Dried Fruits – An Important Constituent
When a fresh fruit is dried and dehydrated under a series of process before being packed, for long term sustenance, it results in the formation of a dried fruit. These fruits are pre-treated to keep their color and dipped in a variety of substances such as ascorbic acid, pectin or juices. After this, the fruit is sliced, pitted and blanched before drying.
It is very important for one to realize how, why and in what quantities these fruits should be consumed to get the best nutrition out of them without harming our body. Though dry fruits are a smart choice one should know a few things before eating them regularly.
Dry fruits are high in fiber content, potassium and iron which help in maintaining a healthy digestive system. They also help in relieving constipation, lower blood pressure and keeping stomach full when on a diet or in between meals. While eating some dried fruit instead of munching cookies, candies and other oily snacks are a great alternative, it is always better to stick to a fresh fruit as much as possible. Alternatively dried fruits can be carried to work or school in our pockets easily. They do not wither nor smell. Thus are extremely reliable.
But it should also be kept in mind that many drying process involves additives like sulphites. Thus one should be very careful before grabbing their box of dry fruits. During the pre-treatment and dehydration process there is a lot of loss in nutritional value. Dried fruits are also calorically dense. One cup of a dried fruit has about 3 times the calorie content of about ¼ cup of its original fruit. Thus if they are not consumed limitedly, they can easily increase body weight. But if used in proper quantities it can also help to control weight. Two servings of fruits a day can help one have lower weights and dried fruits can be an easy way to fill this gap.
Dried fruits generally have a shelf life from 6 months to about a year. But if you find that the fruit is losing its color, texture, juice, then wash and cut the fruit and dip them in a solution of lemon juice and water for about 30 seconds to see its color, flavor and nutrition value retained.
Dried fruits can also be chopped and filled at the center of apples before baking, used in fruit cakes, and added to your breakfast oatmeal to make it a healthy snack.
It is important to check the contents of the dry fruit when bought. Look for dried or frozen dried versions with no sugar or preservatives. There can also be a small amount of oil content in your dry fruits which helps to prevent the fruit from clumping. Frozen dry fruits are frozen then placed in a vacuum chamber to gradually remove its water content without altering its nutritional content, flavor along with its crispy and dry texture.