• Health

Is Dried Fruit Just a Giant Sugar Bomb?

3 minute read

Nope. It’s healthy, say 4/5 experts.

dried fruit
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Call your grandma, because prunes—and other shriveled dried fruits—really are awesome, say four out of five of our experts.

But there’s one very important fact to remember: drying fruit shrinks everything about it, including how much of the food you should reasonably let yourself eat. “If you remove the water from fresh fruits, it will reduce the serving size to about 75 percent,” says Kristi King, senior clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital.

That smaller serving size can make dried fruits easy to overeat.You get a measly number of raisins (also known as dried grapes) in a serving: those 1.5-ounce boxes at the bottom of your trick-or-treating bag is one serving. But if you’re eating fresh grapes, a serving is a whole cup.

The spookiest part of overeating dried fruit is all the sugar, says dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. That Halloween box of raisins has 25 grams of sugar. “You just can’t justify the added stress on the body to process such large amounts of sugar at one time, or the inflammation roller coaster that occurs on a high-sugar diet,” she says. Our experts agree that you shouldn’t eat dried fruits that contain added sugar; always check the ingredient list to make sure. “When the native sugar of the fruit is combined with extra added sugar, you are now in the realm of candy,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center.

But the small, concentrated portions of dried fruits are part of the reason they’re so beloved. “Dried fruit is convenient, portable and durable, so it is a staple in my travel snack pack,” says Katz. They’re a great and high-quality source of fiber; the box of raisins has 1.6 grams of fiber, which can be a lot easier to eat than the whole cup of grapes you’d need to get the same amount.

Dried might even have an edge over fresh. In a study where researchers compared the amount and quality of antioxidants in certain dried fruits to fresh fruits, they found that figs and dried plums (also known as prunes) contained the best-quality antioxidants. “Dried fruits are an excellent source of fiber and a concentrated source of antioxidants,” says study co-author Joe Vinson, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton. Texas A&M University professor Nancy Turner, who has also conducted research on prunes, agrees that dried fruit can be great, so long as it doesn’t contain added sugar.

Antioxidant- and fiber-filled snacks that last for months and can survive a crushing at the bottom of a backpack? Huh. Prunes sure are more badass than we thought.

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Write to Mandy Oaklander at mandy.oaklander@time.com