Raisins – The Great Sugar Debate
Raisins can be a healthier way of snacking, and have similar nutritional benefits to grapes, their fresh form.
There has been a lot of discussion about obesity in recent years and one target of various media campaigns has been sugar.
Some sugars, such as fructose, occur naturally in fresh and dried fruit, vegetables and other foods, while many of the foods we consume contain added sugars that add flavour and sweetness to processed foods.
However there is a difference between naturally occurring sugars and “free sugars” such as sucrose or table sugar. Dried fruits are getting a bad press despite the fact they are an easy and convenient way of increasing fruit consumption.
Raisins are grapes where water has been removed, either naturally or through sun-drying, and they have no added sugar. Because there is no processing involved, they retain most of the nutritional properties of their fresh counterparts.
In terms of sugar concentration, when compared weight for weight, dried fruits appear to have higher sugar concentrations than fresh fruits. However when portion size and water content is taken into account, the natural fruit sugars and calories equal out.
This means that 100 grapes should equate to 100 raisins instead of comparing 100g of each.
Raisins and other traditional dried fruits contain a host of dietary fibre, potassium, and nutrients that are often low in children’s diets and so of public health concern.
Sugars in raisins and other traditional dried fruit are including in the World Health Organisation’s definition of “intrinsic sugars” – ie those sugars that are naturally present in the whole foods like fruits and vegetables, for which it places no limit on intake.
Looking at raisins, research shows that the sugar in them is used in a more beneficial way by the body – for example by affecting blood sugar in the same way as the fresh form.
Because there is concern about children and adults not eating enough fruit, health agencies are recommending that snacks that are high in salt, fat and added sugar are replaced by fruits and vegetables.
Traditional dried fruit such as raisins offer a combination of taste, sweetness and nutritional value – offering a convenient way of healthier snacking as well as a move towards the recommended levels of fruit consumption.