A few folks expressed dismay over the addition of some oil and sugar to certain of our dried fruitsby Craig Weatherby
The announcement of our new Organic Dried Fruits appeared in the same issue of “Vital Choices” as our article on sweetened beverages, titled “The Calories We Quaff,” in which we warned of the weight-gain dangers of sweetened beverages.
And two things we noted about some of themvthe Organic Berries and Cherries—caused a few folks some concern: “Each of our flavorful dried fruits is as nature made it, but for a pinch of organic cane sugar to sweeten the tart cherries and berries, and a touch of organic sunflower oil as needed to ensure optimal quality.”
We’d like to address the consternation that the slightly sweetened nature of our new berries and cherries caused some customers.
The first point to make is that the main concern we expressed about sweetened beverages was their calorie count.
As we found when researching our accompanying article on sugary diets (see “Calories Seen Exceeding Sugar as Diabetes Risk”), it seems that weight gain from excess calories—rather than the proportion of sugar in one’s diet—is the bigger force driving people toward diabetes.
But we also want to point out that we need to consider the context—and the amounts of added sugars—when comparing slightly sweetened dried fruits to sodas and candies.
We received two letters like the following one from readers concerned that our new Organic Dried Blueberries, Cranberries, and Cherries contain small amounts of added organic cane sugar and sunflower oil, used to enhance the palatability of these naturally tart treats and help keep them from sticking together in clumps:
“…recently I received one of your newsletters that started out talking about how bad sugar is… and I totally agree with that. I don't eat ANY sugar except what might be in the very dark organic chocolate that I eat once in awhile. But then in the same newsletter you introduced your dried fruit.
“I was so excited to read that you were selling organic dried blueberries, and I was ready to order them when I happened to notice that they contain added sugar and oil!… I hope you will consider selling dried organic blueberries without the unhealthy added ingredients. Thanks.”
Our response to the critique expressed in this customer's letter rests on two main points:
1. Most dried berries and cherries on the market—including organic ones—are sweetened slightly to broaden their appeal, and are coated with a tiny amount of oil to prevent them from sticking and clumping together.
And there is not much sugar added to our berries. While there are 24-27 gm of naturally occurring and added sugars in 1/4 cup of our slightly sweetened berries and cherries, there are 32 gm of naturally occurring sugars in 1/4 cup of our unsweetened mango strips and 22 gm of naturally occurring sugars in 1/4 cup of our unsweetened apricots.
Thus, in terms of sugar content, there is virtually no difference between our unsweetened dried Mango strips and Apricots and lightly sweetened dried Blueberries, Cranberries, and Cherries.
2. There are obvious, substantial nutritional differences between the calories obtained by drinking a nutritionally empty soda, versus the calories obtained by eating inherently healthful dried berries.
In short, we truly believe that the addition of small amounts of organic sugar and oil to our organic dried berries and cherries is a virtual non-issue.
We sought, high quality organic berries and cherries that did not have added sugars or oil, without success. We are still looking, and may offer some in the future.