Organic dried fruits are not only delicious to munch on while backpacking, but have many health benefits as well.
For instance, the phenols in the skin of an apple provide UV-B protection against sun damage, and the potassium in a banana help maintain muscle function.
Dry fruits contain multiple vitamins (A, B, C, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium) and are loaded with fructose, a natural fruit sugar that provides its sweet taste. Fructose, unlike man-made sugar, works in combination with the soluble fiber of the fruit to break sugar down gradually (keeping the body’s glucose stabilized) while it converts it into energy for the body.
Dried fruit is also an excellent source of dietary fiber!
Potassium, Iron and Exercise
Backpackers will need more potassium to replace that which is lost from the muscles while hiking and excreted through sweating and urination. It is extremely important to replenish potassium levels if you become sick and are vomiting or have diarrhea. Low potassium levels can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, and an irregular heart beat.
Also, consuming processed foods loaded in sodium (such as ramen noodles) increases the need for potassium. This is because potassium and sodium work together to maintain the body’s water balance. A diet high in sodium causes more potassium to be lost. Unfortunately, potassium is missing or at inadequate levels in processed foods. Sport and vitamin drinks are often poor sources of potassium.
Your best source of potassium is from fruit. Eating dried fruits such as banana, raisins dates, or meals containing potato is sufficient to replace the potassium lost while backpacking.
Which dried fruits should you take backpacking?
Apples depending on how they are dried, apples can be leathery and chewy or crunchy and crisp. They range from sweet to tart. Since apples are common to North America, we often make the mistake of assuming they are somehow less significant than the latest exotic berry import commanding a premium price. This could not be further from the truth! Apples are a fruit unmatched by other fruits in their ability to combine fiber, flavonoids and antioxidant nutrients.
To get the most nutrient advantage, look for apples that are dried with their skin intact as most of the benefits of apples (antioxidants) are contained within the skin. Be sure to be purchase organic dried apples. Conventional apples contain one of the highest amounts of pesticides of any fruit (see EWG chart below).
- Freeze Dried Apples 1 C or 1 oz (28g) = 100 calories
- Dehydrated Apples 1/2 C or 1.5 oz (40g) = 100 calories
Grapes when dried, become small and chewy and burst with sweetness. Iron, an essential mineral for maintaining delivery of oxygen throughout the body, is high in raisins. Since grapes grow in abundance in North America, they are easy to purchase. Their small size and weight to calorie ratio make them excellent for packing out.
Be sure to be purchase domestically grown raisins. Imported grapes contain high amounts of pesticides (see EWG chart below).
- Raisins ¼ C or 1.5 oz (40g) = 130 calories
The sweet fleshy part of the fruit is dried into chips and strips, or powdered to make instant smoothies and to sweeten dishes. Banana acts as a natural antacid for the body by helping the digestive system activate the cells responsible for coating the lining of the stomach with a thick protective mucus. They also contain pectin, a soluble fiber to normalize the elimination of food through the digestive system. Most important, bananas replenish potassium, an important electrolyte for regulating fluid balance, muscle function and a regular heart rhythm.
- Dried Banana Slices 1.5 oz (40g) = 133 calories
The U.S. contains about a quarter of a million date palm trees, most of which are located in the arid Coachella Valley of southern California. Dates are classified as soft, semi-soft and dry (bread dates). The chewy bread dates keep longest and are often stored as “survival food” for emergency preparedness.
Dried date pieces are a great source of potassium. They are not typically eaten alone, but do taste great if eaten this way. We add them into a few of our dishes to provide a subtle sweet flavor and healthy calories.
- Dried Dates 10 pieces 1.5 oz (40g) = 130 calories
5. MANGO or PINEAPPLE
A taste that blends flavors of pineapple and peach, mangoes are a good source of Potassium, Vitamins A and C, and Beta Carotene. In the U.S. mangoes are primarily grown in South Florida. Many of the groves were destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but are slowly returning. We should see a greater number of domestic grown mangoes available in the next few years as the trees continue to recover.
Pineapple contains a substance called bromelain, which offers many health benefits, including reduced inflammation & tumor growth and blood coagulation.
- Dried Mango pieces 1.5 oz (40g) = 160 calories
- Dried Pineapple pieces 1.5 oz (40g) = 140 calories
BERRIES – we don’t recommend packing out dried berries for a snack even though their high levels of antioxidants, flavanoids, vitamin C and potassium make it seem like a great choice. Most berries are very low in calories and are not readily available (especially organic, which is the best choice). Instead, eat them fresh if you find them growing wild along the trail (if you can positively identify what is edible) or incorporate them as part of your meal.
Be Careful! If you do opt to purchase commercially dried berries, be aware that they often contain sugar additives. For instance, almost all dried cranberries (because they are tart) contain added sugar. Look for cranberries that contain natural sugars such as apple juice concentrate versus refined sugars such as corn syrup.
Purchase Organic Dried Fruits
Many commercially processed fruits contain food coloring, added sugar, sulfur, and other enhancers to prolong shelf life, cover up bad taste and improve ascetics. Buying organic means you are getting fruit that has not been saturated with harmful chemicals or preservatives.
Of all fruits listed here, the most important ones to purchase organic are raisins and apples. Conventional grapes (especially imported) and apples (domestic & imported) are sprayed with high quantities of toxic pesticides, which when rinsed, still remain within the fruit (residues in the soil spread to the flesh of the fruit). Thus, when the fruit is dried the pesticide level is concentrated to the small surface area of a bite sized piece. Since apples & raisins are incorporated into many outdoor dishes to provide extra calories & sweetness, they are consumed in higher quantities (than typical), making exposure a concern for the outdoor adventurer. Buying organic also prevents the addition of sulfite or sulfur dioxide, a preservative that contains questionable health risks. See the EWG Shopper’s pesticide guide for more information on organic produce.
We offer several backpacking meals that include organic dried fruits. Try one for your next outdoor adventure.
You choice of food impacts much more than your own health. It impacts the health of our environment too. May you consume wisely.