Are Dried Fruits Higher in Sugar Than Fresh Fruit?

Dried fruit takes up less space so it has more sugar per total volume (not piece) of fruit.
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Dried fruits, like raisins and prunes, are convenient because they last for a long time and they're good sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But, if you examine the nutritional information for both fresh fruit and their dried versions, you may see a lot more sugar and calories per serving.

So what happens? Does the fruit magically make more sugar during the dehydrating process? Nope. The fruit doesn't develop more sugar when it's dehydrated, but it loses volume, so the issue is how you measure the fruits before you compare them.

Water Loss Equals Volume Loss

Fruits are dried in special dehydrators, or they can be left in the sun to dehydrate naturally, and the fruit is ready when almost all of the water has disappeared. The loss of water means loss of physical size, so when a plump, juicy grape becomes a shriveled, leathery raisin, it's a lot smaller. The same thing happens when plums are dried into prunes or when any fruits or berries are dehydrated.

When you compare fresh and dried fruit by volume, then you'll always find more sugar and calories in the dried fruit. But if you analyze them piece by piece, the sugar and calories will be about the same. So, for example, one cup of raisins has over 80 grams of sugar while a cup of grapes has about 15 grams or less. Translate that into calories, and you'll see the cup of grapes has about 100 calories, and the cup of raisins has over 434 calories.

Compare by Quantity

So you can see what happens when you compare fresh fruits and dried fruits by the cup because you can only fit about 30 to 40 grapes in a one-cup measuring cup, compared to more than 250 raisins.

But what if you compare them by quantity instead? 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 30 grapes have about 12 grams of sugar and 48 calories. Thirty raisins have 47 calories and just under 10 grams sugar.

It looks like the raisins lose sugar during the drying process, but I doubt if that's the case. I think the natural sugar content of grapes varies by variety and the nutritional value assessments were carried out on different types. But, even so, when you compare a raisin to a grape, the nutritional numbers are about the same, except for the water.

I think it's important to point out that some dried fruits, like cranberries, are so tart, you can barely stand to eat them, so sugar or fruit juices are often added during the drying process so the resulting 'craisins' can be sold as a snack. 

Should Dried Fruits Be Avoided?

A healthy balanced diet should include some fruit. Fresh fruit is probably higher in some vitamins, like vitamin C, but mineral and fiber content is retained during the drying process, so there's no need to avoid dried fruit. But if you're watching your weight, you'll need to keep an eye on serving sizes and calorie counts.

I love raisins, craisins, dried blueberries, apple chips and dried apricots because they're so convenient and keep longer than fresh fruit. And they're versatile:

  • Make a salad with your favorite dark greens, fresh apple slices, dried cranberries, and a little goat cheese.

Sources:

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.

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