Dried Apples, Dates, Figs, or Prunes for Cholesterol?

Dried Apples, Dates, Figs, or Prunes for Cholesterol?
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A comparison of the cholesterol-lowering potential of four dried fruits—apples, dates, figs, and plums.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Daily dried apples versus daily dried plums: “Impact on Cardiovascular Disease Risk factors in Postmenopausal Women.” First thing I thought was, well, was this study funded by the U.S. Apple Association, or the International Prune Association? I can bet what the results would be; but, it 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 eight prunes. And, within three months, a significant drop in cholesterol in the apple, but not prune, group, which stayed down through the rest of the study. In terms of inflammation,”both dried fruit regimens lower [C-reactive protein] levels”—about the same, though perhaps prunes may cause “a quicker decrease” in inflammation, whereas dried apples may result in “a greater decrease overall.”

Twelve apple rings is equivalent to eating about two apples a day. They think that “the cholesterol-lowering properties of apple[s] may be due to its unique pectin fiber composition,” which may “increase fecal excretion of bile.” Though, the apple phytonutrients themselves—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 Fig Fest, and Fig Feast, as well this recent study. Fourteen figs a day—that’s a lot of figs—for five weeks and…nothing. Daily consumption of figs did not reduce bad cholesterol.

And, finally, what about dates? Four or five dates a day, for a month. And, again, nothing—though, if anything, they did tend to bring down triglyceride levels a bit, which is surprising, given the sugar content in dates. A recent study on the glycemic index of dates found them surprisingly low. The open circles are what straight sugar water does to your blood sugar; 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 more minerals. In fact, touted as the “richest source of dietary minerals.” But, because they’re dried, they have about five times more calories than fresh fruits, you know, ounce per ounce.

And so, in terms of nutrient density, they’re really quite comparable to these other fruits—though apples clearly have them beat when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Merzperson via Wikimedia; and smitemeInhabitat, and arsheffield via flickr

 

 

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Daily dried apples versus daily dried plums: “Impact on Cardiovascular Disease Risk factors in Postmenopausal Women.” First thing I thought was, well, was this study funded by the U.S. Apple Association, or the International Prune Association? I can bet what the results would be; but, it 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 eight prunes. And, within three months, a significant drop in cholesterol in the apple, but not prune, group, which stayed down through the rest of the study. In terms of inflammation,”both dried fruit regimens lower [C-reactive protein] levels”—about the same, though perhaps prunes may cause “a quicker decrease” in inflammation, whereas dried apples may result in “a greater decrease overall.”

Twelve apple rings is equivalent to eating about two apples a day. They think that “the cholesterol-lowering properties of apple[s] may be due to its unique pectin fiber composition,” which may “increase fecal excretion of bile.” Though, the apple phytonutrients themselves—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 Fig Fest, and Fig Feast, as well this recent study. Fourteen figs a day—that’s a lot of figs—for five weeks and…nothing. Daily consumption of figs did not reduce bad cholesterol.

And, finally, what about dates? Four or five dates a day, for a month. And, again, nothing—though, if anything, they did tend to bring down triglyceride levels a bit, which is surprising, given the sugar content in dates. A recent study on the glycemic index of dates found them surprisingly low. The open circles are what straight sugar water does to your blood sugar; 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 more minerals. In fact, touted as the “richest source of dietary minerals.” But, because they’re dried, they have about five times more calories than fresh fruits, you know, ounce per ounce.

And so, in terms of nutrient density, they’re really quite comparable to these other fruits—though apples clearly have them beat when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Merzperson via Wikimedia; and smitemeInhabitat, and arsheffield via flickr

 

 

Doctor's Note

This supports the extraordinary findings detailed in Dried Apples vs. 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—see my Ask the Doctor comment: Sulfite sensitivity from sulphur dioxide in dried fruits?

Though variety is important (see Apples & 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? Also, I’ve got a great date recipe in Healthy Pumpkin Pie, and my favorite date source is noted in my Ask the Doctor comment: What’s the best source of those dates you like?

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 my next video, Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet.

For more context, check out my 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.

34 responses to “Dried Apples, Dates, Figs, or Prunes for Cholesterol?

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  1. 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?




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  2. 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.




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    1. 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.




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    2. 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.




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  3. 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?




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    1. 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.




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  4. 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.




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  5. 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..




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    1. Hi! I noticed that you are looking for ways to help MOM lower LDL. One of the greatest ways to lower LDL and raise HDL is exercise. Provided her doctor gives her clearance a good regiment of cardio and 50% – 65% of BPM and the incorporation of strength training will do a lot to help. Also the endorphin released during exercise will raise her “happiness level” Thereby reducing the need for eating a high-sugar / high-fat meal to get the “feel good high”. Resistance training will raise her metabolic rate for up to 10 hours post work-out, 2-3 for cardio. Check out more specific information on the American College of Sports Medicine’s website. Good luck ! Remember to Talk to MOM’S doctor before starting any type of program and if she has not exercised in many years consult a professional personal trainer to avoid injuries. Don’t go to the gym and start putting her on machines.




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  6. 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.




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    1. 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.




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  7. 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?




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  8. 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.




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




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  9. 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.




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    1. It’s odd for fruit to be included in protein powders since fruit in general are not a significant source of protein. More importantly, why are you using protein supplements? A well designed vegan diet provides all the protein you need, from whole foods. Consuming significantly more protein than what your body needs actually harms your health.




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  10. 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.




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  11. Hi, I am really worried about my sugar levels and potential in developing diabetes due to my excess amount of dates i eat. I can legitimately eat around 10 -15 dates a day and sometimes up in the 20s. Is this bad for me? And how much should I regulate it to? I hear people saying “Oh I eat so many dates, around 6!” And here I am now worrying about the fact that I eat around double this amount per day. What should I do?




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    1. Hi Merna –

      I am interested in the same issue – Sometimes I eat 36 or more deglet noor dates with vegetable meals in a day. Sometimes I eat them with blueberries. They definitely seem to metabolize slowly — I don’t get a sugar rush from them at all.

      Since deglet noor dates are pretty dry, I put them in boiling water for a minute before I add them to food. This morning I ate 14 dates with broccoli and tomatoes for breakfast.

      Can Dr. Greger or any other expert tell me if this is okay – that is, the date consumption? Dr. Greger’s videos seem to suggest that it is okay.

      THANKS!




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  12. Dear Nutriton facts team.

    Dos date paste contain added sugar? I have bought a date paste and in the label it states 73% invert sugar. After googling invert sugar i discovered that it is used a lot in the food processing industry to retain moisture. I am very confused because the date paste actually is sweeter than a normal date… I can send you a picture with the labeling. Its the date paste from date crown . a big date processor…




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