There are times when you’re following the paleo diet and find those foods that seem to be right on the line. It’s like... okay, I know grapes are fruits and therefore paleo, but are raisins paleo? Does the drying process screw that up at all? Can I have just a few? Should I avoid them entirely?
What if I really just want a little box of them for my sweet fix at work?
That’s the issue, right? Where does that sweetness come from? Well... sugar of course! And paleo and sugar don’t usually mix!
We were curious too, so we did a little research on our naturally sugary friends.
Here’s the deal with raisins...
Can you eat raisins on the paleo diet?
The general consensus is that raisins are paleo-friendly, but should be eaten in moderation due to their sugar content. Because raisins are just dehydrated or sun-dried grapes, they carry the same sugar content as a grape, but are much easier to overeat.
While sugar makes up almost 72% of their weight, they usually don’t have added sugar like most other dried fruits. They also have a nice blend of vitamins and minerals including thiamin, manganese, potassium, copper, and B6.
In other words, while they are generally a healthy snack, one snack binge where you just dive palm-first into a delicious box of raisins may in just a few bites may contain the sugar content you need for the whole day / load you down with some extra calories you weren’t expecting.
Some people are more intolerant of carbohydrates like glucose and fructose as well, so make sure to listen to your body — especially if you’ve pretty much cut sugar from your diet.
Here’s what other Paleo experts have to say on dried fruits (including raisins).
Mark Sisson says:
I think a few servings a week of dried fruits is not a big deal at all – fruit is a natural, fiber-rich, vitamin-loaded food source.
Fruit naturally contains a relatively small amount of sugar. When you dry it, you take out all the water, which concentrates the sugar in a much smaller package – it instantly becomes much, much easier to get a huge amount of sugar without even noticing it, while you’re supposedly eating something "healthy".
How to approach dried fruits when following the Paleo diet
Normally, fruits aren’t anything to be scared of on Paleo. They all contain a bit of natural sugars... some more than others (think apples), but natural sugar is still sugar.
The issue with dried fruit is not in the nutrients themselves, but in the ability to consume drastically more sugar than you intended due to their decreased size.
Think about a small box of raisins. In each little box there could be dozens of raisins... and you usually eat more than one, right? Now imagine eating 60+ grapes. Right!? Grapes have the water weight to prevent overeating. Raisins do not.
Check out this awesome chart by PaleoLeap:
That really puts things into perspective, yeah?
You need to be careful with store-bought dried fruits. As we mentioned, raisins are generally okay, but other dried fruits are often culprits of additives and added sugars.
Dried fruits lose a lot of their fiber content as well, so you miss out on most of the digestive positives as well.
Here’s the deal:
Dried fruits aren’t "bad", the same as honey or other paleo sweeteners aren’t "bad".
In small amounts, they can be good for you, but be careful and watch for an increase in sweet cravings that accompany snacking on dried fruits. You don’t want to make sticking to paleo harder than it already it is!
There are ways you can eat them that take advantage of their sugar content without overdoing it, too.
- Make your own trail mix with a low ratio of raisins to nuts. Fill it up with healthier alternatives like almonds, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- You could make some soup or stew that uses them! There are lots of paleo beef and lamb stew recipes you could add them to or already have them in the recipe.
- You can use them as a salad dressing or topping. Think putting them on something with leaves, nuts, etc.
- And here’s an amazing broccoli bacon recipe from cookeatpaleo.com.
- Or if you want to get a little risky, here’s a no oatmeal raisin cookie recipe from Jay’s Baking Me Crazy.
Making your own raisins is super easy
You don’t have to buy your own raisins all the time. It can be fun to make homemade raisins as well and experiment with different grapes!
Check out this super simple recipe from Serious Eats on how to make raisins at home!
- 3 large bunches seedless grapes, preferably mixed colors, stemmed
- Vegetable or canola oil, for greasing
- Preheat oven to 225°F (110°C).
- Very lightly grease 2 rimmed baking sheets with oil, then scatter grapes all over.
- Bake, checking periodically for doneness, until grapes are nicely shriveled and semi-dried but still slightly plump, about 4 hours (the exact time will depend on your grapes, your oven, and your preferred degree of dryness).
- Let cool.
- Use a thin metal spatula to free any grapes that are stuck to the baking sheet.
- The dried grapes can be refrigerated in a sealed container for about 3 weeks. How long they keep will also depend on their degree of dryness; drier grapes will keep longer.
Are raisins paleo: the final word
Yes; just avoid using dried fruit as the foundation of any meal. Don’t go there looking to satiate yourself—instead, think of them as the icing on the cake. You can have a couple here and there and use them in strategic moments, but don’t make a meal out of them.
If you approach dried fruit and raisins with this mindset, you won’t have any problems!