Naturally dried fruits are sweet, tart, and nutrient-rich bites. Removing water from fresh fruit not only concentrates flavors, but can also increase vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But remember that dried fruit also packs in more calories and sugars per ounce, so enjoy in moderation, or mix with nuts and seeds for a protein boost and blood sugar–stabilizing effect. Tip: If you’re sensitive to sulfites (most common in apricots) or prone to migraines, look for brownish, sulfite-free fruit.
These inexpensive gems contain sky-high levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant converted in the body to vitamin A, which can boost immune defense. To make stuffing for chicken breast or pork tenderloin, soak a cup of dried apricots in orange juice, add fresh ginger, and process the mixture into a paste in a food processor.
Snack on dried blueberries for a healthy dose of antioxidants shown to improve brain function. For a nutrient-packed mini-meal, mix one-third cup dried blueberries with low-fat plain Greek yogurt and walnuts. Look for dried berries without added sugars or artificial flavorings.
These tart beauties are brimming with anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, which can stave off joint pain. For a quick salad, combine one cup of dried cherries with baby spinach, diced red pepper, pecans, and sliced prosciutto. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. If possible, choose unsweetened dried cherries.
Ounce for ounce, dried figs pack five times more bone-building calcium and more than twice the amount of blood-pressure-lowering potassium as fresh versions. When roasting root vegetables, mix in a cup of quartered dried figs during the final five minutes of cooking.
Dried plums (aka prunes) have ten times more vitamin K—which offers protection from type 2 diabetes—than fresh plums. When poaching pears, add 10–12 prunes, a dash of cinnamon, and a split vanilla bean to equal parts water and apple cider.