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Heard it Through the Grapevine: Raisin' A Case for Dried Fruit

By Martha Michael

While the wine-drinking community clinked its glasses together when reports came out about benefits of their favorite beverage, they may have failed to see that grapes have healthful qualities in many different forms.

Raisins

If grapes are good, their dried version is better, says the webpage Berkeley Wellness, posted by the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. Antioxidants in raisins are three times higher than those measured in grapes – both red and green. It makes sense, of course, because dried fruit is more concentrated than fresh fruit.

With raisins you lose some of the Vitamin C and disease-fighting phytochemicals, say the experts at Berkeley. There’s a possibility they lose the antioxidant resveratrol in the drying process also, because lower levels are found in raisins. But some theories just chalk it up to the fact that many raisins are made from green grapes, which contain little resveratrol.

The sulfites used to preserve color in golden raisins also preserve antioxidants during the drying process. Obviously, stay away from them if you’re allergic to sulfites. Golden raisins have fiber, iron and potassium also, which add to their benefits.

Grape Juice

Both red and purple grape juice are good for you, says Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD of the Mayo Clinic. Those benefits include:

  • Lower risk of blood clots
  • Lower LDL, or "bad cholesterol”
  • Reduced damage to heart
  • Healthier blood pressure

Not every grape juice offers the same level of antioxidants. For instance, white and green grapes are lowest in antioxidants, including resveratrol. Where the grapes are grown and processed affects the outcome too.

Grape juice offers the same benefit as wine, as long as it’s pure purple grape juice. Wine has higher levels of tannins, which have antioxidants containing properties that fight hardening of the arteries, says Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist with Missouri University Extension. Juice has about four calories per gram, compared to wine’s seven calories per gram, so you have the added benefit for your waistline.

The antioxidant resveratrol is found in the skin of the fruit, offering improved blood flow and it blocks fat cells from growing. You find resveratrol in peanuts, blueberries and cranberries also. Flavonoids are antioxidants, also found in the skin of grapes, plus they’re in the leaves, seeds and stems as well.

The great thing about eating grapes, versus just their juice, is the added fiber you get. It seems there’s a lot more to the benefit of grapes than what you find in a fermented form. Wine drinkers can just step aside for now and let the dancing raisin lovers have their moment in the sun.

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