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Ask Tufts Experts January 2014 Issue

Q. Raisins are my favorite snack. Is this a good choice? If grapes are healthy, how about raisins?

A. Diane L. McKay, PhD, an assistant professor in Tufts’ Friedman School and a scientist in its HNRCA Antioxidants Laboratory, notes that a supplement in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Food Science was all about raisins. While this was sponsored by the California Raisin Board, it nonetheless presented some valuable studies. Basically, she says, the findings were:

“In an intervention study, kids who consumed raisins or grapes as a snack consumed less food, i.e., calories, overall because the fiber in grapes/raisins helped fill them up better than cookies or chips.

“Among adults, data from NHANES (a national nutrition survey) indicates that those who consume grape products, including raisins, in general, tend to have better eating habits overall.

“There is also some evidence that raisins can help reduce heart-disease risk by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and may help some diabetics control their blood glucose levels.”

If you’re snacking on raisins rather than fresh fruit, however, McKay cautions, “Cup for cup they are not the same with regard to calories. Dried fruits, in general, are higher in calories per cup or gram, so cutting back on the portion size is always prudent. About one-quarter cup is considered a single serving of dried fruit.”

A quarter-cup of raisins—about one small (1.5-ounce) box—contains 123 calories, 1.3 grams of protein and 33 grams of carbohydrates, including 1.5 grams of dietary fiber and 25 grams of sugars. That serving also delivers about 310 milligrams of potassium—almost 10% of the daily value (DV) of a mineral most people fall short on.

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