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Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol?

A comparison of the cholesterol-lowering potential of four dried fruit—apples, dates, figs, and plums.

March 13, 2013 |
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Images thanks to Merzperson via Wikimedia Commons; smiteme, Inhabitat and arsheffield

Transcript

Daily dried apples versus daily dried plums: impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women. 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'd they find? 160 older women 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. Within 3 months, a significant drop in cholesterol in the apple group, which stayed down throughout the rest of the study. Both dried fruit regimens lower c-reactive protein levels about the same, though perhaps dried plums may cause a quicker decrease in inflammation whereas dried apples may result in a greater decrease overall. 12 apple rings is equivalent to eating about 2 apples a day. They think that the cholesterol-lowering properties of apples may be due to its unique pectin fiber composition, which may increase fecal excretion of bile.  Or the apple phytonutrients alone, even without the fiber, appear to lower cholesterol on their own. What about dried figs? The California Fig Board did not want to be left out— sponsors of both figfest and figfeast, as well this recent study. 14 figs a day—that's a lot of figs—for 5 weeks and… nothin': Daily consumption of figs did not reduce bad cholesterol. And finally, what about dates? 4 or 5 dates a day for a month and again, nothing, though they did tend to bring down triglyceride levels, which is surprising given the sugar content in dates. A recent study on the glycemic index of dates found them surprisingly low. Here's what straight sugar water does to your blood sugars, and here's that same amount of sugar, but in date form. Dates beat out other common fruits in terms of containing more vitamins and minerals, in fact they’re touted as the richest source of dietary minerals, but because they're dried they have about 5 times more calories than fresh fruits So in terms of nutrient density they're really quite comparable with these others, though apples have them clearly beat when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This supports the extraordinary findings detailed in Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol. More on dried fruit can be found in Better Than Goji BerriesAmla Versus Diabetes, and To Snack or Not to Snack? Those with asthma may want to choose dried fruits without the preservative sulfur dioxide.

Though variety is important (Apples and Oranges: Dietary Diversity), apples are an excellent choice. See also Apples & Breast Cancer and The Healthiest Apple.

More on the sugar content of dates in Are Dates Good For You?, a recipe in Healthy Pumpkin Pie, and my favorite source here.

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'm going to address in the next video Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet.

For more context, please refer to the following associated blog posts: Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol  and Raisins vs. Energy Gels for Athletic Performance

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Deb

    Are dried apples better than fresh apples? Do fresh apples provide the same benefit as dried apples?

    • Toxins

      Regular apples are perfectly healthy. By weight, dried apples contain more antioxidants simply because they weigh less.

  • Pete Greider

    Dr Gregor: Is there something special about dried apples, or would eating regular apples be just as good?

    Thanks.

  • lou

    Dried fruits aren’t for everyone though. I can’t do any (I love prunes) without getting extremely tired and have my fibromyalgia flare. Could you perhaps address the issue of fructose malabsorption in a future clip?

  • Dan

    I could almost be certain that I heard Dr. Oz (a few months ago) say that he didn’t think there was a link between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol, or that that we eat and what is in our blood. Surely I heard this wrong. However, I have an 83 year old mom that eats bacon and eggs for breakfast most mornings. I’m a health nut and hope I make it to 83.

    • http://jolkapolkaskitchen.blogspot.com/ WholeFoodChomper

      I’m not sure about what Dr. Oz said, but cholesterol is most definitely linked to the food we eat. You can learn more about that on this site (just do a search for videos on cholesterol). I can tell you that Dr. Orinsh has stated in many of his books that there is genetic variability in how efficiently (or inefficiently) human bodies can remove excess fat and cholesterol from their blood. The more cholesterol receptors people have the more able their bodies are of removing the excess cholesterol, the less receptors they have the harder it is for them to remove the extra cholesterol. It sounds like your mom may be genetically lucky in this regard; you may be, too.

      • http://macsmiley.tumblr.com/ MacSmiley

        Or not.

    • Toxins

      Dr. OZ also had a woman on his show who could speak to the dead, I wouldn’t take what he says seriously, as he often flip flops and advocates some wild things.

      I also do not see your diet as quite healthful, and as a health nut I hope you also see that as you explore this website.

  • Catherine DeWitt

    Same question: Do the apples have to be dried? It is laborious to make them in my dehydrator, and expensive to buy them. What about just eating regular apples?

    • Toxins

      Regular apples are perfectly healthy. By weight, dried apples contain more antioxidants simply because they weigh less.

    • http://twitter.com/jane_writer Jane Writer

      Catherine I agree that trying to eat healthy can be very laborous and at times expensive. I’m not sure what you consider expensive, but I found these dried apple slices really really tasty http://futureceuticalsdirect.com/store/mightycrunch-fujiapple.html Hope this helps.

    • Nan S

      In terms of calories, one medium apple is equivalent to just a bit more than 6 apple rings- so two apples a day, the same amount of apple as found in 12 2/3 apple rings, should give as good or better results as this study.

  • Elizabeth

    Dr Greger, Thank you for this video. I received this bulletin in my email. Are antibiotics dangerous to our Flora when sprayed on organic apples? http://m.naturalnews.com/news/039472_antibiotics_organic_fruits_petition.html

  • Coacervate

    You can get the same benefit from fresh apples because he said the active agents were pectin and polyphenols. Both of those are unaffected by drying. I was so sure it was going to be prunes. I hate prunes. Badly wrinkled.

  • R. Ian Flett

    The other issue with apples is that it has already been shown that the most nutritious part of an apple is its skin and the redder the better. I have not yet found dried apples with the skin on. I would suggest that two fresh apples a day are much better overall. Also, the fact that prunes were not effective in this cholesterol trial overlooks the important fact that they did reduce inflammation and that they are a high source of fiber and life-extending polyphenols, particularly those maintaining bone mineral density..

  • Diana

    Great! Another food I can add to the list for my mother to eat to help decrease her LDL cholesterol, aside from beans! Thanks!

  • beccadoggie10

    When I started eating vegan, I put 6-8 dried apple slices in my oatmeal water every day because I had fractured my dominant wrist (and my spine) and could not easily cut an apple or stand very long. By the end of 5 months, I went from having a bad cholesterol level of 300 to 100 (don’t recall the other numbers) and lost 65 pounds from food changes alone based on blood tests run by the hospital lab. We (the doctor, lab, and I) were amazed.

    Until this study, I did not have any idea of the reason of the reason so much cholesterol disappeared. I thought it was simply eating healthy vegan rather than eating free range.organic poultry and dairy. But, looks both eliminating the meat and dairy and ADDING the dried apples played a big roll in this.

    • Thea

      beccadoggie10: That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing your story.

      I’m sure all those things that you did that helped with the cholesterol level, but it sure is cool that the little ol’ common apple can have such an additional helpful effect. Very cool.

  • hakimi

    is there any health benefit to juicing?

  • Kman

    What is the difference nutritionally between dry fruit and fresh fruit? Let’s assume preservative-free and no added sugar for the dried fruit. I’m thinking about things like phytonutrients levels. Is anything lost in the drying process?

  • Peter

    Why/how is eating dried fruit different from eating fresh fruit? Isn’t dried fruit the same, minus the water? Or is there something else removed from the fruit when it is dried.

    • Toxins

      Indeed, the antioxidants are high due to dry weight. 100 grams of apple rings and a 100 grams of fresh apple are very different.

  • mdouble

    I love dried apples and even make my own using a dehydrator. Recently I began making smoothies and I often include an apple in the mix. When making my smoothie I generally include a scoop of vegan protein powder. The brand I use contains a good deal of fruit, including apples. I’d be curious to know if the dried powdered apples in this powder retain their cholesterol lowering qualities. In fact I’d be curious to know if the protein powder, which contains a ton of fruit and veggies has the same healthful benefits as would all those ingredients eaten raw or dried.

  • Wombat

    Almost all the dried fruit I find for sale, including at health food stores, have sulfur dioxide, to preserve color. Sulfur dioxide gives me horrid-smelling gas, and lots of it. Is this a common side effect, and is there anything I can do about it? It is even more of a problem when I am eating away from home, where my access to an ingredient list is not always possible.

  • Barbara

    What about acrylamide in dried fruits (article Prune Wikipedia with reference to article link http://www.ethlife.ethz.ch/archive_articles/070920-acrylamid/index_EN . Something to worry about?