Raisins are packed with essential nutrients, and provide you with a quick boost of energy and several health benefits. Because different varieties of raisins are available, you may be left wondering which are the healthiest for you.
Types of Raisins
Several different varieties of raisins exist. The majority of natural seedless raisins, which are dark brown in color, are made from green Thompson seedless grapes, while others are made from drying purple-colored seedless grapes, notes Sunmaid.com. Zante currants are very small, dark brown, seedless raisins made from black Corinth grapes that have a tart flavor and are often used in baking. Sunmaid.com notes that golden raisins, which are a bright golden color, are made from the same green grapes as regular brown-colored seedless raisins, but are processed with sulfur dioxide in a dehydrator instead of being dried in the sun.
What about Added Sugar?
While all raisins are generally high in natural sugar from grapes, raisins don't provide added sugar, according to Sunmaid.com. However, other types of dried fruits -- such as cranberries, or craisins, and dried pineapple often do contain added sugar to enhance palatability.
Which Grapes are the Healthiest?
Regular natural seedless grapes, golden grapes, and zante currants are all similar nutritionally. The main difference is that zante currants are slightly lower in calories than regular seedless and golden raisins. One-fourth cup of regular seedless or golden raisins contains 130 calories, but one-fourth cup of zante currants provides just 120 calories. These three varieties of grapes all contain about 29 grams of sugar -- and are good sources of fiber, potassium and iron. While golden raisins are treated with sulfur dioxide, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration generally recognizes this substance as safe.
The bottom line is that all raisins are similar nutritionally, so choose the one that fits your taste preference. Raisins may offer significant health benefits, such as a reduced risk for developing diabetes and heart disease, according to a review published in 2013 in the Journal of Food Science. However, because raisins are high in calories, avoid overeating them if you want to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest getting two servings from the fruit group daily when eating 2,000 calories per day. One-half cup of dried fruit, such as raisins, counts as one serving of fruit.
An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.