Foodfacts.com has learned that raisins are dried grapes/currants. However, unlike fresh fruits, they are indeed natural sources of energy, vitamins, electrolytes, and minerals. In addition they are packed with many health benefiting poly phenolics anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, and other phyto-nutrients.
Commercially, dried grapes of the Vinifera varieties, such as Thompson Seedless (Sultana), Sugarone, Calmeria, and Corinth are processed and graded further before sold. In general, fresh grapes either seedless or seeded are subjected to sun-dry or in mechanical drying techniques. In some cases, the whole bunch of grapes may be allowed to dry in the vine itself (vine-dried). Their moisture content should not exceed 16% of dry weight. Thus thoroughly dried raisins are further stemmed, capstemmed, sorted and cleaned in order to obtain clean, sound, dried berries.
Types (varieties) of processed raisins.
* Type I – Seedless.
* Type II – Golden seedless.
* Type III – Raisins with seeds.
* Type IV – Sultana.
* Type V – Zante currant.
* Type VI – Mixed types or varieties.
Health benefits of raisins
Raisins, like dried apricots, figs, prunes, are concentrated sources of energy, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. On comparison to fresh ones; 100 g of dried grapes provide 249 calories, several times more fiber, vitamins, minerals and poly-phenol antioxidants. However they contain less amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, carotenes, lutein and xanthins than in fresh grapes.
They are gluten free and can be consumed by people who do not tolerate gluten as an alternative healthy food.
As in grapes, raisins also contain phytochemical compound resveratrol. Resveratrol, a polyphenol anti-oxidant, has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, blood cholesterol lowering activities. Studies suggest that resveratrol has been found to be protective against cancers like melanoma, colon and prostate, coronary heart disease (CHD), degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease and viral/ fungal infections.
In addition, resveratrol reduces stroke risk by altering the molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels. It does so firstly by reducing susceptibility of blood vessels damage through decreased activity of angiotensin (a systemic hormone causing blood vessel constriction that would elevate blood pressure) and secondly, through increased production of the vasodilator substance, nitric oxide (a beneficial compound that causes relaxation of blood vessels).
Like in grapes they, especially those derived from red/purple grapes, are very high in anthocyanins, another class of polyphenolic anti-oxidants. Anthocyanins have been found to have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer activities.
100 g raisins provide 3.7 g or 10% of daily required levels of dietary fiber. Studies suggest moderate fiber in the diet help lower body weight, cholesterol levels in the blood, and colon and breast cancer incidence as well as constipation episodes by decreasing GI transit time of food. Furthermore, they are also abundant in flavonoid compounds such as tararic acid, tannins, catechins…etc. Along with inulin and fiber these compounds aid in the laxative action.
Raisins are dense sources minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium copper, flouride and zinc. Copper and manganese are an essential co-factor of antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. 100 g provides 23% daily requirement levels of iron.
Also they are rich in heart healthy electrolyte potassium. 100 g provide 749 mg of potassium. Potassium reduces heart rate, blood pressure by countering sodium and thereby help prevent stroke, CHD, and peripheral vascular diseases.
They are also good source of some B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.
Several brands, grades, varieties of raisins are available. Whenever you want to buy them look carefully for authentic brands and always choose high quality raisins since substandard berries have thin flesh, and poor in taste and flavor.
Buy raisins that are full-fleshed, may have fine wrinkles and are rounded in appearance. Avoid old stocks as well as those with excess moisture, mold, or affected by sunburn, scars, insect injury, mechanical injury, or other similar means which may seriously affect their appearance, edibility, and keeping quality.
Being dry fruit, raisins have long shelf life. They keep well when stored in air-tight containers and placed away from moisture, humidity, sun light and high temperature. They can also be stored inside the refrigerator.
Prolonged cold storage may results in precipitation of their sugar contents. However this should not offset their quality. It can be reversed by just soaking them in boiled water for few minutes in order to dissolve sugar crystals.
Raisins, especially the golden variety which are treated with sulfur dioxide may aggravate asthma and other allergic reactions in sulfur sensitive people. Carefully read the labels which may state about sulfer treated products before use. However, natural sundried products are safe to use even in these people.
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