People have been preserving grapes as raisins for millennia, and for good reason. Whether you put them in your oatmeal or eat them by the handful, they pack a nutritional punch and even have medicinal use. Like with most anything, however, moderation is key.
A Nutritional Breakdown of Raisins
Raisins are what’s left after all of the water is removed from grapes. Because dehydrating decreases volume, they have a considerably higher sugar and calorie content in a smaller serving, when compared to fresh fruit.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one serving of raisins is one-quarter cup. This contains 108 calories and 21 grams of sugar. Compare that to a one-quarter cup of seedless grapes, which contain 26 calories and 5.9 grams of sugar.
In moderation, however, raisins are more than just a tasty snack. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and a host of antioxidant compounds.
Raisins have one of the highest concentrations of boron in the Western diet, with 2.2 mg per 100 grams. Boron is a trace element that’s important for keeping your bones and joints healthy. Some research suggests that boron could play a role in treating osteoporosis, or bone loss commonly associated with age.
The average adult needs between 25 and 38 grams of fiber each day, according to Institute of Medicine. However, most people get much less than that. Dietary fiber is an essential part of the human diet — it’s important for digestive health and so much more. One cup of raisins can contain as much as 6.1 grams of dietary fiber. Much of that is soluble fiber, which improves bowel regularity and can help control blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
- Fresh grapes contain no fructans, a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the gut, but raisins do. This is because the dehydration process converts the fruit’s sugars into fructan.
- A serving of raisins also contains considerably more antioxidants than fresh grapes because they are more concentrated.
- However, raisins have a vastly higher sugar content.
Raisins also contain another form of dietary fiber known as prebiotics. These are compounds that can improve digestive health by stimulating the growth of “good bacteria” in the colon. Fructans and inulin are two such prebiotics, and both are found in raisins in high quantities.
Polyphenols are important antioxidants that work to fight the damage caused by free radicals. Those found in the highest concentrations in raisins are quercetin and kaempferol. These compounds are believed to help prevent cardiovascular disease, and are said to help regulate blood sugar levels and promote a feeling of fullness. Because many nutrients are concentrated when the water of a fruit is removed, these antioxidants are found in higher amounts in raisins than in grapes.
Even with their relatively high sugar content, raisins have been found to help control blood sugar levels. And in one study, it was shown that snacking on raisins three times a day — rather than other common snacks with similar calorie counts — can help lower blood pressure.
So snack on them and put them in recipes like this fig-raisin quick bread, or this noodle kugel. But remember, raisins are higher in sugar and calories than fresh fruits, so moderate your consumption accordingly.