Raisins are very popular among all age groups. Many children’s classics contain stories of raisins and they have very versatile uses in the kitchen.
The question many don’t ask is “Are raisins good for me?” well, this post will help you answer that and you will come to appreciate this superfood more.
Raisins are concentrated in nutrients, energy, vitamins and minerals, and even electrolytes.
Table of Contents
- What Are Raisins?
- History of Raisins
- Types Of Raisins
- The Nutritional Profile of Raisins
- Surprising Health Benefits of Raisins
- How To Make Your Own Raisins
- How to Use Raisins?
- How to Store Raisins?
- Does Raisins Have Side Effects
What Are Raisins?
These small but mighty raisins are produces from grapes (Thompson seedless grapes). These grapes are arraigned on brown craft paper trays and placed between vineyard rows.
This allows the sun to dry them. The natural sun-drying process is what turns grapes into raisins. During this process, the oxidation and caramelization of sugars take place and result in a raisin’s natural dark brown or black color.
Apart from sun-drying, raisins can also be produced by water-dipping or they can be dehydrated artificially. This drying process preserves the antioxidants and concentrates the nutrients in raisins.
History of Raisins
Raisin grapes were grown first in Egypt and Persia in the early 2000 B.C. Raisins or dried grapes are even mentioned in the bible a number of times.
In Ancient Rome and Greek, worship places were decorated with raisins and they were even worn as prizes during spotting competitions.
In the 20th century, Greece, Turkey, and Iran were the major producers of raisins. In the middle of the 20th century, the U.S started leading in the production of raisins with Australia following right behind them as the second largest producers of raisins.
California raisins are very popular in the US and it is named so because the raisin industry is located in California. The first raisin grape crops were planted in California in the year 1851.
Types Of Raisins
There are other colors of raisins apart from the dark color many are familiar with. We have the sultanas and the golden raisins. Studies have shown that golden raisins have the highest capacity of antioxidants and phenolic compounds.
Sultanas, another type of raisins are popular in Europe. They are made from small and pale golden-green grapes that originated in Turkey. Sultanas are smaller and sweeter than other types of raisins.
We also have the Muscat raisins. They are larger than other varieties and also sweeter. Currants are also another variety of raisins. They are dried and black seedless grapes.
They are tangier than your typical raisins and also smaller and darker.
The Nutritional Profile of Raisins
From above you’ve seen that raisins are dried grapes (Vitis vinifera) and three main types commercially sold are: the sun-dried ones (natural), the artificially dried ones (water-dipped), and the sulfur dioxide-treated raisins.
Other dried fruits have sweeteners added in the drying process before they are packaged. But raisins are packaged and sold without added sugar because they are natural sweet.
Some people wonder if raisins are healthy due to their high sugar content and even method of processing. The answer is Yes! Raisins are highly nutritious and they boost energy levels.
Raisins are also rich in fiber, iron, potassium, and many other essential nutrients. They are free from cholesterol and saturated fats. They are also free from gluten.
1.5 ounces (One small box) of seedless raisins contains the following nutrients:
- 1.5 micrograms of vitamin K (2% DV)
- 22 milligrams of calcium (2.2% DV)
- 14 milligrams of magnesium (3.5% DV)
- 0.08 milligrams of vitamin B6 (4% DV)
- 0.8 milligrams of iron (4.4% DV)
- 322 milligrams of potassium (9.2% DV)
- 25.4 grams of sugar
- 1.6 grams of fiber
- 0.2 grams of fat
- 1.3 grams of protein
- 34 grams of carbohydrates
- 129 calories
Surprising Health Benefits of Raisins
Reduces the risks of gum disease and cavities
This might sound contrary because raisins are sweet and sticky dried fruits and sweet fruits/foods are not advisable for tooth and gum problems.
Despite these, raisins are good for dental problems and they improve oral health. They heal tooth decay because they have antimicrobial plant compounds in them that can suppress the growth of bad bacteria in the mouth.
Studies have shown that raisins contain oleanolic acid. This compound stops the growth of 2 species of oral bacteria: Streptococcus mutans (causes cavities) and Porphyromonas gingivalis (causes periodontal disease or gum disease).
So, a good way to satisfy your sweet tooth and fight bacteria that cause cavities is to eat raisins moderately. They also prevent bad breath and help to improve your oral care hygiene.
Raisins are packed with iron, B complex, and copper. If you add them to your diet regularly, you will keep iron-deficiency anemia at bay.
Women with heavy period who have high risk of this condition will benefit immensely from raisins.
Raisin is a high-fiber food, this makes it a powerful digestive aid. It reduces the risks of constipation and other digestive issues. Raisins have both soluble and insoluble fiber.
They keep things moving through your digestive system, increase bowel movement, and improve your gut microbiome. One cup of grapes has one gram of fiber while one cup of raisins has 7 grams of fiber.
You will instantly increase your intake of fiber if you add raisins to your meals and snacks.
There are alkalizing minerals in raisins and some of them are magnesium and potassium. These minerals reduce acidity in the body, which is a cause of many health problems.
Raisins also prevent a lot of metabolic conditions that lead to toxicity of the blood. This is why they are helpful in treating many health conditions.
Due to the alkalizing properties of raisins, they combat skin diseases, hair loss, and even joint pains. They regulate the pH of the body thereby preventing acidity and its dangerous side effects.
Lowers high blood pressure
Some studies and data presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific session suggested people with mild hypertension can benefit from regular consumption of raisins.
Raisins are safer for hypertensive patients when compared to other common snacks. Raisins are also rich in potassium, a heart-friendly mineral that prevents potassium deficiency, a common trigger for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Potassium is also needed for the proper functions of all your body cells, tissues, organs, and systems of the body. People who have optimum amount of potassium in their body have lower risks of ischemic stroke and even cancer.
The rich content of phenolic compounds in raisins makes them effective in handling fevers and infections. phenolic phytochemicals are powerful antioxidant and antibacterial agents.
A study revealed that raisins reduce glucose level after a meal by 23%. Raisins also reduce fasting glucose by 19% and also cause a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Studies have shown that raisins are healthy snack options for people with type II diabetes. The fiber in raisins helps your body process sugar, even the raisins’ natural sugars and also prevents insulin spikes.
Raisins are rich in vitamin A, beta carotene, and many polyphenolic phytochemicals that boosts ocular health. They protect your eyes from damages caused by free radicals.
Due to its nutritional profile, this dried fruit can prevent macular degeneration and cataracts if they are consumed regularly.
Dried fruits are rich in phenolic compounds. These plant compounds have very powerful antioxidant powers than those in fresh fruits.
Antioxidants reduce the actions of free radicals that cause harm to body cells. This prevents cellular and DNA damage. Free radicals are one of the primary causes of spontaneous growth of cancer cells.
They also spread cancer cells. Rich antioxidant foods like raisins can prevent this from happening in the first place. A study showed that dried raisins and other dried fruits prevent cancers of the digestive systems.
An easy, convenient, and sweet way to increase your antioxidant levels and ward off cancer and cellular damage is to increase your intake of raisins.
You can boost your spirit if you feel low by eating a handful of raisins. They are packed with carbs, glucose, and fructose. These natural sugars give a quick boost of energy.
Raisins also boost the absorption of all essential nutrients thereby boosting energy levels. Many body builders and athletes consume lots of raisins to boost their energy levels.
Improves bones health
These dried fruits are rich in calcium which prevents bone loss and osteoporosis. It strengthens bones and relieves joint pains. They also contain boron, a trace element needed for bone formation and calcium absorption.
Raisins also prevent menopause-induced osteoporosis when consumed regularly.
The natural sugars in raisins releases lots of energy and even relieve erectile dysfunction in men. They are also high in arginine, this amino acid improves sperm motility.
This, in turn, reduces sexual weaknesses in men.
How To Make Your Own Raisins
You need some grapes to make raisins. Remove the large stems from the grapes and wash them in cool water. Place the washed grapes on a tray and set it under the sun outside to dry.
Use trays with holes or cracks for air circulation. This gives the best drying. Rotate the grapes regularly to make sure they all get equal sun exposure.
In two or three days, your raisins should be ready.
How to Use Raisins?
Sold raisins are always ready for eating. You can eat them alone as snacks or add them to the following dishes:
- Homemade baked goods like muffins and breads
- Rice dishes
- Trail mixes
- Granola and other cereals
When you add raisins to baked goods like cakes and cookies, it retains moisture in the final products. You can also add them to pasta and grain salads and also fresh fruits and vegetable salad.
Golden raisins can be used in the same way as traditional raisins. Currants can also be used in a similar way but they don’t retain moisture very well.
You can also take soaked raisins. You soak the quantity you want to eat in water overnight and have them the next morning. They can be eaten that way or you blend them and drink the liquid on an empty stomach.
The water you use in soaking them is also highly nutritious.
How to Store Raisins?
Raisins are best stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. Once you’ve opened the package or packages of raisins, use a plastic tie or rubber band to keep them tightly closed.
You can also put them in sealable plastic storage bag. If you choose, you can store your raisins or any other dried fruits in the refrigerator. This can keep it fresh for up to 1 year.
Don’t keep your raisins in a kitchen cupboard that is warm or near the gas, stove, or source of heat. High temperatures can drain moisture out of raisin faster.
Does Raisins Have Side Effects
Raisins are very healthy and don’t have side effects. Care just has to be taken not to consume much because they are very high in natural sugar.
Excess natural sugars can still be a problem for some people even though they are easy to digest and provide a huge amount of energy.
Diabetic people or people struggling with blood sugar levels should take raisins in little quantity. Don’t exceed one serving cup daily. 10 raisins contain about 3 grams of sugar.
Also, you have to moderate your intake of raisins if you are trying to lose weight. They have high carbs and calories so don’t go overboard in consuming this.
Be careful with raisins treated with sulfur dioxide (the golden variety). They can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to sulfur. Go for sun-dried raisins, they are the best.
Read to labels carefully so that you can avoid sulfur dioxide-dried raisins. Handle your raisins carefully if you have a dog. It’s not yet clear how and why this happens but raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs when they eat it.
Raisins are highly nutritious, healthy, and one of the easiest dried fruits to incorporate into your diet. From the knowledge gained from this post, we hope you will appreciate raisins when next you eat them.
The next time you crave some sweets or candy, munch on some raisins instead. Apart from satisfying your yearnings, it will bestow the benefits discussed above on your body.