If you look at your diet, do you get enough fruits and vegetables? For most of us, the answer is no. Only 1 in 10 Americans get the recommended two cups of fruits per day (for a 2,000-calorie diet). Fruits have important dietary benefits; they are a good source of fiber as well as key vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits are also a source of carbohydrates and can offer a sweet taste without added sugars.
One way to increase your consumption is dried fruits: raisins, cranberries, apricots, banana chips. Many shy away from dried fruits because of the concentrated sugar. However, a new study shows that eating dried fruit may help people consume more nutrients and improve their overall diet quality.
The study was published in October in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers found that people who eat dried fruit regularly had a higher-quality diet and were more likely to get enough underconsumed nutrients such as fiber and potassium compared with people who didn’t include fruit (fresh or dried) in their diets.
For the study, researchers wanted to determine whether dried fruits can play a role in filling nutrition gaps and improving diet quality. They performed a cross-sectional analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007 and 2016 and estimated the average dried fruit intake of 25,590 subjects by dietary recall.
According to the data, 7.2% of subjects in the sample consumed dried fruit. Using the Healthy Eating Index as a reference, the researchers concluded that the group consuming dried fruit had overall higher-quality diets compared with subjects who did not eat dried fruit.
Dried fruit eaters also had a lower mean body mass index, waist circumference and systolic blood pressure than those who did not eat dried fruit. Dried fruit often contains more fiber, vitamins and minerals per serving than their fresh counterparts. While the drying process does deplete some nutrients, some studies have shown an increase in certain phenolic compounds.
But what about the extra calories?
In the study, the subjects who consumed dried fruits did appear to consume more calories, but their body mass indexes were still lower and their waist circumferences still smaller.
The bottom line? If you are not getting the daily recommended servings of fruit per day, try adding dried fruit to your diet. It will not only help you meet the dietary recommendation but also give you other health benefits of fiber and key nutrients.
Q and A
Q: Are sulfites in wine bad for me?
A: Sulfites have been used since ancient times — especially in winemaking. And they’re found in many everyday products, including dried fruits, pickles and seafood. Sulfites are also added to some medications. So, why is there a warning label on wine? Back in 1986, the Food and Drug Administration placed restrictions around the preservative after several people had asthma attacks from sulfites added to raw vegetables. While that sulfite sensitivity is rare, the FDA still requires any food or beverage containing 10 parts per million or more to say “contains sulfites” on the label. The bottom line is it’s not something to worry about for most of us.
With all the holiday food surrounding us that may not be so healthy, make sure to incorporate meals that offer your body plenty of protein, healthy fats, low sodium and fiber. This recipe for Pan-Roasted Sesame Salmon hits most of those categories. It’s quick, easy and full of good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids. It’s from Eating Well magazine.
PAN-ROASTED SESAME SALMON
4 scallions, whites and greens separated
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon mirin
1 1/4 pounds skin-on salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Finely chop scallion whites, and place them in a small bowl (chop and reserve greens for garnish). Add garlic, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, honey and mirin, and stir to combine. Pat salmon dry, and sprinkle with salt. Heat canola oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon, skin-side up, and cook until the underside is browned and releases easily from the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the salmon, and spoon the sauce over the top. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake until the salmon flakes easily with a fork, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the salmon with scallion greens and more sesame seeds, if desired. Serves 4 (4 ounces each).
Per serving: 265 calories; 29 grams protein; 6 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 66 milligrams cholesterol; 1 gram fiber; 3 grams total sugars; 561 milligrams sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Corina Rainer at Unsplash