A few weeks ago, a company approached me to see if I’d like to sell their antioxidant fruit powder drinks in the Truth In Aging shop. I am not a big believer in things like vitamin supplements as often the body doesn’t process them efficiently and it is by far preferable (and not as hard as you might think) to get our vitamins from real food. But what about a fruit powder? Would there be any nutrients left in a fruit once it has been reduced to a powder?

There isn’t much information on fruit powders per se. But I now know enough about drying and freeze-drying fruit to believe that fruit powders do retain enough nutritional value to make a powdered drink worthwhile. However, some nutrients are unstable and do get lost in the process.

Because dried fruits are devoid of water, they can be more intense in terms of some nutrients. For example, fresh apricots have 3.1 grams of fiber versus 6.5 for dried, 0.6 milligrams of iron versus 2.35 milligrams for dried. But check out the vitamin C: 15.5 milligrams of vitamin C versus 0.8 milligrams for dried.  Vitamin A remains about the same. In grapes, fresh ones have only 0.54 milligrams of iron versus 2.73 milligrams in dried and 288 milligrams of potassium versus 1,086 milligrams in dried. The amount of vitamin C, however, has gone down from 16.3 milligrams in fresh grapes compared to 3.3 milligrams in dried.

Vitamin C is an unstable compound and rarely survives the trip from fresh to powder. The addition of sulfur dioxide will help preserve vitamins A and C, but it destroys thiamine.

As far as antioxidants go, freeze-dried fruits come out remarkably well. Studies show that the antioxidant phytochemicals found in fresh fruits are retained at levels almost as high after freeze-drying. Studies also show that the phytochemicals in freeze-dried fruits can reach our bloodstream.

One researcher also argues that freeze-dried fruits are nutritionally preferable to extracts of the vitamins taken as supplements. At a conference of The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), Gary Stoner of Ohio State University said that freeze dried fruit retains phytochemicals like ellagic acid, carotenoids and anthocyanins, and the whole berry can contain significant amounts of vitamins C, E and folic acid. "Studies show that the substances in foods working together are more effective than any one in isolation," he said. In these studies, the freeze dried fruits were ground to a powder. Several human trials have been launched to study the effects of berry powder on precursors to colon and esophageal cancers.

A smattering of freeze-dried fruit in your cereal is not going to cut it. It doesn’t even qualify as a serving. So keep bags of dried fruit to snack on. And when you get thirsty, don’t reach for the soda – get a glass of water and add a scoop of fruit powder instead.