Dried fruits and vegetables are easy to carry, have a long shelf life and give your body healthy nutrients. As you develop an eating plan that includes about 5 portions of vegetables and fruit, incorporating the dried varieties of your favourites gives you another way to enjoy the taste and texture differences of fruits and vegetables without sacrificing nutritional quality.
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Historical manuscripts from 1490 B.C. indicate the use of dried grapes, but the raisin did not become a popular staple in American diets until 1876 although it was regularly used in Europe prior to this according to the Harvest of the Month website. Drying fruits and vegetables enabled the ancient cultures to preserve the fragile fruits and vegetables for later use. Without mechanical capabilities, the ancients dried plums, grapes and other fruits and vegetables with sun and heat.
The drying process for fruits and vegetables can be either mechanical or natural, depending on the fruit. Many raisins are sun-dried, while plums undergo a mechanical drying process. A dried fruit or vegetable is one whose moisture content is 20 percent of its weight or less. The nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables changes very slightly during the process. If you buy dried fruit from your local grocery or health food store, the food manufacturers may treat the fruit with chemicals for inhibition of mould and as a colour preservative.
Many fruits and vegetables can be dried, according to Colorado State University Extension. Tomatoes, grapes, potatoes, apples, peas, corn, apricots, bananas, pineapple, onions and pears are just some of the types of dried fruits and vegetables you can find at the store. If you have a garden or access to a local farmer’s market, you can dry fruits and vegetables yourself in a home dehydrator.
Dried apricots have 53 calories per 1/4 cup, small amounts of protein and trace amounts of fat, and raisins have 108 calories, 1 g of protein and less than a gram of fat. Both raisins and apricots have naturally occurring sugars. One-quarter-cup of dried banana slices has 86 calories, 2.5 g of fibre and 373 mg of potassium. Sun-dried tomatoes make a delicious addition to soups and salads, and contain 35 calories per 1/4 cup, 1.9 g of protein and 1.23 mg of iron. Potato flakes are a convenient way to make mashed potatoes, and contain 106 calories and 2.5 g of protein in 1/2 cup. A tablespoon of onion flakes has just 17 calories, 13 mg of calcium and .5 g of fibre, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory.
Both fruits and vegetables tend to lose a majority of their vitamin C but retain most of the Vitamin A content, according to Colorado State University. The caloric content of the fruit or vegetable remains the same; however, because the fruit is denser, the calories per cup increases. Fiber-rich vegetables and fruits retain their healthy fibre, and the dried fruits and vegetables retain most of their B vitamin content, such as thiamine, niacin and riboflavin. When including the dried varieties into your diet, measure the foods carefully to ensure you do not consume more calories from fruits or vegetables than you intended.
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- Colorado State University Extension; Drying Fruits; P. Kendall, et al.; January 2007
- Colorado State University Extension; Drying Vegetables; P. Kendall, et al.; March 2008
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Apricots, Raisins, Bananas, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Onions