When you want a lightweight, portable snack for sustained energy on the trails, dried fruit is a great option. It packs in tons of nutrients such as fibre and antioxidants just like fresh fruit, but without spoiling easily or taking up much space in your bag. Many commercial dried fruits are available and you might think they are all the same. A blueberry is a blueberry after all, but there is more to it than that. Check the ingredients listed on a packet and you will find many brands use a variety of additives.
What Kinds of Additives?
Preservatives are used to make dried fruit last longer on the shelf by inhibiting mould or bacterial growth. Preservatives and artificial colours are both used to brighten or alter the colour of dried fruit. Artificial sweeteners and artificial flavours are used to enhance the taste and make fruits more appealing to your sweet tooth. Together, these additives can cover a multitude of problems, hiding quality and taste issues from using lesser-quality fresh fruits before drying.
Why Should I Worry About Additives?
The most common preservative is sulphur dioxide, a chemical that is poisonous in its gaseous form. If you have heard of the sulphites known for being in wine and other foods, sulphur dioxide is one of them. While there are small amounts in wine, dried fruits can contain a high concentration of this sulphite to make them appear fresher than they are and lighten the colour.
Studies suggest about 1% of people are sensitive to sulphur dioxide and will experience negative reactions when eating sulphur dioxide treated foods. Sensitivity can cause nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, or even wheezing and difficulty breathing. For those who have asthma, the chances are even greater of a reaction being triggered and needing to use an emergency inhaler.
Artificial sweeteners are a bit of a tricky move made by manufacturers who know it is easy for consumers to miss. Adding these chemicals doesn't change any numbers on the nutrition panel because they have zero calories. There are also many kinds of artificial sweeteners, so it is hard to know all the names and recognize these on an ingredients list. The intense sweetness of some can be overpowering while the bitterness of others might make you think you don't like dried fruit! When it comes to safety concerns, studies are mixed, but point to unhealthy side effects. Better to give your body natural energy it knows how to use.
Artificial flavours are made up of synthesized molecules that food chemists have found to tickle our taste buds. Food manufacturers love to add these in because they are inexpensive. While many taste vaguely fruity, none compare to the satisfying and natural taste of real fruit. Why would anyone want to cover up that goodness?
Artificial sweeteners and artificial flavours only serve to hide the real taste of the fruit, masking the flavour of less than desirable pieces in the bag. Artificial colourings may also be used to hide the use of undesirable fruit. If these are on an ingredients list, what is the producer trying to cover up? All are unnecessary if ripe and delicious fruits are used to begin with.
Are There Dried Fruits Without These Ingredients?
These chemical additives aren't necessary when quality fresh fruit is dehydrated with good techniques. That's why dried fruit has been a traditional food for millennia, way before artificial additives became available. The blueberries and cranberries from our B.C. farms are carefully inspected before we use state-of-the-art technology to dry and sweeten the whole fruits using cane sugar. Wild Coast Dried Fruit is always preservative and artificial flavour free so you can stop the search for healthy, natural snacks and enjoy your adventures.