Best part of your trail mix? Is it the nuts, seeds, shredded coconut (unsweetened, please!) or those plump juicy raisins?
We know the unsalted nuts, seeds and coconut are great for our health, but those delicious bites of chewy goodness – raisins – pack quite a nutritional punch as well. So don’t be shy about your love for raisins. They’re not just for kids’ snacks and lunch boxes.
Are raisins good for you? You bet. They come from grapes, so they boast those same protective antioxidants. Raisins are dried white grapes, dried to produce a dark, sweet fruit, used in baked goods and sweet and savory dishes around the world. Raisins health benefits are many and we’ll get to those in a moment.
Which type is your favorite raisin? In the United States, the sultanas or golden raisins tend to be more popular. They are seedless, light golden in color, and plumper, sweeter and juicier than other raisins – and dried differently in production. Thompson raisins are the darker, larger raisons that are less sweet but still tasty.
Currants, along the same lines, come from red, seedless grapes. They are dried to produce a black, tiny, high-flavored little bundle, originally cultivated in the south of Greece. The name currant comes from the ancient city of Corinth.
When it comes to raisin benefits, just take a look at raisins nutrition: By weight, raisins consist of about 67 to 72 percent fructose and glucose (sugars), 3.5 percent dietary fiber, and 3 percent protein. The natural sugar, fiber and protein combination make them a potent energizing snack –and perfect to mix in to naturally sweeten your trail mix.
Although high in certain antioxidants as we’ve mentioned, raisins have less vitamin C than fresh grapes. They contain no cholesterol and are low in sodium. Other pluses: Raisins contain micronutrients, such as potassium and iron, and they do not have any added sugar, artificial flavor or colors.
1. Bone health. Your bones need calcium from easily-absorbed plant sources like raisins. Another bonus, raisins have potassium, another essential nutrient that can help promote bone growth, reducing the chances of osteoporosis, the common disease where bone loss and thinning puts you at risk of fractures and can reduce mobility.
2. Vision protection. Raisins contain polyphenolic phytonutrients with excellent antioxidant properties. That’s good news for your vision, helping to protect eyes from the damage caused by free radicals leading to macular degeneration, age-related loss of vision and cataracts.
3. Blood sugar control. Eating a few raisins three times a day may reduce post-meal sugar levels significantly, studies show. But don’t raisins have sugar? They do, but raisins have a relatively low glycemic index, and they contain fiber and antioxidants – all factors that contribute to blood sugar control. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important because it can prevent long-term damage to the heart and circulatory system. So raisins health benefits definitely extend to diabetics and people who are at risk for diabetes.
4. Constipation relief. Like any dried fruit, the fiber content in raisins is concentrated. So when you eat them, raisins swell because of the body’s natural fluids – a good thing! This insoluble fiber adds bulk to the food moving through the intestinal tract for constipation relief. Raisins can also help stop loose stools in this way by absorbing the liquid of loose stools and reducing the frequency and discomfort of diarrhea.
6. Help for Anemia. Boost your iron – important for anemia – with raisins. They also have essential B vitamins and copper which helps the formation of red blood cells.
7. Increase your libido. Chocolate-dipped strawberries are a treat, but the humble raisin can stimulate the libido and induce arousal, thanks to an amino acid called arginine, reported as beneficial in treating erectile dysfunctions. Also, you’ll get that energy boost for endurance.
Why not make some raisins yourself? Here’s how:
In the oven. Blanch a bunch of grapes in boiling water for 30 seconds and then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Remove stems and pat dry with a towel. Now spread on baking sheets in a single layer. Put them in a warm oven and let dry for about 24 hours, turning after 12 to prevent sticking. When they turn dark and wrinkled, remove from oven and cool, then store in airtight container. Now there’s a sweet and healthy treat!
In the dehyradator. Wash grapes and then remove the stems. Let air-dry for about an hour and then put them in the trays of your food dehydrator. Close and turn on the motor to highest setting for the first 12 hours. Then when the grapes look drier and darker, turn the heat down to medium-high. It usually takes two to three days to dry the raisins.
When it’s time for one of our favorite raisin recipes, try this super-quick and easy trail mix: Raisins, almonds, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate chips, a bit of cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt. Now dig in when you need a boost!