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    Archive for the ‘dried fruit’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Unsulfured Dried Fruit

    slicestjoes300x413.jpegToday at the supermarket I saw dried fruit that had “unsulfured” written on the packaging.

    Is that a healthier choice?

    — Lindsay Kleiner
    Chicago, IL

    Sulfur dioxide is a much-loved additive by the food industry since it does three things very well:

    1. It prevents natural enzymatic processes (ie: the reason why apple slices turn brown when exposed to air) from happening
    2. It makes bacterial growth on food almost impossible
    3. It severely delays spoilage

    It does what is the most beautiful of all music to food companies: EXTENDS SHELF LIFE!

    Is sulfur dioxide harmful?  It depends on context.

    If you worked in a factory alongside vats of sulfur dioxide and decided to take a whiff from one, then, yes, you would be in severe trouble (and most likely dead by the time an ambulance arrived).

    That, of course, is an extreme example, and one that could be applied to many foods we safely consume on a daily basis (the 200 or so milligrams of caffeine in two cups of coffee is of no concern, but if you are injected with 50,000 milligrams of caffeine intravenously, it’s a very different story).

    The amount of sulfur dioxide in dried fruit is too insignificant to have any impact on human health.  It would only be an issue if you consumed ridiculously — and implausibly — high amounts of dried fruit on a daily basis for several years.

    That said, there are three significant reasons why people seek out unsulfured dried fruit.

    First, many consumers choose to avoid foods that contain additives (for instance, to support organics).

    Number two?  Taste!  Some people are sensitive to an off-flavor that can be characteristic of fruits that contain sulfur dioxide.

    Then there’s the paramount issue that resulted in the mandatory labeling of sulfured — and unsulfured — products: allergies.

    People who are allergic to sulfur dioxide have absolutely horrible respiratory reactions when exposed to even the tiniest of amounts.  In the 1980s there were actually a few deaths as a result of individuals allergic to sulfur dioxide consuming unlabeled products that contained the additive.

    As a result, starting in 1987, food products that contained sulfur dioxide at levels of at least 10 parts per million must list it on the ingredient list (where it is usually listed as “to preserve freshness”).

    I’m personally a huge fan of unsulfured dried fruit.  I find it tastes better.  Besides, I don’t mind if my dried fruit isn’t super shiny and colorful.

    The more important thing to keep in mind when buying dried fruit is to avoid varieties with added sugars, artificial colors, and partially hydrogenated oils!

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    Buyer, Beware (And Be Smart)!

    The latest video on the Small Bites YouTube channel discusses four popular deceptive advertising techniques relating to nutrition:

    • “A daily dose of antioxidants”
    • “Cholesterol-free”
    • “0 grams of trans fat per serving!”
    • “Made with fruit”

    Once you’re familiar with these tricks, you won’t be a sucker at the supermarket!

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    You Ask, I Answer (On YouTube!): Healthy Eating Outside The Home

    How do I start onto the path of eating and living more heathfully? Hopefully, there are others who, like myself, know what they “should” be doing, but don’t know where to begin or what to pay attention to the “most.”

    For example (speaking only for myself here), here is a glimpse of all the food-related thoughts running through my mind daily:

    “Watch your calories, fat, salt, refined sugar, and flour intake…. no fast food/chips/soda/Starbucks mocha whip lattes (sob!)…. pay attention to the glycemic index/volumetrics/South Beach/Weight Watcher/Zone Plan… eat your largest meal early and your lightest meal later… get your daily serving of fruits and vegetables (ha!), fiber, and protein… don’t forget to take your vitamin/calcium suppleent… and put down that ice cream/cookies/cake!!”

    I currently work full-time and go to grad school part-time, so 3 days out of the week I leave my apartment at 8:30 am and don’t get home until after 11:00 pm.

    I work either Saturday or Sunday each week to make up my school hours.

    My eating schedule is seriously out of whack — many times I’ve eaten cold pizza at midnight.

    I struggle with the “healthful vs. convenienc” battle every day.

    And as for cooking? I use my oven as storage space for pots and pans that never get used — I just don’t have the time.

    Any advice?

    — Amie Lemire
    (Location Unknown)

    Great question, Amie.

    People tend to overcomplicate nutrition. If you focus on the basics, though, the rest of your concerns will fall into place.

    Rather than write out a lengthy response, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to debut Small Bites on YouTube!

    You can view my answer below. Be sure to bookmark the Small Bites channel on YouTube, too!

    Readers: I would like to post a YouTube clip every 7 to 10 days.

    Let me know what you would like to see on the channel. Product reviews? Questions and answers? Fad diet critiques? Let your voices be heard!


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    Perfect Pickings: Nut Mixes/Trail Mix

    Let me begin by saying that all nut products will contain (heart-healthy) fats — there is no use in looking for low-fat trail mix!

    Contrary to popular belief, raw and roasted nuts are virtually identical.

    An ounce of raw almonds contains 164 calories, a mere five less than the same amount ounce of a roasted variety.

    What differs most between the two is sodium content.

    Whereas an ounce of raw almonds contributes 0 milligrams of sodium, that same amount of roasted almonds contains 100 milligrams.

    You won’t find too many nutritional differences among commercial trail mixes.

    The overwhelming majority pack in the following per quarter-cup serving:

    • 130 – 150 calories
    • 75 – 100 milligrams of sodium
    • 2 grams of fiber
    • 5 – 8 grams of protein

    However, this is one product where a peek at the ingredients list comes in handy.

    All trail mixes containing dried fruit, for example, will show high sugar values on their nutritional labels.  This is where you need to read the ingredient list closely.  Look for plain and simple dried fruit.

    Hence, seeing “raisins, dried mangoes” (literally dried fruit) is much better than “dried cranberries [sucrose]” (fruit with added sugar).

    Since berries are generally tart when dried, expect trail mixes containing them them to contain added sugar for flavor-enhancing purposes.

    While M&M’s and caramel corn are tasty additions, they make for trail mixes with inferior nutrition profiles.

    If it’s nutrition you seek, stick to the tried and true classics.

    Speaking of dried fruit, though, there is one component in trail mix that is especially worth looking out for.

    The sneaky culprit I am referring to? None other than dried bananas!

    Their nutrient profile is inferior to that of a common banana (potassium, vitamin C, and fiber are significantly lower), and since they are deep fried prior to being dried, their calorie and fat content is significantly heightened.

    Keep in mind that all trail mix is calorically dense (a quarter cup clocks in at roughly 150 calories); it was originally a snack consumed by people who hiked for hours and needed a quick and healthy energy boost.

    That said, if you’re seeking a nutritious trail mix, Bear Naked’s Pacific Crest Mix is one I have enjoyed a few times — it’s low in sodium and contains no added sugar.

    Sometimes, I prefer to make my own trail mixes.

    I usually throw in a whole grain (usually oat-based) cereal low in added sugar, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, raisins, and half a handful of cacao nibs (you could also break up a square of dark chocolate — comprised of at least 75% cocoa, if you’re looking to get some health benefits — into small bits and mix it in!)

    If you enjoy the combination of fruits and nuts and want it in an even more nutritious package, I suggest trying Lara, Clif Nectar, or Pure bars.

    If they are hard to find in your area, click on each bar’s name to be directed to their respective order pages.

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    Perfect Pickings: Nut Mixes/Trail Mix

    Let me begin by saying that all nut products will contain (heart-healthy) fats — there is no use in looking for low-fat trail mix!

    Expect 10 – 12 grams per quarter cup serving.

    Contrary to popular belief, raw and roasted nuts are virtually identical.

    An ounce of raw almonds contains 164 calories, a mere five less than an ounce of a roasted variety.

    What differs between the two is sodium content.

    Whereas an ounce of raw almonds contributes 0 milligrams of sodium, that same amount of roasted almonds contains 100 milligrams.

    You won’t find too many nutritional differences among commercial trail mixes.

    The overwhelming majority packs in 130 – 150 calories, 75 – 100 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of fiber, and 5 – 8 grams of protein per serving.

    However, this is one product where a peek at the ingredients list comes in handy.

    All trail mixes containing dried fruit, for example, will initially appear high in sugar, partly because food labels do not differentiate between naturally-occurring and added sugars.

    This is where you need to read the label. Look for plain and simple dried fruit.

    Hence, seeing “raisins, dried mangoes” (literally dried fruit) is much better than “dried cranberries [sucrose]” (fruit with added sugar).

    Since berries are generally tart when dried, expect them to have sugar added on to enhance flavor.

    While M&M’s and caramel corn are tasty additions, they taint the nutrition profile of mixes consisting exclusively of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.

    If it’s nutrition you are seeking — stick to the tried and true classics.

    Speaking of dried fruit, though, there is one component in trail mix that is especially worth looking out for.

    Just one ounce provides 40 percent of a day’s worth of saturated fat and 145 calories.

    The sneaky culprit I am referring to? None other than dried bananas!

    Their nutrient profile is inferior to that of a common banana (potassium, vitamin C, and fiber are significantly lower), and since they are deep fried in quite a bit of coconut oil prior to being dried, saturated fat content is off the charts!

    Keep in mind that all trail mix is calorically dense (a quarter cup clocks in at roughly 150 calories); it was originally a snack consumed by people hiking for hours, in need of a quick and healthy energy boost.

    That being said, if you’re seeking a nutritious trail mix, Bear Naked’s Pacific Crest Mix is one I have enjoyed a few times — it’s low in sodium and contains no added sugar.

    Sometimes, I like to make my own trail mixes.

    I usually throw in a whole grain (usually oat-based) cereal low in added sugar, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, raisins, and half a handful of cacao nibs (you could also break up a square of dark chocolate — comprised of at least 75% cocoa, if you’re loking to get some health benefits — into small bits and mix it in!)

    Although a good source of protein and vitamin E, you would need to eat a significant amount of trail mix (and calories!) to make it a high-fiber snack.

    If you enjoy the combination of fruits and nuts and want it in an even more nutritious package, I suggest trying Lara, Clif Nectar, or Pure bars.

    If they are hard to find in your area, click on each bar’s name to be directed to their respective order pages.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Dried Cranberries

    [I just read your posting on apple butter and had a question about] dried cranberries.

    Are they any good for you because I was reading the nutritional info and it just seems like carbs!

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    All fruits, except for avocados, are basically pure carbohydrate.

    I say basically because some might offer 0.2 or so grams of protein.

    The fact that fruit is made exclusively of carbohydrates does not make it unhealthy or a bad choice.

    When you eat a piece of fruit (not drink fruit juice or have gummy candy “with fruit” or eat fruit-flavored sherbet), you are consuming fiber, naturally occurring sugars, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

    The word “carb” became akin to a curse word because it erroneously equated “empty carbohydrates”, which are void of any nutrition (think donuts, cookies, and Goldfish crackers), with truly nourishing ones like oats, quinoa, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.

    It is interesting that you point out dried fruit, though, as it can be a bit tricky to decipher.

    On one hand, raisins — essentially grapes tha have been sunbathing for too long without UV protection — are a very nutritious snack.

    They are a good source of potassium, selenium, and iron, and offer fiber mainly in the form of inulin.

    Cranberries run into a problem, though. When dried (i.e.: become Craisins), they become so tart that sucrose (table sugar) must be added.

    And we’re not talking a light sprinkling.

    In turn, they become more candy-like and lose some of their awesomely healthy fruit properties.

    If dried fruit is your choice of snack, reach for naturally sweet options like raisins, dried mangoes, dried apples, and dates (dried figs), which rely on their naturally-occurring sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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