When you need a trip to the vending machine to silence a noisy stomach, that peanut and dried fruit mix may seem like the lesser of diet evils. This simple snack, however, contains plenty of nutrients and a full serving of fruit and protein. Chewy, crunchy and sweet, a basic trail mix will keep the munchies at bay longer than any bag of potato chips.
Dried fruit is a convenient way to squeeze in a fruit serving, and you don't need a lot to meet your needs. Women need 1 1/2 cups of fruit a day, but 1/2 cup of dried fruit counts as 1 cup of your total fruit servings. Dried fruit loses vitamin C during the dehydrating process, but it provides other health benefits. Just 1/2 cup of dried apricots provides 5 grams of fiber, or 20 percent of your daily needs. You need 25 grams of fiber a day to keep your digestive system regular and cholesterol under control. The Produce for Better Health Foundation also reports that dried fruit is one of the world's top sources of potassium, an important mineral for controlling blood pressure and balancing water in the body.
Dried fruits contain natural sugar, a simple carbohydrate that provides energy for your body, but some manufacturers add extra sugar for flavor. This extra sugar adds calories, so choose brands without sugar or other sweeteners listed on the ingredient list. The colorful and edible skins of certain fruits, like apples, provide extra fiber and protective antioxidants. If you make your own nut-and-fruit mixes, choose dried fruits that still have their edible skins.
One-quarter cup of peanuts contains 207 calories and 9 grams of tissue-building protein. Most of the calories in peanuts come from fat. These hearty nuts contain 18 grams of fat per serving, but 14 grams are heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Peanuts also contain polyphenols, antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. A study published in the “British Journal of Nutrition” discovered that eating a diet high in nuts and nut butters reduced heart disease risk. One serving of peanuts also contains 3 grams of fiber, or 12 percent of your daily needs.
Sodium is often added to nuts for flavor, but too much salt increases your blood pressure. Extra sodium in the blood retains water, making your blood vessels work harder to pump blood. You should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day, but the average adult eats about 3,400 milligrams. Plain peanuts are virtually sodium-free, but 1/4 cup of salted peanuts contains 278 milligrams of sodium. Choose unsalted peanuts for your nut-and-fruit mixes. The dried fruit adds a burst of natural sweetness, so you won't even miss the salt.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Apricots, Dried, Sulfured, Uncooked
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Boost Your Health With Fiber
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Fruit Is Needed Daily?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts as a Cup of Fruit?
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: About The Buzz: Fresh Fruit Is Much Healthier Than Dried Fruit?
- British Journal of Nutrition: Health Benefits of Nuts: Potential Role of Antioxidants
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Peanuts, All types, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Peanuts, Valencia, Oil-roasted, with Salt
- Mayo Clinic: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.