A new Penn State study has found that dried fruit may be connected with better health.
The researchers learned that people who ate dried fruit were generally healthier than those who did not, and on days when people ate dried fruit they consumed greater amounts of some key nutrients than on days when they skipped. However, they also found that people consumed more total calories on days when they ate dried fruit.
Valerie Sullivan, postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Penn State grad student at the time of the study, said the findings suggest that dried fruit can be part of a healthy diet — with some caveats.
“Dried fruit can be a great choice for a nutritious snack, but consumers might want to be sure they’re choosing unsweetened versions without added sugar,” Sullivan said. “Portion sizes can also be tricky, because a serving of dried fruit is smaller than a serving of fresh since the water has been taken out. But the positive is that dried fruit can help people potentially consume more fruit because it’s portable, it’s shelf-stable, and can even be cheaper.”
-Eat more fruits and vegetables of any kind. Local and imported, fresh and frozen, organic and conventional are all good choices.
-Use fresh vegetables soon after purchasing to maximize nutrient content and prevent spoilage. Delicate foods like berries and greens will spoil more quickly. Produce with harder skin, such as carrots, cabbage, and apples, are more durable and last longer at home. Planning can help minimize food waste.
-Chill. Produce ripens more quickly when left at room temperature, but, once ripe, getting most types into a refrigerator (or freezer) can help preserve nutrients. A recent study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology focusing on blueberries found that phytochemical content could be largely preserved by low temperature storage (in a refrigerator or freezer). Some produce, however, such as tomatoes and bananas, are better left at room temperature, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
-Rinse (just about) everything. All produce should be rinsed with clean water before use to reduce risk of foodborne disease and remove pesticide residue. Hard produce can be scrubbed with a brush. Soap and special washes are not recommended. The only exception is pre-washed, bagged, greens, which the CDC recommends not be washed at home.
-Keep a fruit bowl. Having a bowl of fruit visible encourages more fruit intake, but can also lead to waste if the fruit spoils. Try having just a couple pieces of each type of fruit out at any one time (depending on your household size). This can help avoid over-ripening and food waste.
-Don’t forget frozen. Pre-packaged frozen vegetables and fruits are at least as nutritious as fresh, and often less expensive, and they are available year-round.
Fresh fruit is not only the top snack food consumed in America, it is also one of the fastest growing, according to new snacking research from The NPD Group, a leading global information company. NPD’s recently released Snacking in America report finds that growing concerns about health and eating right are contributors to the increasing popularity of fruit as a snack.
One of the reasons that fruit holds the top snack position is that it’s eaten throughout the day resulting in its inclusion in more snack occasions than other snack foods, according to NPD’s Snacking in America report, which examines attitudes and behaviors about snacking as well as snack selection drivers. During the two-year period ending March 2012, fresh fruit was consumed as a snack in 10 more snack occasions a year than chocolate, the next top snack food, and 25 more occasions a year than potato chips, the third…