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Spare Added Sugar; Try Dried Fruits

By Alana Sugar, October 11, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
Remember Mary Poppins? “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down….” Well, that’s just a spoonful. What happens when it becomes 22 spoonfuls, or worse, 34 spoonfuls? That’s right! Just last year, MSNBC reported that American adults consume 22 teaspoons of sugar each day! And teens consume 34! Shocking, if you ask me! Most of the sugar consumed comes from sodas and candy, but make no mistake about it: Plenty of sugar is consumed in everything from pastries, pies and cookies to cereals, soups and pasta sauces. Now, I know it’s probably comical that a nutritionist named Sugar (me) is writing about the excessive consumption of sugar, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. All that excess sugar can really pile on the extra calories, and that can lead to weight gain, not to mention the potential for crowding out other very important nutrients that are necessary for good health. This is especially important for children! The statistics reported by MSNBC are referring to added sugars rather than the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. What do I mean by added sugars? Take a look:
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Sucanat
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Fructose and high fructose corn syrup
  • Agave
  • Dextrose
  • Molasses
  • Dehydrated cane juice
And this is not even a complete list! Want to make a dent in your sugar consumption? Cut out — or at least back — on sodas and candy! That goes a long way. Of course, read labels and choose packaged foods with little or no sugar added. Next, look to dried fruits to provide added sweetness. When you skip the sugar and sweeten with dried fruits, you’re getting all the good natural sweetness along with the fiber and valuable vitamins and minerals contained in the whole fruit. But remember that fruit contains a lot of sugar, natural though it is. It also contains a lot of water. So when the fruit is dried, it becomes concentrated and energy-dense, so don’t go overboard! Concentrated calories do add up. And if you are sensitive to sugars, you may need to cut back on dried fruit as well. Just because dried fruit is natural doesn’t mean that it is well tolerated by everyone. To spare the added sugar and sweeten with dried fruit, start here:
  • Add raisins or currants, chopped dates or dried, chopped apricots to hot oatmeal or any hot cereal. Here’s a Millet Breakfast Cereal with Mandarin Oranges and Dates.
  • Nix the sugar on cold cereal! Top with dried blueberries, cherries, raisins or dates instead.
  • Make a bowl of breakfast brown rice with added nuts, raisins, dried cherries and a splash of milk or non-dairy "milk." Don’t forget the cinnamon!
  • Reduce the sugar in your cookie recipes by 1/3 or even 1/2; sweeten them with dried pineapple, papaya or apricots.
  • Next time you’re making muffins or quick breads, use just a minimal amount of sugar and add chopped figs, raisins or dates.
  • Here’s an idea: Don’t add that sugar at all! Soak raisins, figs or dates in hot water for ½ hour, drain and puree in a blender with the rest of the ingredients in your muffins or quick breads, then bake as instructed.
  • Sweeten a smoothie with a couple of dried dates.
  • Try this Chia Seed Pudding sweetened with currants, figs or dates.
  • Try a fruit pie or fruit crisp with apples, pears, peaches, or whatever you desire…hold the sugar! Add raisins, currants, prunes or figs instead.
Just remember that you need to keep your eyes open. Some dried fruits are made sweeter by adding sugar during processing and many have added sulfites to protect the color. At Whole Foods Market, all of our dried fruits are 100% sulfite-free. When possible, choose dried fruit without added sugar, or with a bit of fruit juice added when the fruit is particularly sour, such as cranberries or sour cherries. The high sugar content of dried fruits acts as a natural preservative; this means no refrigeration is necessary although keeping them cold can help them last even longer. Be sure to store dried fruit in air-tight containers to keep the fruit from absorbing moisture and attracting those pesky little insects. And remember that, on occasion, the natural sugars in dried fruit will solidify, forming crystals on the surface. This is especially true of prunes and figs. This is perfectly harmless. Enjoy! Are you ready to spare the sugar and go au-natural? Got a favorite recipe using dried fruits? I would love to hear!




Sherrill Jackson says ...
Most of the dried fruit is coated with organic sunflower oil by the original producers to facilitate processing through machinery and packaging, improve appearance and reduce clumping together. Dried fruit is self preserving, but the oil is not and is subject to rancidity from exposure to air and light, which dried fruit in bulk bins is, as well as in clear packaging or boxes. Once opened, the contents would be vulnerable to rancidity until consumed. Producers are sometimes asked to not oil their product. Wouldn't it be wise to offer un-oiled fruit to your customers?
10/11/2010 5:49:48 PM CDT
Joe @ Eden Kitchen says ...
I was shocked when a few years ago I discovered that most dried cranberries have sugar added. I did find some recently that had no sugar added and although they were very tart, they were actually quite refreshing added to my granola!
10/12/2010 4:15:48 AM CDT
M@London says ...
Thoroughly agree with Sherrill Jackson. It's really annoying to find that most dried fruit has an oil coating, and mostly the packaging does not say what oil. A few years ago I could buy dates from Iraq in unoiled blocks. If I wanted a whole date, I just peeled it off. If I wanted to chop the dates for a recipe, slicing the block was easier than slicing loose dates . I'd be happy to buy unoiled, unsulphured dried fruit whether it clumps up or not. It's easy for customers to unclump it. So, Whole Foods, be a pioneer and sell this sort of dried fruit. And please don't leave your UK stores out.
10/12/2010 9:43:58 AM CDT
Miko says ...
Years ago, my Mom taught me to read ingredients... if sugar falls in the first 5, don't eat it. She used this in college in the early 60's... the information has been out there that long. Sugar is prolly my biggest vice, but I have cut way back in the last couple of years. Soft drinks are now a very rare treat... they have actually started to taste funny lately. I never use the artificial junk, I think they taste awful. I'd rather drink my tea with out.
10/14/2010 6:10:21 AM CDT
Shawn says ...
My favorite strategy for getting out of the sugar shackles (and has worked great for my clients as well) is using a handful of mineral rich dried fruit like cherries, goji berries, or mulberries AND a little bit of stevia to bring out the other flavors... It's fantastic to add this to anything where you want some sweetness. Stevia is non-glycemic, but it usually doesn't do the trick for people on it's own, but when you mix it with a bit of dried super-fruit, it's pretty amazing.
10/16/2010 4:04:25 PM CDT
Shawn says ...
Sherrill Jackson's comment about oil added to dried fruit is excellent. Make sure that you read it everyone!
10/16/2010 4:08:49 PM CDT
Cathy says ...
I was interested to see what you had to say about dried blueberries. I work at a school that is getting dried blueberries and it lists sugar at the top of the list. I asked them why they added sugar and this was the answer, "Sugar is added for two primary reasons. First, it acts as a humectant in keeping the dried blueberries soft when dried down to moisture levels of 11%-15%. If sugar was not added then the dried blueberries wouldn't be palatable. They would be hard, dry and flavorless. The second reason sugar is added is to reduce costs. Blueberries are very expensive and adding sugar helps to reduce the cost of the finished product. If sugar was not used then dried blueberries would be so expensive no one could afford to buy them." I ask you, is there a more healthy solution? I hate the idea of the sugar added! and even more given to school children!
10/18/2010 5:50:20 PM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Cathy We understand your frustration; not all dried fruits are readily available without added refined sugar. You may want to suggest to your school that they source dried fruit that typically doesn’t contain added sugars, such as currants, raisins, dried dates and figs which are naturally sweet. Best of luck; thanks for your comment.
10/19/2010 12:50:40 PM CDT
Jim says ...
Sherrill, dead on! Why the h@ll do they do that? Not only due they add unneeded oils to dried fruits, such as blueberries and cranberries, but they also add sugars and/or other sweeteners! It's absurd. They take a very healthy snack or ingredient and they destroy it with added oils and sugars. It would be great if WF would carry dried fruits that did not have additives.
12/11/2010 2:26:47 PM CST
heather says ...
I think this is really bad advice.. don't add sugar, add fruit (fructose digest the same as sucrose) thats been dried and has more sugar added to it!? fresh fruit has enough sugar in it naturally for a person, if its not sweet enough try adding stevia (noutrition + sweetens - no sugar.)
04/17/2013 7:02:52 PM CDT
Jean says ...
On Dr. OZ show he said using dried white mulberrys (or fresh I guess if you can get them) is really working great for diabetics and it lowers the blood sugar. I thought to try them, but have been unable to locate where to purchase. Can you help? Thanks, Jean
10/02/2013 7:43:46 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JEAN - Our products vary between our stores. Reach out to your local store to find out if this is something they normally have in stock.
10/03/2013 2:25:37 PM CDT
Paulette Golon says ...
Looking for dried fruit that is sulfate free and sunflower oil free. Do you have anything like this in your store?thank you,
04/23/2014 5:02:52 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@PAULETTE - We do not allow added sulfites in our dried fruit. Since our products differ, check with your local store to see what what they have in stock and they can check on the sunflower oil for you as well!
04/24/2014 10:14:26 AM CDT
Liv Smith says ...
Hi, which brand/product of dried fruits in your stores do not contain added sugar? When I look at the label, I see over 20g of sugar. Are these added or natual? Thanks.
05/27/2014 12:55:16 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LIV - Our exact products differ between stores. The dried fruit should have the ingredients listed, whether in bulk or packaged options. The ingredients should list if there are any added sugars. Sometimes it will be cane sugar and sometimes they will used apple juice as a sweetener. You can always check with the Grocery team if they have any options packaged or in bulk with no added sugars or sweeteners. If the ingredient list does not contain added sugars, then the amount of sugars in the fruit is naturally occurring.
05/27/2014 4:18:32 PM CDT
nina says ...
Can I purchase dried blueberries in my whole fooods market Thank you
09/07/2014 8:23:00 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@NINA - Our exact products differ between stores. Check with your local store to find out if they have these packaged or in Bulk.
09/08/2014 5:47:28 PM CDT
Softa says ...
Do you carry fried fruits with no sugar or oil? I am attempting to transition to foods with neither.
10/15/2014 1:34:50 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SOFTA - I believe you are looking for dried fruit without added sugar or oil? If so, most of our stores should have some dried fruit options without oil or added sugars.
10/15/2014 2:59:22 PM CDT
Richard W Williams says ...
Do you have dried raisins with the seeds?
12/21/2014 4:53:59 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@RICHARD - Our exact product options differ between stores. Check with your local store to see if they have this in stock.
12/22/2014 10:49:21 AM CST
Kirsten says ...
Most dried fruit has sugar added to it. So it is no different than putting sugar in your oatmeal and possibly could be worse. I would recommend to put fresh fruit in your oatmeal or cereal rather than dried fruit. And even though dates are natural they contain a ton of sugar! Not a very healthy choice. I am surprised dried fruit is mentioned in an article that is about avoiding added sugar. Sugar is ADDED to dried fruit!!!!
07/16/2015 2:01:40 PM CDT
Jules Lee says ...
Does your store at the Almeda in San Jose sells dried fruits and nuts ? If not, please kindly advise of your nearest stores in Santa Clara, San Jose, Sunnyvale areas that do sell dried fruits and nuts. Thank you so much. Thanks, Jules
12/16/2015 2:30:31 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JULES - The majority of our stores should offer dried fruit and nuts. If you're looking for a particular variety, I would suggestion reaching out to the store directly at 408.207.1126 to find out if they have specific options in stock.
12/16/2015 2:33:20 PM CST