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Is Freeze Dried Fruit Healthy? A Dietitian Weighs In

April 24, 2024

If you’ve been to Trader Joe’s recently, you’ve probably been tempted by the colorful bags of freeze dried fruit. Or perhaps you’ve seen people on TikTok eating it with milk by the bowlful instead of cereal. It’s intriguing — the idea of fruit, but crunchy. Plus, unlike fresh fruit, it doesn’t spoil and it’s easy to transport.

But is it healthy? And how do they make it so crunchy, anyway? We popped open a bag of freeze dried strawberries and investigated.

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What is freeze dried fruit vs. dried?

Not to be confused with dried fruit, which is typically chewy and leathery, freeze dried fruit is airy and crunchy. Some of the differences include:

  • Dried fruit retains about 20% of its moisture, whereas freeze dried fruit retains virtually none.

  • Since dried fruit still has water in it, it often requires preservatives to keep it shelf-stable for longer, says dietitian Kaytee Hadley.

  • Many dried fruits have sugar added, while freeze dried usually don’t.

  • Regular dried fruit can lose some nutrients during the drying process; freeze dried fruits don’t, Hadley notes.

How does freeze drying work?

Drying fruit is a fairly straightforward process that you can do at home. You can use a food dehydrator or just your oven (you can even do it in the sun). But to freeze dry fruit, companies use commercial equipment.

Freeze drying involves a special machine with below-freezing temperatures to remove moisture from the fruit. What’s unique about freeze drying is that the water goes through a process of sublimation. In other words, the solid water in the fruit (i.e., the ice) transforms directly to vapor, without passing through a liquid state. Once the ice becomes gaseous, a vacuum pump in the machine removes the vapor. It operates so effectively that it’s able to remove close to all of the fruits’ moisture. Because of this, freeze dried fruits can last for decades when unopened and stored properly.

While you can freeze dry almost anything, you’ll most commonly come across freeze dried strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, mangos, and pears. Small berries might be freeze dried whole, but larger fruits are typically sliced or cut into smaller pieces.

Are freeze dried fruits still healthy?

Yes, freeze dried fruits are healthy. Thanks to the sublimation process, the quality of the fruit is unchanged. So freeze dried fruit retains the nutritional components of fresh fruit.

With its nutrition, crunch, and fiber, freeze dried fruit can be a great addition to meals and snacks, Hadley says. But there’s one caveat: Because the moisture is removed during the drying process, the fruit shrinks in size. As a result, it’s much easier to overeat.

“Freeze drying the fruit makes it smaller, so you’re getting most of the same nutrition, but in a smaller portion,” she says. “The biggest drawback is you’ll likely end up consuming more calories, sugar, and potentially sodium while feeling less full from the same portion.”

Take a pint of fresh strawberries, for example. It’s unlikely that you’d eat the whole thing in one sitting. But, with freeze dried strawberries, an entire carton could fit in the palm of your hand, and you could lush it off within minutes. One cup of sliced fresh strawberries (about 166 grams’ worth) has about 53 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of sugar. By contrast, a bag of freeze dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s, which is 34 grams, has 120 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of fiber, with 15 grams sugar.

Hadley says that even though concentrated sugars are present in freeze dried fruit, the glycemic index is not affected, and freeze dried fruit may actually improve glycemic control. But it’s still important to watch portion sizes, and combine it with other foods for blood sugar control.

“With fruits, freeze dried or not, the best way to decrease a spike in blood sugar is by pairing it with protein and fiber, so adding freeze dried strawberries to a leafy green salad with a high quality protein would be an excellent meal I’d recommend to clients,” Hadley says. Sprinkle the strawberries on top just before serving so they retain their crunch.

You asked: What can freeze dried fruit be used for?

Along with the salad Hadley recommends, here are some other creative uses for freeze dried fruit:

Read next: The 7 Best Frozen Fruits to Always Have on Hand, Say Experts

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