The World's Healthiest Foods
Raisins

You donít 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.

 


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 June 2004 issue of the Archives of Opthamology 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 77,562 women and 40,866 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 ARM, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.

While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARM, 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. (July 10, 2004)

Raisins Promote Healthy Gums and Teeth

Raisins, despite being sweet and sticky, not only do not cause cavities and gum disease, but actually promote oral health. The phytochemicals in raisins, specifically one called oleanolic acid, are highly effective in killing the bacteria that cause cavities (Streptococcus mutans) and periodontal dental disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis).

Plus, the sugars raisins containómainly fructose and glucoseóare not as likely to contribute to cavities as sucrose, the main culprit in oral disease. So, add raisins to your morning cereal, lunch time fruit salad, or tossed green salad with dinner. You can satisfy your sweet tooth without sacrificing healthy teeth and gums.

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 Roman, 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

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Raisins:

Raisins that are fresh and have been stored properly will require no special attention prior to eating or using in a recipe. To restore dried out raisins before adding them to a recipe, place them in a bowl covered with a little hot water for a few minutes. You can use the nutrient-infused liquid in the recipe.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Raisins are a great addition to homemade granola or can be sprinkled over any breakfast cereal, hot or cold.

Soak raisins and other dried fruits in water to soften for an easy-to-make compote that is so versatile it can be served a variety of ways. Some of our favorites include served on top of grilled chicken or layered with plain yogurt to make a dessert parfait.

Raisins go well in most baked goods. Add them to bread, muffins and cookies.

Add raisins, almonds, peppers and onions to brown rice to make a tasty side dish.

Raisins' sweetness and texture make them a great addition to poultry stuffing.

Mix raisins with your favorite nuts for a high-energy, protein and fiber-packed homemade snack or trail mix.

Safety

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 liverís ability to process other toxins, the cellsí ability to produce energy, and the nervesí ability to send messages can all be compromised by pesticide exposure.

Grapes imported into the U.S. (not domestically grown grapes) are included in the Environmental Working Group's 2003 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" as one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues; therefore, imported raisins may also have concentrated amounts of pesticide residues. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of imported raisins unless they are grown organically.

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. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Raisins
0.25 cup
108.75 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

  • Cho E, Seddon JM, Rosner B, Willett WC, Hankinson SE. Prospective study of intake of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and carotenoids and risk of age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004 Jun;122(6):883-92.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Karadeniz F, Durst RW, Wrolstad RE. Polyphenolic composition of raisins. J Agric Food Chem 2000 Nov;48(11):5343-50.
  • Karakaya S, El SN, Tas AA. Antioxidant activity of some foods containing phenolic compounds. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2001 Nov;52(6):501-8.
  • Maffei Facino R, Carini M, Aldini G, et al. [Regeneration of endogenous antioxidants, ascorbic acid, alpha tocopherol, by the oligomeric procyanide fraction of Vitus vinifera L.:ESR study]. Boll Chim Farm 1997 Apr;136(4):340-4.
  • Rainey CJ, Nyquist LA, Christensen RE, et al. Daily boron intake from the American diet. J Am Diet Assoc 1999 Mar;99(3):335-40.
  • Schuurman AG, Goldbohm RA, Dorant E, van den Brandt PA. Vegetable and fruit consumption and prostate cancer risk: a cohort study in The Netherlands. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1998 Aug;7(8):673-80.
  • Sellmeyer DE, Schloetter DE, Schloetter M et al. Potassium citrate prevents urine calcium excretion and bone resorption induced by a high sodium chloride diet. J Clin Endo Metab 2002;87(5):2008-12.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2005-09-06 19:10:52
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation