The health benefits of raisins include treating constipation, acidosis, bloating, anemia, fever, and sexual dysfunction. They have also been known for aiding in a healthy weight gain, as well as for their positive impact on the eye, dental, hair, and bone health.
What are Raisins?
Raisins are obtained by drying grapes, either in the sun or in driers, which turns the grapes into golden, green or black gems. They are naturally sweet and pack a nutritional punch. These dried fruits are widely used in cultural cooking around the world (especially in desserts) and are also added to health tonics, snacks, and compact, high-energy food supplements for mountaineers, backpackers, and campers.
According to the USDA guidelines, raisins are healthy to eat and are considered part of the fruit group. However, since they are high in calories, it is recommended that in a day, you should eat ¼ cup of raisins or 1 small snack box (one and a half oz.) which is available in most grocery stores.
A packed quarter cup of raisins contains 123 calories, 25 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of carbohydrates. The calorie breakdown for a quarter cup is 95% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 1% fat. Raisins are high in sugar and calories but have a low glycemic index. They are abundant in antioxidant-rich polyphenols, and in minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and boron. Raisins also contain vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamins C, K, and B-6.
Let’s take a look at the most powerful health benefits of raisins in detail:
When eaten, raisins swell because the fiber present in them begins to absorb the natural fluids present in the body. This adds bulk to the food moving through the intestinal tract and ultimately helps provide relief from constipation. This type of fiber is considered insoluble fiber because it takes in water and gains volume in that way.
Promote Weight Gain
Raisins help gain weight in a healthy way since they are full of fructose and glucose. They form an ideal part of a diet for athletes or bodybuilders who need a powerful boost of energy, or for those who want to put on weight without accumulating unhealthy amounts of cholesterol.
Boost Digestive Health
The fiber in raisins helps sweep out toxins and harmful materials from the digestive tract. This can protect people from intestinal diseases, bacterial growth, and discomfort from bloating.
Raisins have high levels of catechins that help fight cancer. Catechins are polyphenolic antioxidants present in the blood, that scavenge the free radicals floating in the body, which are one of the primary underlying factors that lead to the spontaneous growth of cancer cells. The fiber content helps promote excretion of bile from the body, thus flushing out toxins that can cause cancer. Therefore, including these dried fruits in your diet can help prevent cancer, or slow down its progress.
Studies show a positive correlation between reduced hypertension and consumption of raisins. Many of the nutrients packed into them are beneficial, but experts believe that it is the high level of potassium that helps. Potassium is a well-researched mineral that helps reduce the tension of blood vessels and decrease high blood pressure, and the dietary fiber in these dried grapes is also thought to affect the biochemistry of blood vessels and reduce their stiffness, which in turn reduces hypertension.
Oleanolic acid, one of the phytochemicals present in raisins, plays a crucial role in protecting your teeth against decay, cavities, and brittleness. It effectively prevents the growth of Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis, two of the bacterial species that are most responsible for cavities. As strange as it may sound, while eating the dried fruits, the longer they stick to your teeth, the better, because that ensures an extended contact of oleanolic acid with the teeth, increasing the preventive powers of bacterial growth. In addition, raisins are rich in calcium, which strengthens and demineralizes tooth enamel. Further, boron present in these dried fruits helps curb the growth of oral germs, promoting strong teeth.
Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Raisins have long been known to stimulate the libido and induce arousal, primarily due to the presence of an amino acid called arginine, which is beneficial in treating erectile dysfunction. Arginine is a natural aphrodisiac that increases the levels of sperm motility, thereby increasing the chances of conception when engaging in sexual intercourse. Consuming these sweet dried fruits daily also helps increase sexual endurance.
The high levels of potassium, fiber, polyphenols, phenolic acid, tannins, and antioxidants in raisins stimulate the burning of cholesterol as well as lowers blood pressure, promoting good cardiac health.
In a number of studies, raisins have been shown to lower the postprandial insulin response, which means they can stabilize the spikes or plunges on the insulin after a meal that can be otherwise dangerous to patients with diabetes. They also help regulate the release of leptin and ghrelin, which are the hormones responsible for telling the body when it is hungry or full. By keeping a check on these hormones, people who eat raisins can improve their chances of maintaining a healthy diet and prevent overeating.
Raisins contain a considerable amount of iron, which directly helps in the treatment of anemia. It also contains many members of vitamin B complex that are essential for the formation of new blood. The high copper content also helps in the production of red blood cells.
Phenolic phytonutrients, well known for their germicidal, antibiotic, and antioxidant properties, are abundantly present in raisins and can help cure fevers by fighting viral and bacterial infections.
Raisins contain antioxidant-rich polyphenolic phytonutrients, which are excellent for ocular health. They protect the eyes from the damage caused by free radicals (oxidants), in the form of macular degeneration, age-related weakening of vision, and cataracts.
Raisins rich in potassium and magnesium, are a natural remedy for acidosis. Potassium and magnesium are two of the most common components of antacids because they are considered basic on the pH scale. Acidosis is a state of increased acidity of the blood (also known as toxicity of the blood) or the gases in our respiratory system that may cause boils, skin disease, damage to the internal organs, gout, and renal calculi.
Promote Bone Health
Calcium, the main element of our bones, is present in raisins, and these dried fruits are one of the best sources of boron, a micronutrient (a nutrient required by the body in a very small amount). Boron is vital for the proper bone formation and efficient absorption of calcium. It is particularly helpful in preventing osteoporosis induced by menopause in women and is very beneficial for bones and joints. Potassium is another essential nutrient found in high levels, which can help strengthen bones and promote bone growth, thereby reducing the chances of osteoporosis.
Reduces Arthritis Pain
Raisins constitute a natural source of polyphenols and antioxidants, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Gin-soaked golden raisins are a popular folk remedy which helps relieve chronic pain and especially arthritic pain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people show improvement in arthritic symptoms between 1-8 weeks of consuming 10 of these “drunken” raisins daily.
Promotes Kidney Health
Potassium in raisins helps prevent formation and the re-occurrence of kidney stones.
Increase Nutrient Uptake
Raisins have a rich content of vitamins, amino acids, and minerals such as selenium and phosphorus, which facilitate absorption of other nutrients and proteins in the body. Including them in your diet helps improve your overall energy and immune system strength.
Raisins can help to stop loose stools by absorbing its liquid and reducing the frequency and unpredictability of diarrhea.
Overnight-soaked raisins and raisin water are used as part of the liver cleanse diet as the dried fruits are rich in bioflavonoids that protect you from the free radical activity. Raisin water especially promotes good liver health, which helps purify the blood.
Daily consumption help promote shiny and thick hair as the vitamin C content prevents cell damage. Their anti-inflammatory properties help prevent scalp irritation, dandruff, and flakiness.
Uses of Raisins
Raisins can be included as part of your daily diet in a number of creative and healthy ways:
- Sweet crunch: You can sprinkle them on salads, peanut butter-slathered celery sticks, fruit bowls, or make them a part of your home-made trail mix.
- Salads: Broccoli salad with raisins and carrot raisin salad are popular recipes.
- Breakfast: Add it to sweeten your oatmeal or smoothie bowl instead of sugar or syrup.
- Dinner: They make a delightful addition to mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, or other side dishes. In the Middle East, they are sprinkled on rice dishes.
- Natural sweetener: You can use it in muffins and pancakes to sweeten it if you are trying to avoid or cut back on refined sugar.
- Snack: The dried fruits, in their raw form, are a healthy snack option for people of all ages. Chocolate-covered raisins, as well as yogurt-covered raisins, are also popular for a quick energy burst.
How to Store?
Raisins once opened, should be kept in a cool, dry area. It can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months. They retain their flavor, color, and nutrition value. You can also keep it in refrigerated for a year. In case they dry out, you can make them usable by steaming them over boiling water for a few minutes.
Raisins Vs Sultanas Vs Currants
Many people struggle with knowing the difference between raisins, sultanas, and currants while baking. They are key differences:
- Raisins: They are produced from grapes of all varieties, which are traditionally sun-dried, but they may also be artificially dehydrated. They are mainly Moscatel grapes, which are produced in US, Turkey, Greece, and Australia. While baking, raisins are mainly used to soak liquor like rum, brandy, or almond-flavored Amaretto.
- Sultanas: Often called golden raisins because of their color, sultanas are dried seedless white grapes. They are plumper, juicier, and sweeter than other raisins. It is mainly produced in Turkey. The most common type in the US is the Thomson seedless.
- Currants: They are tiny dried, dark red, seedless grapes, often the Black Corinth variety. They were originally cultivated in the south of Greece, particularly from the island of Zante; this is why they are also called Zante currants. They have a tart flavor and are usually used in traditional cakes.
There are a few risk factors in excessive consumption of raisins.
- Weight gain: They are quite high in calories, which can increase weight quickly if you are not careful.
- Diabetes risk: The dried fruits also have high levels of triglycerides due to their high content of fructose (triglycerides are byproducts of the body metabolizing fructose). High levels of triglycerides can increase your chances of developing diabetes, coronary heart disease, and fatty liver cancer. If you have other risk factors, then be careful and don’t add too many raisins to your diet.
- Allergy: Some people have allergic reactions. They range from wheezing, breathing problems, diarrhea, and even fever, in some cases.