Scientifically known as Vitus vinifera, raisins are formed by dehydrating grapes or currants. The process of dehydration is carried out by sun-drying or by a mechanical process of oven drying. The most popular varieties of raisins are Sultana, Monukka, Malaga, Muscat, Zante Currant and Thompson seedless.
The raisins have sweet, chewy flesh surrounded by wrinkled skin. They come in a variety of colors like black, yellow, green, purple and blue. Sultana and Flame grapes are the seedless varieties. Golden raisins are prepared from Sultana grapes by treating with sulfur dioxide to maintain golden color. They are dried on the vine or using special drying racks. Raisins are produced in several regions of the world. They are eaten raw or used in various dishes and sweets.
Raisins are known to contain concentrated amount of nutrients than fresh grapes. They are packed with energy, sugars like glucose and fructose, carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals. The vitamin content of raisins include thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, choline, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. Raisins also consist of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, potassium and phosphorous.
Medicinal Properties of Raisins
Raisins are dense with energy, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They also contain resveratrol, a polyphenol anti-oxidant. It shows anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and blood cholesterol reducing properties. It shows protective action against various types of cancers like colon, prostate and melanoma as well as diseases like degenerative nerve disease, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and viral or fungal infections. Additionally, resveratrol causes alteration in the molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels and minimizes the risk of stroke. It reduces susceptibility of blood vessels damage by decreasing the activity of angiotensin, a hormone that causes constriction of blood vessels leading to increased blood pressure. It also increases the production of nitric oxide, the vasodilator substance that relaxes blood vessels. Raisins also contain high amount of another polyphenolic antioxidant called anthocyanins, which show anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-cancer and anti-microbial activities.
Raisins for Constipation: Raisins contain rich amount of dietary fiber. This insoluble fiber tends to swell in body’s natural fluids. It adds bulk to the food and helps to get rid of constipation. In addition to relieving constipation, raisins absorb liquid from loose stools and control the frequency of diarrhea.
Raisins for Weight Gain: Like all other dry fruits, raisins are quite effective for weight gain in a healthy way. They are rich in glucose and fructose and contain plentiful of potential energy. Raisins can be an integral part of diet of body builders or athletes, who need extra energy boost without accumulating unhealthy cholesterol. Raisins can be a healthy addition to diet, because vitamins, minerals and amino acids present in raisins enhance the absorption of proteins and other nutrients in the body. It strengthens immune system and improves overall energy.
Raisins for Cancer Prevention: Raisins consist of high levels of catechins which are polphenolic antioxidants. They scavenge the harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are the major culprits in the spontaneous growth of malignant cells. Therefore, including raisins in your diet increases the level of these antioxidants, which, in turn, helps to prevent development of cancer or slows down its progress, if you already have developed cancer.
Raisins for Hypertension: Raisins are considered to lower blood pressure and protect heart health. Raisins are rich in electrolyte, potassium, which is helpful in maintaining heart health. Potassium helps to decrease heart rate and blood pressure by anticipating sodium and thus, contributes to prevent coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular diseases and stroke.
Raisins for Diabetes: Raisins are found to reduce postprandial insulin response and control sudden fall in insulin levels, which can be dangerous for diabetics. Raisins help to stabilize absorption of sugar in the body and minimize the possibilities of complications in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Raisins also regulate the release of hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which give alertness about hungry or full. This helps diabetics to maintain a healthy diet and manage diabetes symptoms.
Raisins for Anemia: Raisins are rich in iron, which plays a major role in blood cell generation. They also consist of vitamin B complex, which is essential for the formation of new blood. The high content of copper in raisins also contributes in blood cell formation. Thus, raisins can be effective remedy to treat anemia.
Raisins for Sexual Dysfunction: Raisins, due to presence of arginine, are known to stimulate libido and induce arousal. Arginine also increases sperm motility and increases the chances of conception. Therefore, raisins can be beneficial for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Raisins for Bone Health: Raisins are good source of calcium, which is the main constituent of bones. Raisins also contain high amount of a micronutrient called boron. This nutrient is essential for efficient absorption of calcium and proper bone formation. Boron is beneficial for healthy bones and joints and helps to prevent osteoporosis caused by menopause in women.
Raisins, no doubt, provide a number of health benefits. So, you should include them in your daily diet to get all the nutrients. However, while consuming raisins, you should keep in mind that raisins contain high amount of calories, which can lead to weight gain. Due to high content of fructose, raisins consist of large amount of triglycerides, which can increase the risk of diabetes, fatty liver cancer and coronary heart disease.
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