If you eat these regularly, you are probably healthier than all your friends

This article was updated on September 24, 2021. 

Eating fruit is generally considered a healthy alternative to eating sweets but if they are of the dry kind, they can pack a bunch of benefits to better your health.

Dried fruits such as raisins, dates, prunes, figs, and more can make you healthier compared to people who don’t eat them, a new study argues.

Researchers from Penn State University found that people who ate dried fruit were healthier compared to those that didn’t consume the fruit, while absorbing more key nutrients and calories when the food was consumed in a day’s diet.

Is dried fruit the key to health?

The study, which appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, had researchers looking to find whether dried fruits could be seen as a better alternative to fresh fruit, primarily because they are cheaper.

Fruits, in general, carry a ton of nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, and other bioactive that are good for the heart, but they can be pricey and difficult to find in certain areas of the country.

While dried fruits can be a healthy boost to any diet, it’s important for consumers to recognize some of the pitfalls that come with them, says Valerie Sullivan, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Sullivan said that identifying unsweetened versions and portion sizes should be on every consumers mind before thinking about the diet switch.

“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 in a press release. “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.”

The study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collected responses from 25,590 participants on food they had consumed over the past 24 hours before completing the survey.

Information like body mass index, waist circumference, and blood pressure were also taken, according to the study. For people that consumed dried fruit into their diet, the study found that they had healthier diets than those who didn’t, while also having lower BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure.

“What I also found interesting was that people tended to eat more total fruit on the days they ate dried fruit than on days they didn’t,” Sullivan added. “On days when dried fruit was not eaten, however, fresh fruit intake was not higher. So dried fruit could be a way to boost overall fruit intake in people that aren’t eating the recommended amounts.”

While dried fruit can be a healthier alternative, the study did find that participants consumed more carbohydrates, dietary fiber, potassium, and other dietary metrics on days when they ate dried fruit, which means consumers should be mindful.

“In our study, people who consumed dried fruits had a higher calorie intake but a lower BMI and waist circumference which suggests they were more physically active,” Penny Kris-Etherton, Evan Pugh University Professor of Nutritional Sciences, said in a statement. “So, when incorporating dried fruits, pay attention to calories and be sure to substitute out calories from low-nutrient foods for dried fruits to get the greatest benefit of eating dried fruits.”