Boost your health with raisins AKA nature’s tiny nuggets of nutrition (recipe included)
By Leslie Locklear
(Article republished from Food News). It’s a near-universal truth that for every person who loves snacking on raisins, there will always be one who would claim to detest them.
Raisins, for the benefit of the uninitiated, are simply grapes that have been allowed to dry either under the sun on the vines or in ovens. This makes them different from the similar-looking black currants, which are made from the berries of the currant shrub.
According to historical records, raisins were discovered by accident around 2000 BC, before spreading throughout the Mediterranean regions of Europe, courtesy of the ancient Phoenicians and Armenians who were among the first to perfect viticulture, or the process of growing grapes.
Turkey currently produces a large chunk of the world’s supply of raisins, followed closely by the golden state of California.
Considered to be the top dried fruit eaten in the United States, raisins — although its haters may want to claim otherwise — are a delicious ingredient that has since found its way to a variety of foods, from bread and pastries to desserts and savory dishes.
Aside from the more commonly-available black raisins, other varieties of raisins also exist on the market, such as Zante currants, sultanas and red, green and golden raisins.
More than just being among the divisive foods in human history, however, raisins are actually very nutritious, with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) noting that the little, shriveled fruity morsels are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sodium.
Aside from that, raisins also have very high levels of antioxidants compared to other popular dried fruits.
Because of their nutrient-dense nature, it’s no wonder that raisins have been linked to a bevy of important health benefits, such as the following:
Raisins can aid in healthy digestion
If you’re feeling a bit backed up and constipated, try snacking on some raisins.
This is because raisins, as small as they are, contain substantial amounts of dietary fiber — up to 24 percent of the recommended daily amount — which can help improve one’s digestion.
Feel like your stomach’s becoming too acidic? Whip up an oatmeal porridge with some raisins for breakfast.
This is because raisins — not to mention the oats — contain substantial amounts of the minerals iron, copper, magnesium and potassium. These minerals, according to experts, are all alkaline, which means they can help balance the stomach’s acidity levels. Think of raisins as nature’s version of Tums. You’re welcome.
Raisins can help prevent anemia
Feeling tired and winded for no apparent reason? You may be at risk for developing anemia, a condition in which your body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues.
Don’t worry though, as this can be easily addressed by adding more iron into your diet.
Raisins, as mentioned earlier, contain good amounts of iron and copper, two minerals that are considered to be essential in the production of red blood cells which, in turn, help carry oxygen throughout the body.
This means that adding raisins and other iron-rich foods can help address issues related to iron deficiencies.
Raisins can help lower the risk of heart disease risk factors
If heart disease runs in your family, chances are you’re going to benefit from eating raisins.
According to studies, regularly eating raisins may help reduce cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure rate, when compared to other snacks. This is because raisins are a low sodium food that also contains a good source of potassium, which is known to help the blood vessels relax.
Raisins can help fight against oxidative damage
As noted earlier, raisins are a good source of polyphenols that are known for their potent antioxidant properties. What this means is that raisins can help protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Oxidative damage, according to experts, is linked to several health issues, such as certain cancers, tumors, inflammation, eye diseases, chronic diseases and even signs of aging.
Also, these polyphenols are considered to be great when it comes to maintaining the mind, as they are known to help boost cognitive function, as well as protect the brain against diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. How’s that for a snack food?
Raisins can help lower blood sugar
Craving a sugar rush but don’t want to risk bumping up your blood sugar? Grab a handful of raisins.
As noted in several research papers, while it is indeed true that raisins contain a more concentrated amount of sugars than fresh grapes, raisins also have the uncanny ability to not just reduce the risk of diabetes, but also improve blood sugar control of individuals with diabetes.
This means that snacking on raisins may be an excellent and healthy way to satisfy sugar cravings — a win-win situation. If you ask us.
Are raisins for everyone?
Raisins, for the most part, can be considered a healthy snack. As with all foods, however, there are instances wherein raisins may not be the best foods to snack on.
For instance, people looking to reduce their calorie intake may want to be careful about eating large amounts of raisins. This is because while a single raisin contains roughly the same number of calories as a single grape, raisins are much smaller, which means snackers can easily eat more than their recommended calorie counts if they’re not careful.
Also, raisins aren’t the best snacks for people who are on the Keto diet, due to their relatively high sugar content.
Can you make your own raisins?
Raisins — including the organic and all-natural varieties — are widely available and can be found in stores and groceries all across the country.
Despite the convenience offered by their relative availability, however, many people are now starting to make their own raisins, with the majority of these new home-based raisin artisans singing praises about how home-made raisins are simply better compared to their mass-produced counterparts in terms of flavor and even nutrition.
Not only that but, as it turns out, it’s also very easy to do, with the entire process requiring only an oven or a food dehydrator.
- 3 large bunches seedless organic grapes, preferably mixed colors
- Extra-virgin, organic coconut oil for greasing baking sheet
- Six quarts clean, filtered water
- Iced water
- Wash the grapes thoroughly under running cool, clean running water, picking out and discarding any damaged grapes.
- Place the grapes in a colander, then gently shake to remove excess water.
- Remove the grapes from the stems, then set aside in a container.
- Heat six quarts of water on medium to high heat.
- Add grapes once the water comes to a rolling boil. Remove the grapes after a minute and dunk in a bowl of iced water.
- Set the blanched grapes on a tray lined with kitchen towels to remove all excess moisture. Once completely dry, remove the grapes and add them to an oiled baking tray or clean dehydrator tray.
- If you are using an oven, bake the grapes at 225°F for about 3 hours or until dry.
- If you are using a dehydrator, set the temperature to 135°F and let the machine run for about 24 hours or until all of the excess moisture is gone.
- Store the finished raisins in an airtight container.
Raisins, whether store-bought or homemade, make a great addition to many recipes such as:
- Green and fresh fruit salads
- Oatmeal and quinoa
- Pilafs and herbed rice dishes
- Baked goods and pastries
Raisins are a simple and convenient way to add fruits and their all-important and health-supporting nutrients and antioxidants to one’s diet. This means that regularly eating them can help keep the body healthy and even prevent some chronic disorders from developing.