There are a variety of healthier fruit and nut bars on the market now that boast dried fruit as a primary ingredient. Dried fruit is calorically dense, though. Should we be concerned that eating such bars may make us fat?
You may have noticed in the conclusion of the fig study I covered in Best Dried Fruit for Cholesterol that adding 14 figs to people’s daily diets did not lead to significant weight gain.
Wait a second.
That’s 300 calories of figs a day. Over 5 weeks that’s 10,000 calories. How did 10,000 calories disappear into thin air? Figs are so satiating and packed with fiber that even without trying people just end up eating less of other foods throughout the day. I get full just thinking about eating 14 figs!
Was that study just a fluke? Let’s look at the other new studies I covered. What about adding three quarters of a cup of dried apples to our diet every day for a year? Two hundred extra calories a day, but no significant change in weight. Two hundred extra calories of prunes a day for a year? No significant change in weight and same thing with a month of a daily 300 calorie load of dates.
In general, the 5-10% of Americans that average a tablespoon or more of dried fruit a day tend to be less overweight, less obese, and have a slimmer waist with less abdominal obesity. They tended to eat more, but weighed less. Similar findings were found for those that eat nuts and nut butters, lower body mass index, slimmer waist, and significantly less excess weight and obesity. See my video Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence. The various mechanisms are summarized in Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories and explored further in a four-video series:
- Testing the Pistachio Principle
- Testing the Dietary Compensation Theory
- Testing the Fat Burning Theory
- Fat Burning Via Arginine
What if you put dried fruit and nuts together? What would be the effect of adding daily fruit and nut bars on top of one’s regular diet for two months? Researchers took about a hundred folks who were overweight and randomized them into two groups. Half ate their regular diet, and the other half ate their regular diet plus two fruit and nut bars a day, totaling an extra 340 calories. But these weren’t candy calories; these were largely whole plant food calories, dried fruits and nuts.
Two daily fruit and nut bars for two months did not cause weight gain. And they had additional sugar in them (they were KIND brand bars). Maybe that may be why the participants’ cholesterol didn’t get better despite the nuts, which should have helped. I highlight some brands in my 3-min video Do Fruit & Nut Bars Cause Weight Gain? with no added sugar, but it’s even cheaper to just concoct one’s own trail mix and eat dried fruits and nuts on their own.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: miriamwilcox / Wikimedia Commons