I don’t want to tell you WHAT to eat. There’s enough people doing that and everyone is confused enough already because of conflicting advice. I want to give you the FACTS so you can learn and make your own educated decisions.
Let’s consider CRAISINS. Are they “healthy”? I mean, they’re just dried cranberries right? Well, anytime you’re not quite sure about something you need to look at the nutrition facts and ingredients list.
First, we see the list of ingredients: “CRANBERRIES, SUGAR. Refined sunflower oil is used as a processing aid.” Yes, a wee bit of vegetable oil is added to keep the cranberries from sticking together. Not a huge show-stopper. Our main concern here is the amount of sugar that’s been added to the product.
Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts. “SUGARS: 29g” That seems kinda high. Especially when you consider that 8 oz. of Coca-Cola has 20g of sugar. And look at this: “TOTAL CARBOHYDRATE: 33g” Whoa! That means this product is around 88% sugar!
But wait…cranberries naturally contain fructose (fruit sugar) right? Yes! Excellent point! So let’s go check that out. Unfortunately you won’t find this on the label, but a quick look at the USDA Food Database shows that 1 cup of raw cranberries (NOT dried) contains only 4g of sugar and 12g of carbs (a serving size of Craisins is 1/4 cup). So naturally, cranberries are around 30% sugar. I’m thinking that the amount of sugar that was added to this product is pretty significant, wouldn’t you say?
Because cranberries are so tart, manufacturers add sugar to make them more appealing. Ocean Spray does make a Reduced Sugar variety which contains 14g sugar so that’s a little more reasonable. But I’ve never seen these in the stores where I do the majority of my shopping. They probably only sell these in specialty stores.
There are companies that make “no sugar added” dried cranberries but you’ll most likely have to order those online. And even those are most likely going to have some type of vegetable oil. You may also find some dried cranberries that have been “naturally” sweetened with apple juice but even these will still have some other form of sugar added, otherwise they would go bad in no time at all. You can make your own dried cranberries at home with no added sweeteners or oil, but this is not for the faint of heart!
So what’s my point? If you’re going to eat Craisins you should treat them like CANDY. Do you feel like sprinkling M&Ms on your salad today? GO FOR IT! It might surprise you to know that I have a bag of Craisins sitting in my pantry right now. I like to use them on some of my long distance runs instead of the traditional GU energy packets. So I tend to see Craisins for what they really are…a big shot of sugar. Would I squeeze a packet of GU into my salad? Prolly not!
REMEMBER: always check the BACK of the label to get the facts and ignore whatever it says on the front of the package. Craisins should be considered candy, a treat, a once in a while “splurge”, or GU substitute when you’re running long distances. NOT health food!
I hope you learned something today! 🙂