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Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol

September 12, 2013 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 34 Comments

When I saw there was a paper entitled “Daily Dried Apples Versus Daily Dried Plums: Impact on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Postmenopausal Women,” the first thing I thought was well, was the study funded by the U.S. Apple Association or the International Prune Association? Turns out neither. Just our taxpayer dollars hard at work. Great! So what did they find?

One hundred and sixty older women were randomly assigned to a dried apple group or a dried plum group and followed for a year. A dozen dried apple rings a day or about 8 prunes. As you can see in my 3-min video Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol?, within 3 months the apple group experienced a significant drop in cholesterol that stayed down throughout the rest of the study, but no cholesterol benefit in the prune group. Both dried fruit regimens lowered c-reactive protein levels about the same, though dried plums may cause a quicker decrease in inflammation, whereas dried apples may result in a greater decrease overall.

Prunes may not help our cholesterol, but they may improve the health of our skin—see Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep. That’s of course in addition to their customary regularity role, something I address in Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet.

Twelve apple rings is equivalent to eating about 2 apples a day. They think that the cholesterol-lowering properties of apples may be due to their unique pectin fiber composition, which may increase fecal excretion of bile. Or there may be cholesterol-lowering phytonutrients unique to the apples. Either way, this supports the extraordinary findings detailed in my previous video Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol.

What about dried figs? The California Fig Board did not want to be left out. They put people on 14 figs a day (that’s a lot of figs!) for 5 weeks and… nothing. Daily consumption of figs did not appear to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Finally, what about dates? Another recent study tested 4 or 5 dates a day for a month and again nothing. The dates did tend to bring down triglyceride levels, though, which is surprising given their sugar content. Studies of the glycemic index of dates found them to have a surprisingly mild effect on blood sugar levels. In Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol? I show graphs comparing the blood sugar effects of straight sugar water versus that same amount of sugar in date form. More on the sugar content of dates in Are Dates Good For You?, a recipe in Healthy Pumpkin Pie, and my favorite source for dates here (the season just started!).

Dates beat out other common fruits in terms of containing more vitamins and minerals. They’ve even been touted as the “richest source of dietary minerals,” but because they’re dried they have about 5 times more calories than fresh fruits. Thus, in terms of nutrient density, they’re really quite comparable to other fruits. Apples, however, clearly have others beat when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

More on dried fruit can be found in:

Those with asthma may want to choose dried fruits without the preservative sulfur dioxide.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image credit: storebukkebruse / Flickr

 

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Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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  • DanielFaster

    Shouldn’t fresh apples and/or my homemade Rosh Hoshanna spiced applesauce have the same effect as dried apples if it is the fiber? Did the dried apples include the peels in this study?

    • Martha Helene Jones

      That is pretty much the same question I had, are fresh just as good?

      • Toxins

        Of course! Fresh is almost always better.

        • DanielFaster

          But I think only slightly so. From watching the other NF vids and reviewing the lit sources, the benefits come from the fiber and the poly phenols. The fiber is in the flesh – my applesauce is good – but the poly phenols are more in the peel. My takeaway is that the whole apple is important more so than drying or cooking or fresh. FYI I was in Whole Foods River Oaks location today and could not find any dried apples with or without the peel -was told they had been out for a year.

  • Lawrence

    Question: I am a heart attack survivor and trying to manage my cholesterol without statin. A recent test showed that my overall cholesterol was good but I need to raise my HDL (0.9) and lower my LDL (2.4). I eat fruit every day including apples. Any suggestions?

    • Toxins

      Have you eliminated free oils? Do you regularly exercise? What nuts ,if any, do you eat most often?

      • Lawrence

        Hi Toxins – I only use a small amount of Rice Bran Oil to brown the garlic and Onions and that is only when I cook stir fry or a soup. Once the browning is done i use Vegie Stock to make a water based sauce. I eat Macro Organic Mixed raw Nuts (brazil, hazel, almond, cashewwith sunflower, pine and pumpkin seeds. I also add pistachio. All raw & unsalted. I go to the Gym for 45 mins brisk treadmill walking plus light weights and standing/sitting. When not at the gym I brisk walk outside in the sunshine for 45 mins. I try to do this everyday but usually mis one day a week.

        • Toxins

          Perhaps you should try to eliminate all nut and seed products and restrict yourself to no more than an ounce of walnuts or flaxseed. I am not sure how much nuts you are eating but eating too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, these nuts you are eating are very high in omega 6 and very low in omega 3. This poor ratio will not allow sufficient conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA. A ratio of omega 6:3 for good conversion would be 4:1. Brazil nuts, for example, have a ratio of 500:1. Nuts are healthy but they should be eaten in moderation, especially if you have already suffered from a cardiac event.

          Eating plenty of beans and greens will also help lower blood cholesterol levels. I am in no way a medical doctor, and offer to you only my opinion based on the research.

          • Lawrence

            Thanks for your considered reply Toxins. I love my nuts and seeds and know they have a lot of health benefits. Prior to my heart attack I was not eating many nuts and seeds but I have significantly increased my consumption since. I am reluctant to give them up so I will try other things first. Thanks again.

    • DanielFaster

      Sometimes it can take a while for cholesterol to drop post-Atkins, you might want to check your carotid intima thickness -it is an ultrasound type test your doctor can do -find a plant based doctor – this may be okay and you may just need some patience for the lipids to stabilize. But Esselstyn does say no refined oils or oily veggies if you have heart disease.

      • Lawrence

        Hi DanielFaster – I am not post Atkins and I know from the angiogram that I have badly diseased arteries so I am not sure how the test will help me. See reply above re the olis.

        • DanielFaster

          All I’m saying is that cholesterol numbers don’t tell the whole picture especially during the healing process. The cimt would show whether the arteries are healing, by comparing later measurements to your baseline.. If your cholesterol is ok and arterial thickness decreasing or holding steady then the hdl ratio may be nothing to worry about

          • Lawrence

            Agreed I will try to convince my GP to sign me up for this test. I saw my cardiologist today and he is happy with my progress. He has taken me off Metoprolol (Betaloc) and his happy I stopped my Statin.

        • Michael Lederer

          As DanielFaster mentioned, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn does state to avoid all oils but also to avoid all nuts as well. If you’re not familiar with his work, I highly suggest checking out his lectures that are easily accessible online.

          I realize the benefits of nut consumption, however I would err on the side of caution and heed Toxins’ advice with your stated condition.

          Further, I certainly hope by ‘Vegan Plus’ you are a WFPB practitioner. If not, you’d better double and triple check the nutritional labels.

          Much Aloha and Good Luck

          • Toxins

            Nuts have health benefits but I certainly believe that the health benefits of nuts have a greater impact on someone following a standard American diet. Someone following a low fat, plant based diet would not gain as much benefit from consuming nuts, especially since nuts are such concentrated sources of omega 6 and calories. Consuming nuts in moderation is fine, but a staple of ones diet is not something I view as healthful. I personally eat an ounce of walnuts and a couple tablespoons of ground flaxseed in my oatmeal every morning, but these 2 nut groups are of the healthiest variety and provide plenty of ALA and have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

          • Lawrence

            Thanks again Toxins for taking the time to write such a considered piece. I saw my cardiologist today and he is happy with my progress. He has taken me off Metoprolol (Betaloc) and his happy I stopped my Statin. I consume flaxseed meal in my oatmeal and also my smoothie lunch. My mixed nuts/seeds is my main source of calories and if I stop taking them I will lose too much weight (LOL). Anyway I will consider your suggestion and agree that Omega 3 to Omega 6 is important.

          • Toxins

            An excellent source of calories can come from whole food, complex carbohydrate sources. Examples of these are brown rice, beans, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, etc. This is my primary calorie source. You will not have to worry about losing too much weight, as long as you are eating sufficient quantities of whole plant foods when your hungry, til your full, you will stabilize at a healthy weight.

          • Lawrence

            I am familiar with Dr Esselstyn and his suggestions. I will revisit him and review my diet. Vegan Plus is a term I coined to describe myself. What is a WFPB practitioner? You must be in Hawaii to say Aloha? I am in Sydney.

    • Thea

      Lawrence: Both Toxins and DanielFaster’s replies were great. I also would suggest that you take a look at Dr. Greger’s series on amla. If memory serves, I think that hidden in one of the videos, he addresses amla’s ability to affect cholesterol.

      Best of luck to you.

      • Lawrence

        Hi Thea. Yes, you are right I found a couple of videos that mention Alma as a cure for diabetes. A side effect was that it significantly lowered LDLs. Dried (fresh?) apple also looks good. So, I will add alma to my diet as I already eat 1 apple per day and see what happens. Now how do I raise my HDL? My thanks to everyone who responded to my question. I see my cardiologist on Monday and he will not be happy that I am off statin. Oh well, it is my choice because it is my life.

        • Thea

          Lawrence: I would not encourage someone to go against doctor’s recommendations, but I also agree that it is your choice and doctors don’t always know best. Good for you for taking your health into your own hands.

          You may want to do some additional researching on this site for other foods that focus on lowering bad cholesterol. And also, you may want to focus on changing the ration of Omega 6 to 3 in your diet. Dr. Greger has a good video on youtube that talks to the importance of this step in order for even vegans to avoid heart attacks. I’m not a doctor or an expert, but after watching that youtube video, I would suggest you consider adding 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your diet.

          Good luck!

          • Lawrence

            I saw my cardiologist today and he is happy with my progress. He has taken me off Metoprolol (Betaloc) and is happy I stopped my Statin. Seems he is not a bad bloke. If you have the link to the video, I would appreciate it. Yep I do take flaxseed meal every day. I went shopping for Amla today but only found the stuff to put in your hair! I will keep looking. i will also consider my Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio as well. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

          • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

            Congratulations not only for your success but sharing with your physician. Hopefully s/he will learn from your success and recommend primary and secondary preventive measures for other patients and maybe incorporate some changes in his/her diet.

          • Lawrence

            Thanks Don. We can only hope that more doctors wake up to the very viable alternatives that exist to pharmacy medicine. I have been pushing my GP in this direction for some time now and having some success.

          • Toxins

            Good to hear about your health progress, by the way.

          • Lawrence

            Thanks Toxins. It really a matter of do or die so I have a good incentive, LOL.

          • Thea

            Lawrence:
            re: “If you have the link to the video, I would appreciate it.”
            I’m sorry I did not reply sooner. I’ve been overwhelmed lately and your post got lost in my “pile”. Here is a link to the video I was talking about:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7KeRwdIH04

            I think it is so helpful in understanding fats and the importance of the ratios between omega 3 and 6. However, keep in mind that the video is pretty old. Some of the research discussed in the very beginning is no longer accurate. For example, we *do* have studies showing that vegetarians live longer. That kind of thing.

            re: Purchasing Amla
            I know what you mean about the hair care products! I think a good source for buying food grade Amla is Mountain Rose Herbs. Though you could probably get it cheaper elsewhere if you don’t care about getting organic.

            Hope this helps and best of luck to you.

  • pretzel

    Where is your favorite place to buy organic unpeeled apples? A brief web search didn’t turn up much.

    • Lawrence

      Where do you live?

      • pretzel

        New Jersey but whole foods doesn’t have these in bulk. Can I order?

        • Lawrence

          Sorry mate, I cannot help as I live in Sydney, Australia. We have some suppliers who deliver to the door. Even our main supermarkets and greengrocers have organic sections. Can anyone from New Jersey help?

          • pretzel

            I love fresh organic apples and eat them all Fall/Winter. But the dried ones would be awesome to carry in my pocket at work.

          • Lawrence

            Sounds like a good idea. I am not working at the moment so I can eat whatever I like when I like!

  • Guest

    Interesting article. What

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