Diet Tips

Raisins – A power packed dry fruit

History of Raisins

The drying of grapes into raisins has been practiced since ancient times. Raisins were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2,000 BC, with one of their first mentions being in the Old Testament. Murals from prehistoric times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean region of Europe during that era. Raisins were also highly prized by the ancient Romans, who adorned their places of worships with them and used them as barter currency and as prizes for the winners of sporting events. In addition, raisins were oftentimes an integral item on the menus at Bacchanalian feasts. From ancient Rome, the practice of drying grapes into raisins subsequently spread throughout the world.

Currently, the largest commercial producer of raisins is California in a region known as the San Joaquin valley where raisins have been cultivated since the 19th century. The tale told of their introduction and subsequent popularity in California and the United States involves one enterprising grape grower who creatively responded to the forces of Nature. In 1873, when a heat wave destroyed the grape harvest, the grower took the dried grapes, the raisins, to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempts to sell this ancient delicacy were met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America. In addition to California, Australia, Turkey, Greece, Iran and Chile are among the leading commercial producers of raisins.

Process

Raisins are made by dehydrating grapes in a process using the heat of the sun or a mechanical process of oven drying. Among the most popular types of raisins are Sultana, Malaga, Monukka, Zante Currant, Muscat and Thompson seedless. The size of small pebbles, raisins have wrinkled skins surrounding chewy flesh that tastes like a burst of sugary sweetness. While the colours of raisins vary, they are generally a deep brown color, oftentimes with hints of a purple hue.

Health Benefits

Raisins have been the object of phytonutrient research primarily for their unique phenol content, but these delicious dried grapes are also one of the top sources of the trace mineral, boron, in the U.S. diet.

Antioxidant Protection from Phenols:

The phenols found in fruit have repeatedly been show to have antioxidant activity and to help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells in the body. The total antioxidant activity of many fruits and vegetables has been found to be exactly parallel to their total phenol content, and raisins take their place in this list right alongside prunes and apricots as an antioxidant-rich fruit. The flavonols (one type of phenol belonging to the flavonoid family) in raisins appear to be least affected by the grape-drying process, but raisins do contain fewer phenols than grapes since many of grape’s phenols are largely lost in the conversion of grapes to raisins. These phenols include the hydroxycinnamics (caftaric and coutaric acids), procyanidins, and flavan-3-ols.

Boron for Better Bone Health:

Although not often spotlighted in public health recommendations, boron is a mineral that is critical to our health, and has been of special interest in women in relationship to bone health and osteoporosis (bone softening). Boron is a trace mineral required to convert estrogen and vitamin D to their most active forms (17-beta-estradiol and 1,25-(OH)2D3 respectively). Estrogen levels drop after menopause causing osteoclasts to become more sensitive to parathyroid hormone, which signals them to break down bone. Studies have shown that boron provides protection against osteoporosis and reproduces many of the positive effects of estrogen therapy in postmenopausal women. Raisins are among the top 50 contributors to total dietary boron in the U.S. diet.

Protection against Macular Degeneration:

Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants’ consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss.

While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but raisins can help you reach this goal. Add a handful of raisins to your morning cereal; lunch time yogurt; fruit, vegetable or green salads. Virtually any grain dish is improved by the addition of raisins and nuts.

Over Eating can also have some Side Effects :
Raisins and Pesticide Residues:

Even though pesticides are present in raisins at very small trace levels, their negative impact on health is well documented. The liver’s ability to process other toxins, the cells’ ability to produce energy, and the nerves’ ability to send messages can all be compromised by pesticide exposure. So wash your raisins before having them

Raisins and Sulphites:

Commercially grown dried raisins may be treated with sulphur dioxide gas during processing. They may also be treated with sulphites to extend their shelf life. So kindly buy organic RAISINS…

 

 

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