Whether you eat them alone, in a salad, or sprinkled over oatmeal, raisins are delicious and a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Yet, you may wonder whether it’s OK to eat raisins, also known as dried grapes, if you have diabetes.
There are many misconceptions about what people with diabetes can and cannot eat. And one misconception is that foods containing sugar — including fruit — are completely off limits.
But the truth is, people living with diabetes can have raisins and many other fruits.
In fact, fruits are a great choice because they contain plenty of:
People living with diabetes — or anyone for that matter, should eat a balanced diet, which includes healthy portions of fruit. Still, it’s important to understand how raisins affect glycemic management.
Can I eat raisins?
The bottom line is yes. You can eat raisins if you have diabetes. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should consume whole boxes of raisins whenever you want.
Raisins are a fruit, and like other types of fruit, it does include natural sugar. So while raisins are safe to eat, moderation is key to prevent a spike in blood sugar.
Keep in mind that fruit, although it’s healthy, contains carbohydrates. Even if you’re having fruit as a snack, you need to count it as part of your meal to make sure you don’t eat too many servings of carbohydrates.
Typically, 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of raisins contain about 15 grams (g) of carbohydrates.
Why raisins are good for you
Similar to other fruits, raisins are low in calories and have high nutritional value.
For example, 1/4 cup of raisins contains only about 120 calories. It also includes 2 g of dietary fiber, 25 milligrams (mg) of calcium, and 298 mg of potassium.
Fiber can help you feel full longer, and it contributes to digestive health.
Calcium helps your body maintain and build strong bones. Potassium protects your nervous system and muscle strength, and it also helps to manage water balance.
Can they help regulate blood sugar?
Eating raisins may also help to regulate glycemic control after meals.
In one study, researchers evaluated 10 healthy participants — four males and six females — to see how raisins affected glycemic control.
Participants consumed four breakfast meals over a 2- to 8-week period. Researchers monitored their glucose and insulin levels over a 2-hour period after each meal.
They had two breakfast meals of white bread and two breakfast meals of raisins.
Researchers found that after consuming the raisin meals, participants had significantly lower glucose and insulin responses compared to after eating the white bread.
These findings have led researchers to conclude that raisins may have a positive effect on glycemic response.
What’s the glycemic index?
It’s also important to understand where raisins fall on the glycemic index.
The glycemic index is basically a scale that ranks carbohydrates according to how quickly they raise blood sugar levels.
For people living with diabetes, consuming foods with a low or medium glycemic index can help to manage their blood sugar and ultimately help to manage their diabetes.
Where do raisins fall on the scale?
It’s important to note that fruits typically rank low on the glycemic index because they contain fiber and fructose. But some fruits, such as raisins, have a medium ranking.
This is by no means suggesting that raisins can’t be consumed. But again, the key is eating them in moderation.
Keep in mind that other fruits also have a medium ranking, including:
- sweetened cranberries
If you decide to snack on raisins, make sure you keep your portions small and only eat one serving at a time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a carb serving is 15 g. So only eat about 2 tablespoons of raisins at a time.
Since a small serving of raisins isn’t likely to fill you, consider eating grapes as part of a meal or as an in-between snack.
Whole grapes might be more satisfying. Since the drying process concentrates the sugar in raisins, grapes have less sugar and rank lower on the glycemic index.
Healthy eating tips for diabetes
It’s important for everyone — especially people living with diabetes — to include fruit as part of their daily routine of trying to eat a healthy diet.
Healthy eating contributes to your overall well-being, including helping you to maintain your healthy weight. It can also help you to maintain your energy level, making you feel good from the inside out.
A good eating plan includes healthy portions of:
- whole grains
- low-fat or fat-free milk
It’s also important to incorporate lean proteins into your diet:
- lean meats
- poultry eggs
Be sure to limit your intake of sodium and added sugar. When shopping for canned fruits, fruit juices, and condiments, make sure the label doesn’t have added sugar.
And while it’s OK to have the occasional sweet treat, limit eating candy, cakes, and cookies, which can raise blood sugar and negatively affect your weight management.
Portion management is important to avoid consuming too many calories, which could lead to weight gain.
To help manage your portions:
- purchase smaller plates for your house
- eat smaller amounts of food more often throughout the day.
- eat five to six small meals a day instead of three large meals
Healthy raisin recipes
You don’t have to only eat raisins as a snack. Are you looking for creative ways to enjoy this dried fruit?
Here are a few healthy raisin recipes you can try today from the American Diabetes Association:
- Brown rice and edamame salad
- Ingrid Hoffman’s Veracruz-style red snapper
- Quick broccoli slaw
- Roasted chicken and arugula salad
- Sunflower broccoli layer salad
- Roasted Indian cauliflower tossed with chickpeas and cashew
- Sautéed baby spinach with currants and pine nuts
- Mediterranean unstuffed peppers
When to talk with a pro
Sticking with a healthy, balanced diet and knowing what to eat are important for managing diabetes.
If you’re taking your diabetes medication, but still having difficulty keeping your blood sugar in check, your diet might be the problem.
Diabetes that’s not properly managed can lead to many complications, including:
- nerve damage
- kidney damage
- foot damage
- cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke)
If you’re having trouble figuring out what to eat, talk to your healthcare provider. They can refer you to a diabetes dietitian or a certified diabetes educator who can help you create a diabetes meal plan.
The bottom line
However, fruits are a great source of fiber and contain other nutrients. Many fruits also rank low or medium on the glycemic index, which means you can and need to include these foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
If you don’t know what to eat or need help with making healthy food choices, speak with your healthcare provider, a dietitian, or a diabetes educator.
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