Dried fruits, including apricots, dates, and prunes.
Photo: iStock

Dried fruit has a reputation for being high in calories and sugar, but, experts say, it can be just as good for you as fresh.

In fact, according to research published in 2020 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults who ate dried fruit had a lower body mass index (BMI) and systolic blood pressure (and a healthier overall diet) than those who didn’t.

“Many dried fruits are good sources of fiber and potassium—two nutrients that Americans need to consume more of—as well as phytochemicals [beneficial plant compounds],” says study author Valerie Sullivan, RDN, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

But some dried fruits are more nutritious than others, and calories can add up quickly if you don’t watch portion sizes. Below, the benefits of six dried fruits, along with what to watch out for.

Note: The portion sizes and nutritional information below are for about a 1½-ounce (40-gram) serving of dried fruit.

Apricots
Serving of 5 to 6 apricots
  • Calories 96
  • Carbohydrates 25 g
  • Fiber 3 g
  • Sugars 21 g
  • Added sugars 0 g
These sweet orbs supply the cell-protecting antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E. Apricots (and other bright-colored dried fruit) often contain sulfite preservatives. For most people, this isn’t a problem, but sulfites can cause reactions in those who are sensitive. Five percent of people with asthma may experience respiratory reactions from eating them. One important note: The glazed types you see around the holidays contain added sugars.
Banana Chips
Serving of ¼ cup
  • Calories 200
  • Carbohydrates 27 g
  • Fiber 1 g
  • Sugars 12 g
  • Added sugars 8 g
Banana chips are particularly problematic because they’re often fried in coconut oil, and that bumps up their saturated fat—the kind of fat that raises blood cholesterol and calories. Sugar can be added, too. For a healthier choice, look for chips that are dehydrated instead of fried, such as Bare Baked Crunchy Simply Banana Chips or truly dried bananas, like Good & Gather (Target) Organic Unsweetened Dried Banana Slices.
Figs
Serving of 5 figs
  • Calories 105
  • Carbohydrates 27 g
  • Fiber 4 g
  • Sugars 20 g
  • Added sugars 0 g
Sweet and a little crunchy from a seed-filled inside, dried figs are one of the only fruits that provide calcium: Just one serving of five dried figs has 68 mg of this bone-building nutrient. If you notice a white, flaky substance on your dried figs, it is most likely natural sugars that have crystallized on the surface of the fruit instead of added sugars—but you can always check the ingredients label just to be sure.
Mango
Serving of 4 slices
  • Calories 130
  • Carbohydrates 29 g
  • Fiber 2 g
  • Sugars 21 g
  • Added sugars 0 g
Thin, flat slices of dried mango supply vitamin A and a decent amount of potassium. And one small study suggests that eating mangoes may even help to lower blood pressure and generally improve heart health in older women. Check the label before you buy dried mango, though; some offerings are made with sulfites and added sugars. The good news: Dried mango without added sugars is naturally a little sweet all on its own.
Pineapple
Serving of 2 rings
  • Calories 140
  • Carbohydrates 35 g
  • Fiber 1 g
  • Sugars 32 g
  • Added sugars 7 g
In any form, pineapple is a good source of the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain. Just look out for added sugars. Some brands of dried pineapple contain fairly high amounts of the sweet stuff. For example, Mariani Tropical Pineapple has 18 grams per serving. Now Real Food Pineapple Rings (left), with 7 g, are a bit better, but it’s really best to look for those with no added sugars at all, if you can find them.
Prunes
Serving of 4 prunes
  • Calories 91
  • Carbohydrates 24 g
  • Fiber 3 g
  • Sugars 14 g
  • Added sugars 0 g
Prunes, also known as dried plums, really do help with constipation, according to a 2019 study from King’s College London. Other research reveals that the mix of antioxidant phytochemicals and nutrients in prunes may help strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. It’s probably not worth paying more for probiotic-added options: Prunes already offer plenty of digestion benefits.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the December 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.