Rick Miller, clinical and sports dietitian, reveals how raisins can boost your health
Looking after yourself from the inside out with a healthy, balanced diet brimming with fibre-rich foods is a great way to slash your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and arthritis. But the trouble is that most of us aren’t eating enough fibre.
Did you know the average person in the UK only eats 18g of fibre a day compared to the government’s recommended daily guideline of 30g? The five-a-day NHS campaign encourages us to tuck into at least 400g of fruit and veg every day, and the World Health Organisation suggests that we need to double this to 800g a day. The good news is that just one 40g serving of California Raisins provides 1.6g of fibre and counts towards our five-a-day goal.
What exactly is fibre? Commonly known as roughage, fibre is a complex carbohydrate which cannot be broken down by the digestive system. There are a number of benefits to this; the presence of fibre adds bulk to food, which slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and makes the intestines work faster. Fibre also acts as a scrubbing brush, removing any debris from the insides of the intestines. A 2017 study by the University of Florida also revealed that when people added 85g of raisins (a high-fibre food) to their normal diets every day, it reduced the amount of a potentially pathogenic bacteria, called Klebsiella sp, which is linked to urinary tract infections, gut inflammation and diarrhoea.
Fibre can be soluble or insoluble. Everyday sources of soluble fibre include oats, bananas, apples and root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. The fibre in these foods dissolves in our intestinal fluids, which are naturally present in the gut, to form a gel-like substance. This helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood by absorbing some of it into the gut. It also plays a part in lubricating the gut, helping to naturally support stool movement, and slow the release of other sugars into the blood stream, controlling blood glucose levels.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, actually absorbs water in the gut, softening stools and helping to maintain healthy bowel movements. Raisins boast plenty of insoluble fibre and they also contain, inulin, an element of soluble fibre. Inulin has all the benefits of other soluble fibres as well as having prebiotic effects which contribute to the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Another great benefit of raisins is that they contain a compound called tartaric acid which has a mild laxative effect – this helps to maintain healthy bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Research has shown that raisins are brimming with benefits. In 2007, the Health Research Studies Centre in California found that adding 120g of raisins to the research participants’ diets improved their bowel movements and also reduced alkaline levels in the colon. A faster transit time and lowered pH are associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. Another study by the University of Connecticut, found that raisins can reduce a type of inflammation linked with diabetes and coronary heart disease.
So give your gut a treat with California Raisins; they’re a convenient, low-cost, high-fibre snack with a host of added health benefits – and they also count as one of your five-a-day.