and they were the staple of poor and rich alike, particularly in their dried form.
Dried fruits meet dietary guidelines for daily fruit servings and address barriers to fruit intake. The greatest benefit of including dried fruits regularly in the diet is that it is a means to expand overall consumption of fruit and the critical nutrients they contain. Dried fruits have the advantage of being very easy to store and distribute, they are readily incorporated into other foods and recipes, relatively low cost and present a healthy alternative to sugary snacks.
There is considerable research supporting the role of dried fruit particularly in regulating bowel function and maintaining a healthy digestive system. Recently published research shows that dried plums are more effective than psyllium for the treatment of mild to moderate constipation, and should be considered as a first line therapy.
Contrary to the popular perception that dried fruit promote cavities, recent studies indicate that they may actually promote oral health. Bioactive compounds found in raisins and dried plums appear to have antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
Dried fruits are excellent sources of phenolic compounds in the diet. These make up the largest group of plant bioactive compounds or phytochemicals in the diet and they appear to be, at least in part, responsible for the health benefit associated with the consumption of diets abundant in fruits and vegetables. Phenolic compounds contribute the most antioxidant capacity of fruits and vegetables and have a multitude of functional capabilities, which may have a beneficial effect on health.
Western diets are characterized by intake of excessive amounts of sodium, solid fats,and added sugars that replace nutrient dense food, making it difficult for people to achieve recommended nutrient intake and control caloric value of the diet. Like fresh fruit,traditional dried fruits are free of fat, trans fats, saturated fat and cholesterol. Dried fruits also have very low sodium content.
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