Raisins are dried grapes/currants. However, unlike fresh grapes, they indeed are rich and concentrated sources of energy, vitamins, electrolytes, and minerals. On weight per weight comparison basis, 100 g of dried grapes hold 249 calories, several times more fiber, vitamins, minerals and poly-phenol antioxidants than the fresh grapes. Raisins, however, contain fewer amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, carotenes, lutein and xanthins than fresh grapes.
|Dried Thompson seedless.
Photo courtesy: dottiemae
|Red/purple variety grapes.|
In general, fresh grapes, either seedless or seed types of the Vinifera species such as Thompson seedless (Sultana), Sugarone, Calmeria, Corinth... etc., are subjected to dry under sunlight or mechanical drying techniques. In some cases, the whole bunch of grapes may be allowed to dry on the vine itself (vine-dried). Ordinarily, their moisture content should not exceed 16% of dry weight. Thoroughly dried raisins are then further stemmed, cap-stemmed, sorted, and cleaned in order to obtain high quality, dried berries. At the commercial level, raisins are processed and graded further before sent to the markets.
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.
Raisins, like dried apricots, figs, and prunes, are dense sources of energy, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Additionally, they are packed with several health benefiting poly phenolics anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, and other phyto-nutrients.
The total measured anti-oxidant strength (ORAC value) of 100 g raisin is 3037 µmol Trolex Equivalents (TE), while that of fresh grapes 1118 µmol TE/100 g.
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 have protective action against cancers like melanoma, colon and prostate, and diseases such as coronary heart disease (CHD), degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer's disease and viral/ fungal infections.
In addition, resveratrol reduces stroke risk by altering at the cell molecular level inside the blood vessels. It does so firstly through reducing susceptibility of blood vessels damage by decreasing the 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. additionally, it help relieve constipation episodes by decreasing gut transit time of food. Furthermore, they are also abundant in flavonoid compounds such as tartaric acid, tannins, catechins...etc. Together with inulin and fiber, these compounds aid in smooth bowel movements through their laxative function.
They are free of gluten toxin and can be consumed by people who do not tolerate gluten as an alternative healthy food.
Raisins are dense sources of minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium copper, fluoride, and zinc. Copper and manganese are an essential co-factor of antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. 100 g provides 23% daily requirement levels of iron.
In addition, they are rich in heart-healthy electrolyte, potassium. 100 grams hold 749 mg of potassium. By countering pressing effects of sodium, it reduces heart rate, blood pressure and thereby helps prevent stroke, CHD, and peripheral vascular diseases.
Furthermore, they are also good source of some B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.
Several brands, grades, varieties of raisins can be available. While buying, look carefully for authentic brands, and always choose high-quality raisins since substandard berries have thin flesh, and poor taste and flavor.
Buy raisins that are full-fleshed, and plump in appearance. It is perfect to have fine wrinkles. Avoid old stocks as well as those with excess moisture, mold, or affected by sunburn, scars, insect injury, mechanical injury, which may seriously affect their appearance, edibility, and keeping quality.
Being a dry fruit, raisins have a long shelf life. They keep well when stored in airtight 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.
|Waffle with added raisins.
Photo: miss pupik
Raisins are one of the most sought-after items used in the confectionary.
Here are some serving tips;
They can be enjoyed as a snack, all alone without any additions.
Sprinkle over to enrich fruit salads and ice creams, desserts...etc.
Add to bakery items like chocolates, cookies, muffins, bread, puddings, biscuits, cakes, waffles...etc.
In Iran, India, Pakistan and other South Asian region where they are popular as kismish (sultanas), added to various sweet delicacies.
Raisins, especially golden variety, are treated with sulfur dioxide that may aggravate asthma and other allergic reactions in sulfur sensitive persons. Read carefully the labels which may instruct about sulfur treated products before use. However, natural sun dried products are safe to use even in these people. (Medical disclaimer).
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