Studies show surprising health benefits of dried fruit

Eating dates, raisins, figs, prunes etc. even reduces cancer risk

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Many people assume that dried fruits are less healthy than fresh fruit, one reason being that they have lost heat-sensitive vitamins such as B9 and vitamin C during the drying process.

Another reason is that dried fruit are high in natural sugar which is considered a no-no for cancer patients since sugar feeds cancer. So it will come as a great relief that as part of a wholesome diet tasty dried fruit are not only fine but actually health-promoting. In fact, modern research has shown that dried fruit can even play a role in a cancer-preventive diet!

Health benefits of dried fruits


One of the reasons why dried fruit are health-promoting is their high fiber content. Fibers, among many other proven benefits to health, help reduce postprandial glucose and insulin levels (i.e. improve glucose tolerance and insulin response following a meal). Dietary fiber alleviates constipation, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease[1] and increases satiety thus contributing to fight obesity.

By its favorable effects on the gut microbiome which directly impacts the brain (such as via the vagus nerve), dietary fiber intake also has a positive effect upon anxiety, psychological distress, and depression and helps establish greater emotional wellbeing[2]

Vitamins and minerals

Dried fruits are richer in nutrients by weight than their fresh counterparts, with mineral and trace elements content quadrupled. Dried fruits are remarkably rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc which help alkalise the body. They are also a good source of B vitamins.

Polyphenols and flavonoids

Dried fruits are a rich source of polyphenols, phenolic acids* and flavonoids to which (righly or wrongly) a number of health benefits are ascribed (the scientific debate is ongoing).

Dried figs for instance mostly contain gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, rutin, quercetin-3-O-rutinoside and epicatechin, with levels varying according to maturity, the drying process and color (darker varieties contain higher amounts of phenolic compounds).[3]

We even have several studies showing that polyphenol content is preserved or even increased when dried fruit samples are stored for 6-12 months at refrigerator temperature (4°C = ~40°F).[4]

On the other hand, polyphenols are heat-sensitive and keep best when the fruit is sun-dried, followed by drying in the microwave and finally by drying in the oven[5]

Dates fight pathogens

Clinical studies were able to show that dates inhibit important pathogens including those responsible for food poisoning or the dangerous multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium, which frequently leads to serious healthcare-associated infections.[7]

Dried prunes fight osteoporosis

As surprising as it may appear: prune consumption can efectively prevent and reverse osteoporosis by reducing inflammation. A follow-up study was able to show that postmenopausal women taking 100 g of prunes per day for a year maintained better bone mineral density than women taking a placebo. Even men, who actually have a greater risk of dying from osteoporosis-related fractures, benefitted from daily consumption for three months of 50 or 100 g of dried plums.[8]

Dried fruits reduces cancer risk

While it is an established fact that insufficient fruit and vegetables intake is linked to an increased cancer risk, a 2020 review of 16 observational studies set out to determine whether dried fruit consumption could also help reduce the risk of cancer. Results:

3 to 5 [or more] portions of dried fruit per week significantly reduced the relative risk of precancerous colorectal polyps by 24%, the risk of prostate cancer by 49% and that of dying from pancreatic cancer by a whopping 65%. Other studies also showed inverse associations between dried fruit intake and risk of cancer, in fact, the associations were comparable to or even stronger than those observed for raw fruits. In addition,some studies observed protective effects of dried fruits against the progression of some cancers as well as modulating effects on common cancer risk factors.

Specifically, higher intake of raisins and other dried fruits may help prevent cancers of the digestive system.[9]

Even diabetics can benefit from dried fruit

A meta-analysis from 2021 looked into the effects of dates on glycemic control in diabetic patients. It found that due to their high fiber and phenolic compound content, 30 minutes after ingestion dates will actually lower plasma glucose more strongly than the anti-diabetic drug Acarbose. In other words, diabetics are not only allowed to have dates but actually encouraged since they are beneficial in terms of glycemic control.[6]

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1 Dietary Fiber, Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Disease

2 Consumption of Dietary Fiber in Relation to Psychological Disorders in Adults

3 Review on fresh and dried figs: Chemical analysis and occurrence of phytochemical compounds, antioxidant capacity and health effects

4 Total phenolic content in ripe date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera L.): A systematic review and meta-analysis

5 Study of phenolic compound and antioxidant activity of date fruit as a function of ripening stages and drying process

6 Dates fruits effects on blood glucose among patients with diabetes mellitus: A review and meta-analysis

7 Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) Fruit as Potential Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Agents

8 The Short-Term Effect of Prunes in Improving Bone in Men

9 Dried Fruit Intake and Cancer: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies

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