Sunday, March 03, 2024

What's in your fruitcake?

Fruitcake... the name implies a healthy dessert or snack, but is it? If you are someone who secretly enjoys this holiday treat, you may be interested in exactly what is in it.

Fruitcakes have been around for thousands of years-some literally. They are the most commonly re-gifted Christmas gift, so you really don't know how old they are sometimes. Crusaders would include them on long expeditions because they were packed with nutrients and rarely spoiled. I have heard that Egyptians would even include them in tombs because fruitcakes could survive the long journey into the afterlife...really.

Although these holiday cakes are often the center of many jokes, compared to other festive treats they can be fairly healthy. Depending upon how it is made, a slice of fruitcake has about 300 calories, give or take a couple hundred. While the fruit in the cake is candied and loaded with sugar, there are also walnuts, pecans and almonds. Because there are many varieties of fruit cake around the world, some feature apricots, pineapple, macadamia nuts, apples and chocolate. The nuts are a great source of protein and dried fruit can make the fiber content quite high. The cakes are often soaked in some form of alcohol keeping them flavorful and moist. Since they are preserved so well, they make great gift ideas and are often the center piece of gourmet gift baskets.

Due to the many varieties of fruitcake, calculating an average nutrient analysis is difficult. Various countries have their own versions. For example, in the Bahamas fruitcakes are drenched in rum, in Germany (Stollen) is made with raisins and almonds and is iced, in Switzerland it is sweet with candy, nuts and fruits and in England they include dried plums (plumcake).

Since recipes vary greatly, so does nutrient content. Here is a best guess of the nutritional value of a fruitcake, but please note that this is average:

Calories, approximately 340 per 100 gm serving

Protein, 3 gms

Fat, 9 grams

Carbohydrate, 62 grams

Dietary Fiber 4 grams

As with fresh fruit, many dried fruits are great sources of antioxidants. So my best guess is that fruitcake lies somewhere in the middle of eating an orange versus eating a piece of pound cake. We should just practice moderation. After all, it is the holiday season and one should eat, drink and be merry!