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    Q&A With the Owners of Organic Circle

    This coming Monday is Tu B’Shvat and a lot of people will be eating dried fruit this weekend. Many people may be wondering, what are the benefits of buying organic dried fruit over conventional? Are there any health benefits? Here, we explore the differences between organic and non-organic dried fruit and answer some of your questions.

    Why is organic dried fruit so much healthier than non-organic dried fruit?

    Some manufacturers of dried fruit use sulfur dioxide as an antioxidant to counteract oxidation that darkens the fruit and alters its flavor. However, sulfur dioxide is an unsafe additive for many sensitive individuals, in particular the 1 percent of the population who have sulfa allergies and the additional 5 percent that suffers from asthma. Some dried fruit can also contain other unwanted additives such as added sugars, industrial oils, and food colorings. To ensure that you only eat the highest quality sulfite-free dried fruit, it is best to choose Certified Organic varieties.


    What are sulfites and does dried fruit contain sulfites?

    Sulfites, also known as sulfiting agents, are inorganic salts that are commonly used as preservatives by food and beverage producers. Sulfur dioxide is a compound that many dried fruit sellers add to their products to delay spoiling and to prevent them from turning brown on the shelf. The FDA requires that food manufacturers must list sulfites on the label as an ingredient if their product contains more than 10 parts per million. Most dried fruit will list sulfites, or sulfur dioxide as an ingredient. It’s still important to remember that even products that don’t list sulfites on the label may still contain sulfites.


    Is sulfur in dried fruit bad for you?

    While the U.S. National Library of Medicine does not consider sulfur dioxide to be harmful for healthy people to consume in small amounts, according to Food Matters, the acceptable daily intake for a 10-year-old weighing 21kg (roughly 46 lbs) is just 15mg of sulphite per day; that’s the equivalent of one dried apricot. Sulfur dioxide exposure can be very harmful, even deadly to asthma sufferers and those with sulfite allergies or sensitivities, and is a toxic and dangerous chemical to both our bodies and the environment.


    Why are some organic dried fruit dark and sometimes brown?

    In order to prevent dried fruit, or vegetables like sun-dried tomatoes, from spoilage and preserve that just picked vibrant color, manufacturers treat them with sulfites. Organic brands of dried fruits do not contain sulfur dioxide and therefore will have the naturally occurring fruit color that will turn dark and brown. While organic dried fruits won’t last as long as conventional dried fruits because they don’t contain the preservative, you can freeze them so that they last longer.


    If someone has allergies should they be worried about eating dried fruit? The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies sulfites as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). But a small number of people are very sensitive to sulfiting agents. For those who are sensitive or hypersensitive to sulfites, eating even a tiny amount of sulfur dioxide can trigger symptoms that range from uncomfortable to dangerous. When exposed to sulfites, sensitive individuals have been known to suffer a wide range of symptoms including itching, flushing, hives, facial swelling, low blood pressure, gastrointestinal pain, diarrhea, wheezing, asthma attacks, and, in the most rare and worst cases, life-threatening anaphylaxis. Symptoms of sulfite sensitivity usually be-gin within half an hour after eating food that contains sulfur dioxide. People with allergies should avoid conventional dried fruit and choose Organic dried fruit instead to be certain to avoid all sultites.


    Which dried fruit are considered to be the lowest in sugar?

    Some fruits are naturally bitter, so when dried, a sweetener may be added to balance the flavor. Unfortunately, some brands add high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, or even artificial sweeteners. Dried apricots are a good choice when you want a low sugar content and they provide plenty of antioxidants vital in protect-ing cells from free radicals. They are an excellent source of vitamins C, A, and E, potassium, and fiber, and are easy to be digested because of its lower fructose. Dried prunes are also rich in vitamin C and soluble fiber- just 2 pieces of serving per day can help make you regular that’s how potent it is. It’s great for snacking because it’ll keep you full for a longer period. They are fairly low in sugar and is a good source of iron and potassium. Raisins, dried mulberries, and dried black mission figs are also very good options. Dried peaches and apples are also a good choice.


    Does one have to wash dried fruit before eating it? You should be washing nuts, seeds, and dried fruit before eating unless the packaging states that they are ready to eat. This is especially true if you have purchased them loose. This kind of food is considered to be one of the dirtiest. This is especially true for fruit that is sold by weight. Even if the nuts and seeds have been peeled, you just don’t know what could have happened during storage or transportation. So there you have it. Always read the labels, and choose organic over non-organic dried fruit, especially if you have a sulfite sensitivity.


    Enjoy your dried fruit haul, and Happy Tu B’Shvat!