Dried fruit serves an important role in eating a healthy well-balanced diet. Dried fruit contains many vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and other phytonutrients. Because the fruit is dried at low temperatures, and the water removed, the phytonutrients in the fruit become condensed into small, powerful packages. Water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin C, do degrade a bit during the dehydration process, but most of the other nutrients simply become more concentrated. As a result, dried fruits provide a higher level of nutrients, ounce for ounce, than their fresh counterparts.
They are also an excellent source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which has numerous important health benefits. As the name suggests, soluble dietary fiber dissolves in the GI tract into a gel-like texture that helps slow down the absorption of sugars and other nutrients, thereby helping you feel full longer. Soluble fiber also supports good health by “mopping up” excess cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL levels. Insoluble dietary fiber passes through the GI tract undissolved, stimulating the elimination of free radicals and helping to add bulk and maintain regularity. In fact, many dried fruits are well-known for relieving constipation.
The mineral and electrolyte potassium helps to regulate proper fluid balance in the body, thereby maintaining healthy blood pressure, as well as muscle function including the heart’s beating.
However, the dehydrating process also concentrates the fruit sugars, which of course imparts that lovely, intensely sweet flavor while also making dried fruit extremely caloric and a carbohydrate-dense source of energy. And their stickiness and high sugar content can also potentially contribute to tooth decay. Therefore dried fruit is best eaten in moderation — a small handful once or twice a week is about right.
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