Each bite offers a different taste, sometimes sweeter, almost buttery, sometimes slightly bitter or toasted. Sometimes there is a pleasant crunch that satisfies, or a softness that envelops. In short, enjoying a handful of dried fruit is truly a pleasant experience, making the mid-morning snack a cheerful, colorful and tasty moment. And if we consider that every nut, almond, hazelnut, cashew or dried apricot that we taste also brings important benefits for our health ... well, then the snack is even more interesting. But what exactly are the properties that a dried fruit snack can guarantee us? Let's find out on the basis of the most recent scientific research.
Antioxidant dried fruit
A handful of dried fruit is loaded with valuable antioxidants, such as vitamin E, which help counteract free radical damage and aging processes (Ros et al, Nutrients, 2010). Among all dried fruit, almonds and walnuts have been shown to contain the greatest amount of vitamin E. It should be emphasized, however, that antioxidants are mainly contained in the outermost layers, which is why a good choice is to eat also the skin that covers the fruit, as in almonds.
Nuts and brain
The intake of nuts protects the brain and helps to counteract the risk of developing cognitive impairment. This is thanks to the ability of nuts to reduce inflammation, the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques, which are toxic to brain tissues, and oxidative stress and to improve the function of blood vessels and the blood supply to the brain (Li et al, Front Aging Neurosci, 2022).
Nuts for heart health
Walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds protect heart health by reducing the risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease. This is thanks to the fact that they are cholesterol-free while they contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium and selenium (Eneroth et al, Nutrients, 2017). In addition, dried fruit also provides folate, which are B vitamins essential to ensure normal cellular functioning and to keep homocysteine levels under control. Homocysteine is an amino acid that, when in excess, can favor the formation of thrombus (Ros et al, Nutrients, 2010). Also noteworthy is the fact that nuts and other dried fruits provide phytosterols, which are substances capable of inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, thus reducing the amount of dietary cholesterol that reaches the blood (Ros et al. , Nutrients, 2010). Dried fruit, such as prunes and dried figs, should also be considered. In fact, these dried fruits are a precious source of antioxidants useful for preventing the oxidation of lipoproteins, the main cause of the onset of atherosclerosis (Vinson et al, J Am Coll Nutr, 2005).
Dried apricots for sight
Dried apricots have been shown to be rich in beta carotene and lutein, which are antioxidants that support vision and protect the retina and lens from aging, which can cause macular degeneration and cataract ( Johra et al, Antioxidants, 2020 - Srednicka-Tober et al, Foods, 2020).
Nuts and bone health
Nuts contain important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium and are low in sodium. These characteristics make this type of fruit an ally for skeletal health, helping to counteract bone demineralization (Ros et al, Nutrients, 2010).
Dried fruit and blood sugar
Dried fruit also exhibits antidiabetic properties. In fact, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts, thanks to the presence of fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, help to avoid dangerous glycemic peaks and support the microbiota, favoring the proliferation of butyrate producing bacteria. Butyrate is a substance with an anti-inflammatory action and at the head of a series of reactions that lead to a better use of glucose and insulin (Kim et al, Nutrients, 2017). But dates, dried apricots and raisins also help keep blood sugar under control. In fact, these foods are antioxidants, have a low glycemic index and are rich in fiber, which helps slow down the absorption of glucose taken during meals (Viguiliouk et al, Nutr Diabetes, 2018).
Dried fruit, risks and warnings
Excluding possible allergies, one of the main risks derived from the consumption of dried fruit is the possible ingestion of aflatoxins, which are carcinogenic mycotoxins that can contaminate the food. However, it must be said that, according to studies, the benefits deriving from the consumption of dried fruit still outweigh the risks generated by the possible presence of aflatoxins. In any case, it is important to minimize the risk of aflatoxin contamination and to choose good quality dried fruit (Eneroth et al, Nutrients, 2017). Then, try, if possible, to consume dried fruit that has not been added salt (Ros et al, Nutrients, 2010). Finally, regarding the possible concern about the association between dried fruit consumption and body weight gain, numerous studies indicate that this link does not exist, indeed, dried fruit would even help to lose weight (Ros et al, Nutrients, 2010). As for the quantity, studies have shown beneficial effects already with an amount of 10-30 grams per day of dried fruit.