Mention preserved fruit like sour plums and most will recall the tart, salty zing that such tidbits pack.
The process of making preserved fruits is simple: They are cured with salt and sugar, and then flavoured with herbs such as liquorice (as in the case of sour plums).
However, you better go easy on these tidbits.
"They are unhealthy, as salt and sugar are the main ingredients for curing the fruit, in addition to other preservatives," says Eunice Goh, a dietitian from Singapore General Hospital.
People who have chronic illnesses such as kidney disease or hypertension should steer clear of them or at least reduce their intake, she adds.
The high sodium content may increase the risk of high blood pressure, and the tidbits can be a source of "hidden" sugar - diabetics should be especially mindful of the portions that they indulge in.
As for the longheld belief that preserved fruits relieve nausea and dispel bloatedness - it's just an old wife's tale.
According to nutritionists, there is no scientific evidence that preserved fruit have the medicinal effects that most older folks claim.
But despair not, tidbit lover.
"You should be aware of the difference between preserved and dried fruits. In terms of nutritional benefits, dried fruits are better than preserved ones," explains Goh.
In fact, they can be as healthy as their fresh equivalents.
Usually, the first step in the manufacturing process is "drying" the fruit.
At this stage, most of the water content is extracted: This concentrates the naturally occurring nutrients found in the fruit.
For instance, 50g of fresh mangoes contain 0.4mg of iron, compared to 0.8mg of iron in 50mg of dried mangoes, says Goh.
So, you should switch to dried fruits if you crave a nibble.
Indeed, they can even be beneficial to your health.
For example, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that dried fruits, in particular dried plums, could slow the onset of the hardening of your arteries - a condition that causes heart disease and stroke.
Getting your fruit fix
If you struggle to increase fruit intake in your diet, dried fruits are a boon.
They are smaller in size and weight than fresh fruits, so snacking on them is more convenient, says Goh.
There are many ways to enjoy dried fruits.
Add them to salads, pancake batter, breads or even cereals.
When it comes to variety, you are spoilt for choice: The most popular dried fruits include raisins, dates, apricots and prunes.
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Eng Chee Koon is a senior writer with Men’s Health magazine by SPH Magazines.
Check out more stories at Men’s Health online, www.menshealth.com.sg.
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