Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Coalition: dried fruit worthy for snack program

October 14, 2011
Honorable Thomas Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Harkin:
The California Dried Fruit Coalition acknowledges your long-standing passion to
ensure that children have access to nutritious food. We would like to clarify common misperceptions about dried fruits as concentrated sources of sugar. We have looked for the government report expressing concern about the “sugar boost” dried fruit gives children — mentioned in an article in The Produce News Oct. 5 covering your presentation to United Fresh Produce Association's Washington Public Policy Conference — but have not been able to locate it. We are, however, aware of dried fruits’ role in a nutritious and health promoting diet advocated by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services www.dietaryguidelines.gov).
These Guidelines focus on lowering the risk of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related chronic diseases and aid policy makers in designing and implementing Federal nutrition assistance and education programs to improve our nation’s health. Several dietary components identified as consumed in excess included sodium, solid fats, cholesterol, added sugars (emphasis), refined grains and alcohol. Dried fruits do not fit this profile as they are very low in sodium and fat, contain no cholesterol, and no added sugars. Dried fruits are not among the top 25 sources of calories for children and adolescents (Table 2-2 www.dietaryguidelines.gov) suggesting they are not contributing excess calories for growing children. To balance calories and manage weight, the Guidelines also recommend physical activity. However, some children may be too tired to play or cannot eat much at meals making snacks including dried fruit an important part of their daily food choices. Adolescent snackers, compared with nonsnackers, were found to be less likely to be overweight or obese and less likely to have abdominal obesity. Research has found that dried fruit consumption is associated not only with improved nutrient intake, but lower body weight and obesity in U.S. adults. Federal nutrition guidelines recommend fruits for nutrient adequacy and disease prevention. The USDA Food Patterns describe fruits as “All fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and fruit juices: for example, oranges and orange juice, apples, apple juice, bananas, grapes, melons, berries, raisins.” The DASH eating plan, also advocated by the Guidelines, includes 3-6 servings of fruits depending on caloric needs as important sources of potassium, magnesium and fiber. The DASH plan identifies dates and raisins as examples in the ‘fruits’ group.]
The drying process removes water and thus concentrates the naturally occurring sugars in the fruit. However, a smaller recommended serving size (e.g. 40 g or ¼ cup for raisins versus 126 g for grapes, NLEA) results in total sugar and energy values similar between dried and fresh fruit. Several examples follow in Table 1 below. Another misconception is that dried fruits cause what is sometimes described as a sugar rush resulting in a rapid rise in blood glucose levels. However, studies indicate that dried fruits have a low to moderate glycemic and insulin index (Table 2 below) and a glycemic and insulin response comparable to fresh fruits 1 2 3 4 due perhaps to the presence of fiber, polyphenols, phenols and tannins that can modify the response. 5 6 7 8 Foods with a low glycemic index may help to decrease the risk of diabetes and are useful in the management of the established condition We hope you find this information helpful when considering the role of dried fruit in various nutrition programs including the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and when commenting on their role in a healthful diet.

Richard L. Peterson, Executive Director

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