Friday, July 13, 2012

Do You Love Raisins? Here's Why You Should

Raisins are an underutilized fruit, especially considering their portability, convenience and nutritional goodness! If raisins aren’t already your fruit of choice, consider the findings from some new research, recently presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 72nd Annual Scientific Session.

Raisins are a good source of potassium, carbohydrates and fiber. They’re all natural; and I mean it. Unlike other dried fruits and fruit snacks that undergo processing and often the addition of sugar, raisins are created from simply grapes and sunshine. A portion size of 2 tablespoons contains 60 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber and 140 mg of potassium (nearly half the potassium in a medium banana). Both your typical raisin and my personal favorite, the golden raisin, count.

New findings show that raisins may also benefit your blood sugar control. Researchers found that by replacing pre-packaged commercial snacks with raisins three times per day significantly reduced post-meal blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C, an indicator of overall glycemic control. Study participants had slightly elevated blood sugars, but had not been diagnosed with diabetes. By replacing commercial snacks with raisins, participants' post-meal blood sugars were reduced by 16% and A1C values were reduced by 0.12%. From my perspective as a diabetes educator, this means a lot in reducing the incidence of diabetes and the risk of complications due to elevated post-meal glucose excursions. Researchers hypothesize the results are due to the relatively low glycemic index and fiber and antioxidant content of raisins compared to other snacks.

So if you’re on the diabetes “fence,” it’s the opportune time to make minor modifications to your diet. This seems like an idea that would certainly be worth a try! Even if it doesn’t change your blood sugars (or you don’t have pre-diabetes), swapping some typical snack foods for raisins or other healthier options will certainly yield otherwise positive dietary improvements. It’s just more evidence that shows the importance of eating your fruits and vegetables!

Creamy Golden Oatmeal
Here are some simple ways to add raisins to your diet. Most people need two to three servings of fruit per day. A 2-tablespoon portion of raisins counts as one serving of fruit.
  • Carry a small box of raisins in your purse or lunchbox for a snack
  • Make a simple trail mix with raisins, peanuts and almonds
  • Try my recipe for Creamy Golden Oatmeal or toss some raisins into your usual favorite oatmeal or cold cereal
  • Add raisins to your salad along with chicken breast and sunflower seeds
  • Mix raisins with boiled sweet potatoes or butternut squash.