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Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol

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 the above video, 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 the above video I show graphs comparing the blood sugar effects of straight sugar water versus that same amount of sugar, but 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.

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.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: smiteme / Flickr

Related:
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Read more: Health, Appetizers & Snacks, Cholesterol, Eating for Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Videos, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

58 comments

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2:27AM PST on Jan 30, 2014

thank you

10:10AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

Noted, thank you!

7:22PM PDT on May 9, 2013

interesting I wonder if eating fresh apples would do the same? I eat a lot of apples.

5:53AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:00AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Thanks for the info :)

7:46PM PDT on May 1, 2013

I remember a friend of mine built a closet sized dehydrator for his family garden. This was 30 years ago, before it became such a big thing. They would dry bushels of potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, corn, peas, beans, etc and used them all winter for soups and the like.

6:20PM PDT on Apr 27, 2013

good to know. Anything is better than drugs.

1:35AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

Love apples and figs...

11:53PM PDT on Apr 25, 2013

So I guess it is true . . . an apple (or two) a day keeps the doctor away!"

5:42PM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Thanks! I love fresh, dried and frozen fruits as long as there are no additives to them.

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