You may not pay much heed to the tiny, shriveled grapes that you find in your fruit cake or the energy bar you snack on, but the humble raisin has more to it than meets the taste buds. Mankind has been munching on this dried fruit for over 5000 years. While the Greeks had them as a snack or dessert, the Indians mention the benefits of raisins in Ayurveda.
The raisins that you usually find in stores year round are made from Thompson seedless grapes. They develop a natural brown color when dried in the sun. You can also choose from other types of raisins, like currants made with black Corinth grapes, monukka raisins, and sultanas.
Raisins are a compact powerhouse of nutrients and minerals which help maintain and improve several body functions. And if you’re having second thoughts about adding them to your diet because they’re too sweet, raisins just might surprise you. A 1.5 oz standard serving of raisins would yield:1
- 129 Cal energy
- 1.32 g protein
- 1.6 g fiber
- 22 mg calcium[pullquote]Tip: Always go for sun-dried brown raisins instead of golden ones. The golden color is a result of treating grapes with sulfur dioxide during the dehydration process.[/pullquote]
- 0.81 mg iron
- 322 mg potassium
- 5 mg sodium
- 1 mg vitamin C
- 2 mcg folate
Do note that while raisins have a lot of health benefits, from a nutrition point of view, especially for vitamins, fresh grapes might be a better choice. The drying process often removes a major portion of the vitamins. However, the protein, sugar, and fat content remains comparable. Here are the 8 proven health benefits of raisins.
1. Relieves Constipation
As much as you’d like to avoid talking about it, smooth bowel movement is one of the most important signs of good health. Foods that are rich in dietary fiber have been known to ease bowel movement. They add bulk to the digested food, making it move smoothly through the intestines. Research tells us that sun-dried raisins also have a similar effect. They not only reduce the transit time of digested food in the gastrointestinal tract but also reduce toxic bile fluids responsible for colon cancer.2
2. Fights Gastric Cancer
Unfortunately, there is no assured dietary recommendation to prevent cancer, but a healthy diet rich in antioxidants can reduce your chances of developing cancerous tumors. Research shows that some compounds found in natural foods have the ability to kill cells that cause cancer and prevent them from multiplying. The phenolic compounds found in raisins, especially in currants and sultanas, can kill and inhibit the growth of gastric cancer cells.3
3. Keeps Anemia At Bay
The condition of your blood pretty much dictates the health of all the organs in your body. This is because your blood is responsible for carrying oxygen to each and every cell. Deficiency of the B vitamins and iron can affect your blood’s ability to transport oxygen to your cells and tissues, causing anemia. Raisins contain both iron and vitamin B complex that helps in the formation of new blood. These tiny dry fruits are part of the recommended dietary supplement for anemia by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.4 Another reason why raisins should be a part of your daily diet.
4. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a health condition that ails our generation increasingly, thanks to our food habit and sedentary lifestyle. Besides exercising and eating these 8 foods to lower blood pressure naturally, have raisins. Raisins have minerals like iron and potassium, which help maintain red blood cell count and relax the blood vessels, respectively. The B vitamins can also reduce oxidative stress caused by free radical damage in the body and reduce systolic blood pressure.5 6
5. Makes Bones Strong
In a bid to build strength, people focus on consuming more protein for muscle growth but forget that strong bones are just as important. Calcium is what makes your bones hard, and you need to make sure your diet gives you enough of it. Raisins not only provide calcium but also contain the micronutrient boron which helps in calcium absorption. Raisins have also been known to prevent calcium loss and bone demineralization in post-menopausal women.7
6. Fights Tooth Decay
Raisins can also help you keep your teeth strong and healthy. Raisins contain a phytochemical known as oleanolic acid which has antibacterial properties. Research has shown that oleanolic acid prevents the growth of common bacteria which cause cavities and tooth decay.8 So when you have raisins the next time, you might want to chew them slowly to get a good mouth cleanse.
7. Helps Manage Weight
Raisins are sweet but don’t write them off just yet if you’re on a diet. Raisins could help you lose or gain weight depending on your fitness goals. If you are trying to lose weight, the high fiber content in raisins can help you stay full for longer so you don’t feel hungry too soon. Just add them to your cereal or salad or snack on them between meals.
Like other dry fruits, raisins are also great to gain weight in a healthy way. Because they are high in fructose, glucose, and natural sugars, adding a good portion of raisins to your diet could help you gain weight too.
Though the effects of raisins in either weight loss or gain have not been scientifically examined, health practitioners recommend them for their varied benefits. Talk to your nutritionist about the recommended raisin portion size that will help you meet your weight goals.
8. Builds Heart Health
If you want to keep your heart healthy, your cholesterol levels need to be kept in check. Having raisins is a natural and healthy way to do it. Increased levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), generally considered the bad cholesterol, in the body have been known to be a major cause of heart attacks. Studies have shown that raisins can lower the levels of LDL and triglycerides in the body and help in maintaining cardiac health.9 It is also one of those rare foods with a high potassium and low sodium content that are considered helpful for the heart.
Other Possible Benefits Of Raisins
Apart from the ones listed above, raisins are believed to have several other benefits. While there is no scientific research directly linking the consumption of raisins to these benefits, some nutritionists and alternative health practitioners believe raisins have the following benefits too.
- May keep away infections: Raisins every day could actually keep the doctor away. The phenolic phytonutrients present in raisins are also known for their antibiotic, germicidal, and antioxidant properties. Having raisins can help fight away fevers caused by infections.
- May improve skin health: Raisins can possibly also help you look young and healthy on the outside. They are loaded with antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals responsible for skin aging and skin damage.
- May improve sexual function in men: Along with other beneficial compounds, raisins also contain arginine. Research has shown that arginine can improve sexual performance in men.10 This could be why some cultures give raisins to newlywed couples.
- May check acidity: Raisins contain potassium and magnesium, both of which act as antacids. Though there is no conclusive research on the antacid properties of raisins, having them regularly could help neutralize body acids and maintain the natural pH level.
Raisins are generally safe for most people. Having up to 1.5 ounces or about 80–90 raisins can fulfill half your daily fruit requirement.
Ayurveda Suggests Soaking Raisins
According to Ayurveda, raisins are a highly beneficial food and have a cooling effect on the body. They are considered to be especially useful in maintaining smooth bowel movement. Ayurveda recommends soaking of a handful of monukka raisins in water or raw milk overnight and having them the following morning for digestive disorders like constipation.11
Ayurvedic Recipe For Soaked Raisins
- Soak 8–10 raisins overnight in about 8 ounces of water.
- Next morning, blend the bloated raisins with the same water.
- Consume on an empty stomach.
While soaked raisins are beneficial, don’t stop yourself from adding raisins to your diet whenever you can. Just add a generous helping of raisins to your fruit or vegetable salads. Or grab a handful of raisins for a quick snack to get all the amazing health benefits it has to offer. Raisins are also a great for kids; so go ahead and add them your home-baked cookies and pies.
A Word Of Caution
While raisins are recommended as a safe dessert option for diabetics, talk to your doctor about the right portion size. Raisins can cause spikes in blood sugar as 2 tablespoons of raisins contain 15 g carbohydrate.12
Dehydration causes the fructose content in raisins to become more concentrated, and if you have fructose intolerance, raisins could lead to symptoms such as abdominal pains, gas, bloating, belching, and indigestion.13
|↑1||Basic Report: 09298, Raisins, seedless. USDA.|
|↑2||Spiller, Gene A., Jon A. Story, Tanya A. Lodics, Margaret Pollack, Sharon Monyan, Gail Butterfield, and Monica Spiller. “Effect of Sun-Dried Raisins on Bile Acid Excretion, Intestinal Transit Time, and Fecal Weight: A Dose–Response Study.” Journal of medicinal food 6, no. 2 (2003): 87-91.|
|↑3||Kaliora, Andriana C., Aggeliki M. Kountouri, Vaios T. Karathanos, Lemonica Koumbi, Nikolaos G. Papadopoulos, and Nikolaos K. Andrikopoulos. “Effect of Greek raisins (Vitis vinifera L.) from different origins on gastric cancer cell growth.” Nutrition and cancer 60, no. 6 (2008): 792-799.|
|↑4||Dietary Changes and Supplements. How Is Anemia Treated. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.|
|↑5||Puglisi, Michael J., Ushma Vaishnav, Sudeep Shrestha, Moises Torres-Gonzalez, Richard J. Wood, Jeff S. Volek, and Maria Luz Fernandez. “Raisins and additional walking have distinct effects on plasma lipids and inflammatory cytokines.” Lipids in health and disease 7, no. 1 (2008): 14.|
|↑6||França, Camille Feitoza, and Lucia Marques Vianna. “Effectiveness of B vitamins on the control of hypertension and stroke events of SHRSP rats.” Journal of dietary supplements 7, no. 1 (2010): 71-77.|
|↑7||Nielsen, Forrest H., Curtiss D. Hunt, Loanne M. Mullen, and Janet R. Hunt. “Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women.” The FASEB journal 1, no. 5 (1987): 394-397.|
|↑8||Park, Soon-Nang, Sug-Joon Ahn, and Joong-Ki Kook. “Oleanolic acid and ursolic acid inhibit peptidoglycan biosynthesis in Streptococcus mutans UA159.” Brazilian Journal of Microbiology 46, no. 2 (2015): 613-617.|
|↑9||Anderson, James W., and Ashley R. Waters. “Raisin consumption by humans: effects on glycemia and insulinemia and cardiovascular risk factors.” Journal of food science 78, no. s1 (2013): A11-A17.|
|↑10||Stanislavov, R., and V. Nikolova. “Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine.” Journal of Sex &Marital Therapy 29, no. 3 (2003): 207-213.|
|↑11||Johari, Harish. Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co. 1994|
|↑12||Fruits. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑13||Choi, Young K., Fredrick C. Johlin, Robert W. Summers, Michelle Jackson, and Satish SC Rao. “Fructose intolerance: an under-recognized problem.” The American journal of gastroenterology 98, no. 6 (2003): 1348-1353.|