Trying to increase dietary fiber intake usually means adding more fruit to your diet. As a rule, fruit has more fiber per serving (3-5 grams/serving) than do vegetables (1-3 grams/serving). But what kind of fruit is best if you’re concerned about fiber? When we’re talking about fruit, there are generally four categories the fruit can fall under:
- Fresh fruit
- Canned fruit
- Frozen fruit
- Dried fruit
Fresh and frozen fruit are virtually identical when it comes to fiber content as well as the vitamins and minerals.
Fresh fruits, if you can buy them locally, are your best option. When you go to the grocery store, it is a good bet that most of the fruits have had to travel a long distance (days to weeks) before being put out for sale. This means the fruits were picked before they were ripe and allowed to ripen during the travel. The fiber content is likely the same, but it is a good chance they won’t be the same nutritionally as the vitamins and minerals weren’t able to fully develop.
Frozen fruits are generally allowed to ripen naturally. They are then picked and frozen with a minimum of processing. They may, however, be blanched prior to freezing to reduce the chance that the fruit changes color, taste, or smell. Blanching may reduce some of the vitamins and minerals, but the nutritional value will be remarkably similar.
Canned fruits tend to have the same amount of fiber as their fresh/frozen counterparts, however, there is often added sugar (from syrup or juice) that increases calorie content of canned fruits.
Be sure to read the labels for all canned fruits and vegetables. Besides syrups, canned fruits may also have other additives that may carry health risks.
Canned fruits will also have less vitamin C than their fresh or frozen counterparts because vitamin C is depleted during the canning process. However, it is important to note that vitamin C levels will remain the same for its shelf life.
Dried fruit is a little trickier the dehydration process removes the water-holding capabilities of fiber. Dried fruit tends to be lower in fiber per serving than the fresh fruit it came from. Certain types of dried fruit are often sweetened with extra sugar (think dried pineapple and cranberries), which increases calorie counts and decreases the overall nutritive value.
Additionally, because of the compact nature of dried fruit, it’s easy to eat a LOT of calories worth of dried fruit in a short period of time. You can pop 130 calories of raisins (1/4 cup’s worth) in a few bites; whereas, eating 130 calories of grapes (about 1 cup’s worth) takes a longer amount of time, meaning you’re likely to consume fewer calories overall with fresh vs. dried fruit. Pay attention to the recommended serving, particularly if you’re concerned with the number of calories you eat.
So, when weighing your fruit and fiber options – locally grown fresh fruits are usually the best followed by non-local fresh. Frozen options are next on the list. Next are canned fruits, and finally, dried.
Compared to dried fruits, fresh fruit:
- Has no added sugar
- Contains more water
- Often contains fewer calories per serving
- Is higher in fiber