February 11th, 2011
08:58 AM ET

How healthy are decaf green tea and dried fruits?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Is decaffeinated green tea as healthy as regular green tea? Are plums as healthy as prunes? Are fresh cranberries as healthy as dried cranberries? The "buzz" in the media is that green tea, prunes and cranberries are all extremely healthy foods. But, what if the caffeinated green tea keeps you up all night and you're not a fan of dried fruits?

Expert answer:

Hi Matthew - This is an excellent question and brings up an important point. While it seems like every week there is a new "must eat" food or drink, there are lots of nutrient rich foods that can be incorporated into a healthy diet based on your food and drink preferences. In addition, getting a variety of healthy foods is even more important than consuming the latest products generating media "buzz."

In general, I'm not a big fan of dried fruit either as dried fruit is much more calorically dense than fresh fruit because of its significantly lower water content. And with the obesity epidemic in this country, keeping calories under control is just as important as choosing healthier foods. Fresh fruit is just as healthy as dried fruit and you don't have to worry about added sugar, fat or portion sizes, which must be more closely controlled when it comes to dried fruit. And if you don't like cranberries, my colleague, Wendy Bazilian, who has a doctorate in Public Health and Nutrition, is a registered dietitian, and author of "The SuperFoods Rx Diet," is quick to point out that for urinary tract health, blueberries may work just as well as cranberries. For heart health, all deeply colored berries, cherries and even grapes are rich in disease fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants.

When it comes to green tea, which is an excellent source of disease-fighting phytonutrients known as catechins, the decaffeinating process may reduce some, but not all of the health benefits. However, the negative health impact of sleep deprivation far outweighs the health benefits of green tea so I would certainly recommend sticking to decaffeinated green tea if caffeine impacts your sleep.

soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. kate

    I feel like i could eat whole packages of dried fruit so i agree that we should eat the actual fruit and not the dried version. I suppose if you don't eat any fruit at all that eating dried fruit would be a better alternative to nothing. Green tea as so many great benefits whether it's caffeinated or not. Green tea doesn't have a lot of caffeine anyways so i wonder why you would need decaf green tea. http://www.diet-myths.com has a good article on teas benefits!

    February 11, 2011 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • neoritter

      I have to agree, green tea does not have a lot of caffeine. I almost always enjoy a cup before I go to bed.

      February 11, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      Some people are extremely sensitive. I have heard that white tea has even less caffeine than green tea.

      February 11, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
    • Karola

      II have drunk a cup of green tea at 4 in the afternoon and was jittery and awake all night. Some people like me are super sensitive to caffeine. The only way it doesn't bother me is if I drink it early in the day on a full stomach. Even then I have about an hour of increased heartrate and jitteriness.

      February 12, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse |
  2. Stefan

    Make sure that you read the ingredients. Some dried fruit has sugar added.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Donna

      Dried cranberries would be inedible without added sugar. They are extremely tart to begin with.

      February 11, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      @ Donna... I can't stand when people say that. I eat both whole cranberries and unsweetened dried cranberries all the time– and drink unsweetened cranberry juice (not from concentrate). They're great.

      February 11, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
    • T3chsupport

      Joe, I'm afraid you're in the minority. Cranberries are mostly horrible when they're fresh. We use some for juicing... only put in 2 or 3 per batch and it's enough to get that super tartness usually.

      February 12, 2011 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
  3. Calvin

    You did not address the question of whether dried fruit, in moderation, is nutritionally equivalent to fresh fruit. I keep organic raisins (no chemicals) around so I can always have fruit in my diet, even if I've muched through all the fresh stuff.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. becca

    it seems like choosing dried fruit over a candy bar would be a better choice. however, choosing raw fruit over dried fruit would be healthier. one benefit could be that fruit contains natural sugars and refined candies are made of refined sugars.

    February 11, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. noelle

    what about freeze-dried fruits where there is no added sugar?

    February 11, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      Freeze dried fruit would be the same as any other dried fruit- the biggest issue is caloric density. People eat about the same volume of food, no matter the caloric density. For example, someone might eat a 100 calorie apple and be satisfied, whereas they would need to eat 250 calories of fruit leather to be equally satisfied. If you need to loose weight you should mostly eat whole fruits (fresh or frozen). If you need to gain weight you should eat more nutritionally dense foods, like dried fruit. Pretty simple 🙂 .

      February 12, 2011 at 03:42 | Report abuse |
  6. Javier

    I have been worry of the use of dichloromethane on the process to remove the caffeine. I think people should think twice before drinking decaf drinks. The Material safty data for dichloromethane says that it is a possible carcinogenic and possible mutagen.
    Harmful if swallowed or inhaled. May be harmful by skin contact. Eye and skin irritant. Readily absorbed through the skin. Asphyxiant. Causes CNS depression. Possibly carcinogenic in humans. Possible mutagen. Experimental reproductive effects.

    February 11, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Look for products decaffeinated using CO2, or even better if you can tolerate a little caffeine is to do it yourself by discarding the first steeping of the tea. The 2nd steeping has about 70% less than the first. I'm not sure how many antioxidants you lose by doing this, but probably not more than one of the traditional decaf methods. Most decent quality loose teas can be steeped several times without losing flavor.

      February 11, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
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    February 11, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Laura-n-Sasha.com

    Where are you getting Fat from dried fruits and tea? There isn't any.

    And come on – really – getting a 4 oz container of blueberries in the winter is pretty expensive. Getting them dried is not cheap either, but still, they last longer. You can get them without sugar. Cranberries fresh are still tart. So most would still have to add sugar if they are not used to eating them to begin with And you can alway limit how much you eat with dried fruit.

    February 11, 2011 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mgj

      Buy them in the summer and freeze them. Just rinse them and freeze them. No sugar or cooking required.

      February 12, 2011 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Frozen blueberries are an affordable option during the winter (and I like them, at least). To me dried fruit (along with fruit juices) are a treat, sort of like candy, rather than something I try to incorporate into my daily diet.

      The issue isn't fat, it's caloric density. Whether or not you store calories as fat has to do with how many calories you are taking in vs burning. You can have a diet with 50% of calories from fat and loose weight, likewise you can have a diet with 2% calories from fat and gain weight. The amount you eat, though, has to do with the caloric density- for example, people will eat more calories from a casserole than they will from a soup, even if they have the same ingredients, as the soup takes up more volume per calorie.

      February 12, 2011 at 03:49 | Report abuse |
    • Lois

      I just purchased an 11 oz. package of organic blueberries at Fairway in Paramus NJ for $4.99, sweet and delicious and worth every penny. Some people spend that on chips.

      February 12, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
  9. Traveller

    Dried fruit and nuts are staples for me when I travel. They're light, more nutritious that a lot of airline meals, and provide fruit when I'm in a place where clean, fresh fruit is hard to find.

    February 12, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claire

      And shut-ins who can't easily get fresh fruit can even compote dried fruit to decrease the calorie density–and make a delicious flavorful snack! I also eat a lot of nuts and dried fruit when I travel or have to work long hours without meal breaks.

      February 13, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  10. T3chsupport

    ... I don't think a nutritionist is the right kind of medical professional for you.....

    February 12, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Julie Anders

    I'm late to the party, but 1/3 cup of dried blueberries is 180 calories (yes, 180 and not 80); 1/3 cup fresh is 28 calories; 1/3 cup frozen is 26 calories. And 80% of caffeine in tea comes off of the tea leaves in the first 30 seconds of steeping. Pour it off, add more water and steep 30 seconds longer (Mike Feller of Gong Fu Tea, Des Moines, MidWest Mag July 2009). The newsletter, Environmental Nutrition, is an excellent source of info on all things nutritious, and they're online. Julie

    February 12, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Maxine Warner

    I very sadly cannot drink green tea due to being on Coumadin . I feel as though I am missing out on a lot . Any alternatives ?

    February 13, 2011 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. scmaize

    To Maxine Warner: My mother took Coumadin, and no one ever told her not to drink green tea, which she did every day! What is the reason? Does it contain Vitamin K?

    February 13, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. tiabear

    I eat whatever my little heart desires. If nobody likes it. Not my problem. If anyone else doesn't like it. Again not my problem and nobody elses business what goes into my body. And if someone else noses into it. Remember one thing. Do not play with bears.

    February 13, 2011 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. TeaToEnjoy

    Green tea is delicious and a healthy beverage choice. White tea has more antioxidants and less caffeine than green tea.
    Visit our website for all your choices of white, green and black tea with organic dried fruits. http://www.TeaToEnjoy.com

    February 13, 2011 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Claire

    My mom gets constipated and keeps vacuum-packed prunes with her at all times. And my cousin has diabetes and keeps packaged raisins with her in case she is, for example, caught in traffic and unable to get a meal within a reasonable amount of time and her blood sugar drops. I've started keeping both on hand wherever I go in case I need an emergency snack (I'm sometimes in situations where I may have to go 6 or 7 hours without a meal at work) and also to hand out to those around me who may be in crisis.

    February 13, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Claire

    I can drink the bottled mixed black and green tea without incident, but straight green tea–caffeinated or not–upsets my stomach. White tea does not, nor do the typical black/pekoe varieties. Camomile and peppermint teas affect me the same as green does. Celestial Seasonings herbal teas aren't subjected to the decaffeinating chemical process mentioned earlier, so I generally use those when I don't want caffeine. They have a great blueberry and also a cranberry tea.

    February 13, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. OvernOut

    Some dried fruits are preserved with sulfites, that is a huge problem for some of us. I stick to dried cranberries and cherries, those don't have sulfites.

    February 13, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Keith

    Green tea is not for everyone. I suffer from anxiety attacks and noticed that green tea actually increased my anxiety and nervousness. I could not sleep and I was very jittery. It actually brought on a panic attack. I woke up the next day and my heart was beating very fast! I did some research and there was some things on the internet that backed my experience. The unusual thing is that I bought decaffeinated green tea and it still affected me negatively. People who suffer from anxiety should know the possible side effects of green tea. I drank two cups of it at night and had it lasted through the next day. I had to take a Xanax to get rid of the panic attack brought on by consuming the green tea.

    February 13, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Arock

    I am a chinese tea maker, we supply top-end type of tea, it's called silver needle, which has white hair and has even more health benefits than Greeen tea with no caffeine effect. In china, health savvy young people swith to silver needle as their daily drinks, hope amrican people can share the same benefits.

    February 14, 2011 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. myfoodjourneys

    I enjoy green tea (loose leaf) and fresh fruits and vegetables. I definitely prefer the fresh fruits and vegetables to the dried ones.

    February 19, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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