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Volume 6, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Love it or hate it, fruitcake 
holds nutritional middle ground

By Portia-Elaine Gant
Breaking News

Fruitcake lovers can revel in the fact that the traditional holiday dessert is not fattening -- but it's also not nutritional, a UH dietician said.

Nancy Graves, registered dietician at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, completed a full nutritional analysis on fruitcake that showed the nutrition in the dessert does not differ greatly from that of plain bread.

"It doesn't have a significant amount of nutrients if you're looking at once slice from a fruitcake. If you can imagine, it's like a slice of bread with some coloring in it," Graves said.

Pin Lim/Breaking News

Fruitcake is usually the butt of jokes during Christmas time, but a UH dietician says people can't blame the dessert for any serious weight gain.

She said a slice of fruitcake has 34.5 grams of carbohydrates, 6.4 grams of fat and 2.4 grams of protein, most of which comes from the nuts.

"That's 200 calories for one slice," Graves said. "A plain piece of white bread is more like 80 calories."

But Graves, who has worked with the college for 15 years, said fruitcake is not fattening. She said the recommended daily carbohydrate intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet is 300 grams. "So, this 34.5 grams is really only a small portion," Graves said.

Graves said she is no stranger to the three-to-six-month process of preparing the dessert.

"My husband makes them every year, and this year, we have some that have been in the refrigerator for six months now," Graves said.

The basic ingredients of a fruitcake are shortening or oil, sugar, eggs, spices, flour, baking soda and some type of moisture.

"I found recipes with three different types of moisture. The moisture can be a variety of things," Graves said. "Apple juice is used, but then you don't get the typical taste because a lot of recipes use brandy."

The fruitcake is then wrapped in cheesecloth and additional moisture is added periodically.

"Sometimes a good fruitcake might be in the refrigerator for three months, and most people add an ounce of brandy once a month," Graves said. "Some people may do it every two weeks to each fruitcake. The cheesecloth is there so not all the brandy goes into the fruitcake, but the brandy taste is there because it doesn't burn off like it would if you could burn it off on the stove."

As for the popularity of the dessert, Graves acknowledged there's no middle ground.

"There are two philosophies. There are two camps of people," said Graves, who isn't a fruitcake fan. "People either love it or hate it. Either way, it's not really fattening or nutritional."

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