The oxidation of cholesterol in the blood is considered to be a key step in the development of atherosclerosis and may be involved in the cause of cancer. Many phytochemicals and other food components have powerful antioxidant properties and can protect molecules like cholesterol from oxidation. In this study, we set out to investigate the effect of a plant-based diet high in phytochemicals, unsaturated fatty acids and dietary fiber, including sun-dried raisins, on the level of cholesterol oxidation.

Twelve women with high blood cholesterol and triglycerides were instructed to consume a diet of refined plant foods and low in fruits and vegetables for four weeks. This regimen was followed by a diet of whole and unrefined plant foods, high in sun-dried raisins, nuts, sesame seeds, whole grains, olive oil, green tea, and in carotenoid fruits and vegetables for another four weeks. The unrefined-food diet was rich in tartaric acid, antioxidants and dietary fiber. The level of cholesterol oxidation after consuming diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables was reduced by 21%.

It appears that sun-dried raisins, as part of a diet rich in whole grains, nuts, seeds and other unrefined plant foods, affect the level of cholesterol oxidation in the blood and may help protect us against atherosclerosis.

GA, Kuypers FA, Bruce B, Roitman E. and Klevay L. Diets high in phytochemicals and fiber decrease plasma cholesterol oxidation. Presented at The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 37th Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada, July 1997. Am J Clin Nutr 66(1): 207, 1997 (Abstract 23).