In this article
“One of the best foods to eat for people with thyroid issues is raisins!” This is the recommendation shared by Dr. Dan Gubler, a chemist specializing in phytonutrients, in his viral video on Instagram.
But, before you rush out to stock up on raisins, let’s look at what’s going on, why eating raisins is the latest trendy tip for thyroid patients, and whether it’s a good choice for you.
First, let’s look at the simple raisin. A raisin is a dried grape, produced by drying sweet grapes naturally in the sun or with dehydrators or ovens. As a juicy grape dries, it loses its water content, resulting in a shriveled and wrinkled appearance and a concentrated sweetness.
Raisins are available in different varieties, sizes, and flavors, depending on the type of grape used. Some common types of raisins include:
- Regular or Black Raisins: These are the most popular type of raisins, usually from seedless green grapes. They dry to a brown or black color.
- Muscat: These raisins are larger and sweeter compared to other varieties
- Golden: Also known as sultanas, these raisins are made from green seedless grapes and are lighter in color
- Black Corinth or Zante Currants: These small, dark, and tangy raisins are often called currants
- Red or Flame Raisins: These raisins are made from flame seedless red grapes
- Green Raisins: Also called Munakka, these raisins are produced in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Raisins are a nutritious food that can provide health benefits when consumed in moderation.
Antioxidants: Raisins are a rich source of antioxidants, including phenols and polyphenols, which help remove free radicals from the blood and may prevent damage to cells and DNA.
Mineral content: Raisins are a good source of essential minerals, including iron, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and iodine.
Vitamin content: Raisins contain various vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Vitamin C is essential for immune function and collagen production, which helps maintain healthy skin. Vitamin B6 is vital for brain development and function, while vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting and strong bones.
Bone health: Raisins contain a high amount of the trace element boron, which works with vitamin D and calcium to keep bones and joints healthy. It also plays a role in treating osteoporosis.
Digestive health: Raisins are a good source of soluble fiber, which can help improve digestion, promote regularity, and relieve constipation.
Iron: Raisins are a good source of iron, copper, and vitamins that are essential for making red blood cells and carrying oxygen throughout the body.
Heart health: The iron in raisins benefits cardiovascular health, and as a good source of potassium, raisins may help lower blood pressure. Research also suggests that raisins can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which can improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Weight management: Although more research is needed, some small clinical studies suggest that raisins may increase satiety and decrease appetite, making them a potentially helpful addition to a weight management plan.
Skin health: Raisins are a good source of antioxidants, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc, which may help keep the skin cells young and prevent damage from aging cells.
Lowered blood sugar: Raisins have a low glycemic index, which means they don’t cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. This makes raisins a good option for satisfying sweet cravings without causing a spike in blood sugar.
Raisins can have some downsides, however. Eating too many raisins increases the risk of several significant health issues, including:
- Weight gain due to high sugar content and calories
- Insulin resistance due to the high fructose content of raisins
- Digestive issues due to excess fiber
- Dehydration and stomach problems due to raisins’ ability to absorb fluid
To enjoy the nutritional benefits of raisins while minimizing the potential downsides, it is recommended to consume them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.
So, raisins, in moderation, are a healthy, nutritious snack. So why the current excitement about raisins for thyroid health? It comes down to the results of a 2021 study that looked at the potential for raisins to protect the thyroid while consuming a high-cholesterol diet (HCD). While the study was conducted in animals, specifically rats, the results triggered a buzz about raisins as a possible superfood for thyroid patients.
In the study, one group of rats was put on a HCD, and the other group had the HCD plus raisins. The study looked at the animals’ thyroid levels, as well as insulin and glucose, in both groups.
Interestingly, the HCD plus raisins group showed reduced insulin, glucose, and thyroxine (T4) levels and increased TSH and T3. The researchers concluded that adding raisins could modulate the adverse effects on the thyroid gland.
The researchers concluded that more research should be conducted to evaluate whether raisins are effective in improving thyroid function in people with elevated cholesterol levels who are hypothyroid.
It’s not clear how this one study conducted on rats translates into the broader recommendation that all thyroid patients consume raisins for their thyroid benefits. Especially given that the study reduces T4 levels and increased TSH levels, both indicators of potentially slower thyroid function and worsening hypothyroidism.
But let’s be clear: in addition to the overall health benefits of raisins, raisins have some proven benefits that are especially relevant for people with thyroid disease:
- Raisins may help lower cholesterol levels, and elevated cholesterol is common in people with hypothyroidism.
- Raisins are a natural source of iodine, an essential nutrient needed to produce thyroid hormones.
- Raisins are a natural source of iron, an essential mineral for thyroid health. Iron can help increase red blood cell production, which helps keep bound and circulating thyroid hormones at the right level.
- Raisins are high in dietary fiber, and a high-fiber diet can help alleviate constipation, a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Fiber can also help create a feeling of fullness.
Our conclusion: while the jury is out on whether raisins rate as a superfood for healthy thyroid function, they have some proven health benefits. They can be a delicious addition to your diet when eaten in moderation. And don’t be afraid to branch out beyond the little red Sun-Maid box and try sultanas, currants, and other types of raisins!
Here are some creative ways to incorporate raisins into your diet:
- Add raisins to baked goods like cookies, breads, scones, muffins, and cakes and pastries
- Add raisins to salads
- Mix raisins with nuts, seeds, and other dried fruits for a homemade trail mix
- Add raisins to your morning oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt
- Add raisins to savory dishes like pilaf, pasta, rice, couscous, biryani, and chutney
If you’re looking for inspiration, Allrecipes has almost 400 different recipes – both sweet and savory – that incorporate raisins
Could raisins be an alternative to statin drugs to treat high cholesterol levels in thyroid patients? Are raisins the next superfood for people with thyroid problems? Despite the social media buzz, it’s clear that we don’t have definitive answers to these questions yet.
You can certainly incorporate raisins – in moderation – into your diet for their health benefits. (Plus, they’re delicious!) You can also check out our article on nine foods to nourish your thyroid for ideas on some of the best foods for thyroid health. But if you want to implement proven nutritional approaches to support your thyroid and immune health, consider working with one of Paloma Health’s thyroid-savvy nutritionists. Paloma’s nutrition experts can guide you in creating a personalized nutritional plan to help you achieve your health goals while supporting your thyroid. Paloma members can also work with Paloma’s knowledgeable practitioners, who can diagnose and treat your Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism and help you achieve optimal thyroid health.