Raisins

You don't have to be a backpacker or hiker to appreciate raisins as a convenient, high energy low fat snack; they are easy to pack, easy to eat and almost never go bad. Like other dried fruits, raisins are available throughout the year.

Raisins are made by dehydrating grapes in a process using the heat of the sun or a mechanical process of oven drying. Among the most popular types of raisins are Sultana, Malaga, Monukka, Zante Currant, Muscat and Thompson seedless. The size of small pebbles, raisins have wrinkled skins surrounding chewy flesh that tastes like a burst of sugary sweetness. While the colors of raisins vary, they are generally a deep brown color, oftentimes with hints of a purple hue.

Nutrients in
Raisins
0.25 cup (36.25 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

Calories (108)6%

Health Benefits

Raisins have been the object of phytonutrient research primarily for their unique phenol content, but these delicious dried grapes are also one of the top sources of the trace mineral, boron, in the U.S. diet.

Antioxidant Protection from Phenols

The phenols found in fruit have repeatedly been show to have antioxidant activity and to help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells in the body. The total antioxidant activity of many fruits and vegetables has been found to be exactly parallel to their total phenol content, and raisins take their place in this list right alongside prunes and apricots as an antioxidant-rich fruit. The flavonols (one type of phenol belonging to the flavonoid family) in raisins appear to be least affected by the grape-drying process, but raisins do contain fewer phenols than grapes since many of grape's phenols are largely lost in the conversion of grapes to raisins. These phenols include the hydroxycinnamics (caftaric and coutaric acids), procyanidins, and flavan-3-ols.

Boron for Better Bone Health

Although not often spotlighted in public health recommendations, boron is a mineral that is critical to our health, and has been of special interest in women in relationship to bone health and osteoporosis (bone softening). Boron is a trace mineral required to convert estrogen and vitamin D to their most active forms (17-beta-estradiol and 1,25-(OH)2D3 respectively). Estrogen levels drop after menopause causing osteoclasts to become more sensitive to parathyroid hormone, which signals them to break down bone. Studies have shown that boron provides protection against osteoporosis and reproduces many of the positive effects of estrogen therapy in postmenopausal women. Raisins are among the top 50 contributors to total dietary boron in the U.S. diet.

Protection against Macular Degeneration

Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss.

While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but raisins can help you reach this goal. Add a handful of raisins to your morning cereal; lunch time yogurt; fruit, vegetable or green salads. Virtually any grain dish is improved by the addition of raisins and nuts.

Description

When most fruits are dried, they keep their same name, but not the grape. The dried form of the grape, revered throughout history, has its own unique name: the raisin.

Raisins are made from dehydrating grapes in a process that either involves the heat of the sun or a mechanical process of oven drying. Among the most popular types of raisins are Sultana, Malaga, Monukka, Zante Currant, Muscat and Thompson seedless. The size of small pebbles, raisins have wrinkled skins surrounding chewy flesh that tastes like a burst of sugary sweetness. While the colors of raisins vary, they are generally a deep brown color, oftentimes with hints of a purple hue.

The scientific name for raisin (grape) is Vitus vinifera.

History

The drying of grapes into raisins has been practiced since ancient times. Raisins were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2,000 BC, with one of their first mentions being in the Old Testament. Murals from prehistoric times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean region of Europe during that era. Raisins were also highly prized by the ancient Romans, who adorned their places of worships with them and used them as barter currency and as prizes for the winners of sporting events. In addition, raisins were oftentimes an integral item on the menus at Bacchanalian feasts. From ancient Rome, the practice of drying grapes into raisins subsequently spread throughout the world.

Currently, the largest commercial producer of raisins is California in a region known as the San Joaquin valley where raisins have been cultivated since the 19th century. The tale told of their introduction and subsequent popularity in California and the United States involves one enterprising grape grower who creatively responded to the forces of Nature. In 1873, when a heat wave destroyed the grape harvest, the grower took the dried grapes, the raisins, to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempts to sell this ancient delicacy were met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America. In addition to California, Australia, Turkey, Greece, Iran and Chile are among the leading commercial producers of raisins.

How to Select and Store

If possible, purchase raisins that are sold in bulk or in transparent containers so that you can judge their quality, checking to see that they are moist and undamaged. When buying raisins in a sealed, opaque container, make sure that the container is tightly sealed and that they are produced or packaged by a reputable company.

Storing raisins in the refrigerator in an airtight container will extend their freshness and prevent them from becoming dried out. If you purchase raisins in single serving boxes and do not want to transfer them to another container, store the boxes in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. Raisins will be the most fresh if consumed within six months.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Safety

Raisins and Pesticide Residues

Virtually all municipal drinking water in the United States contains pesticide residues, and with the exception of organic foods, so do the majority of foods in the U.S. food supply. Even though pesticides are present in food at very small trace levels, their negative impact on health is well documented. The liver's ability to process other toxins, the cells' ability to produce energy, and the nerves' ability to send messages can all be compromised by pesticide exposure. According to the Environmental Working Group's 2009 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce," grapes imported into the U.S. (not domestically grown grapes) are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of imported grapes or raisins unless they are grown organically. While imported grapes were among the top 12 foods found to have pesticide residues, grapes grown in the U.S. were found to be number 21 among the 47 foods tested.

Raisins and Sulfites

Commercially grown dried raisins may be treated with sulfur dioxide gas during processing. They may also be treated with sulfites to extend their shelf life.

Sulfur-containing compounds are often added to dried foods like raisins as preservatives to help prevent oxidation and bleaching of colors. The sulfites used to help preserve dried raisins cause adverse reactions in an estimated one out of every 100 people, who turn out to be sulfite sensitive.

Sulfite reactions can be particularly acute in people who suffer from asthma. The Federal Food and Drug Administration estimates that 5 percent of asthmatics may suffer a reaction when exposed to sulfites.

Foods that are classified as "organic" do not contain sulfites since federal regulations prohibit the use of these preservatives in organically grown or produced foods. Therefore, concern about sulfite exposure is yet another reason to purchase organic foods.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System.

Raisins
0.25 cup
36.25 grams
108.39 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

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