Are Raisins Good For You

Last medically reviewed on May 8, 2019

Are Raisins Good for You?

Raisins are naturally sweet and high in sugar and calories, but they’re beneficial to our health when eaten in moderation.

What are raisins?

The shriveled yellow, brown, or purple morsels known as raisins are actually grapes that have been dried in the sun or in a food dehydrator.

Raisins are commonly used:

  • as a salad topping
  • mixed into oatmeal
  • in yogurt
  • in granola or cereal

You also may have eaten them baked into delicious cookies, breads, and muffins. Despite their small size, raisins are packed with energy and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Raisins are naturally sweet and high in sugar and calories, but they’re beneficial to our health when eaten in moderation. In fact, raisins can aid digestion, boost iron levels, and keep your bones strong.

So the next time you’re craving candy or sweets, consider munching on some raisins to satisfy your yearning. Your body will reap the healthy benefits.

There are several factors to consider about the nutritional benefits of raisins. Read on for a breakdown of what raisins have to offer, both good and bad, to determine if the benefits outweigh any risks.

Sugar and calories

One-half cup of raisins has about 217 calories and 47 grams of sugar. For reference, a 12-ounce can of soda has about 150 calories and 33 grams of sugar, depending on the brand.

For this reason, raisins aren’t exactly a low-calorie, or low-sugar treat. It’s no wonder they are sometimes referred to as “nature’s candy.”

High amounts of sugar and calories are pretty typical of dried fruit, which is why keeping an eye on how many raisins you are eating in one sitting is key.

Raisins are often sold in small, single serving boxes, each containing roughly 100 calories. If you have problems with portion control, try purchasing these prepackaged raisins to keep your intake in check.

For endurance athletes, raisins are a great alternative for expensive sports chews and gels. They offer a quick source of much-needed carbohydrates and can help improve your performance.

A 2011 study found that raisins were just as effective as a brand of sports jelly beans in improving performance for athletes engaging in moderate- to high-intensity endurance exercise.

Fiber

One-half cup of raisins will give you 3.3 grams of fiber , or roughly 10 to 24 percent of your daily needs, depending on your age and gender.

Fiber helps aid your digestion by softening and increasing the weight and size of your stool. Bulkier stools are easier to pass and can help prevent constipation.

Fiber also helps keep you full for longer because it slows down the emptying of your stomach. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating fibrous foods may help.

Fiber also plays a role in cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber is known to decrease levels of the “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) type of cholesterol.

Iron

Raisins are a good source of iron. One-half cup of raisins contains 1.3 milligrams of iron. That’s about 7 percent of the recommended daily amount for most adult females, and 16 percent for adult men.

Iron is important for making red blood cells and helping them carry oxygen to the cells of your body. You need to eat enough iron in order to prevent iron-deficiency anemia.

Calcium and boron

Raisins have about 45 milligrams of calcium per 1/2-cup serving. This translates to about 4 percent of your daily needs. Calcium is essential for healthy and strong bones and teeth.

If you’re a postmenopausal woman, raisins are a great snack for you because the calcium helps prevent the development of osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by bone loss that usually occurs as you age.

To add to that, raisins contain a high amount of the trace element boron. Boron works with vitamin D and calcium to keep your bones and joints healthy. It also plays a role in treating osteoporosis.

Antioxidants

Raisins are an exceptional source of naturally occurring chemicals called phytonutrients, such as phenols and polyphenols. These types of nutrients are considered antioxidants.

Antioxidants help remove free radicals from your blood and may prevent damage to your cells and DNA. This can lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Antimicrobial compounds

A 2009 study noted that raisins contain phytochemicals that could promote healthy teeth and gums. Phytochemicals present in raisins, including oleanolic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid, fight the bacteria in your mouth that lead to cavities.

In other words, eating raisins in place of sugary snack foods can actually keep your smile healthy.

Raisins can be enjoyed right from the box, or they can be thrown into a variety of dishes. From breakfasts to desserts to savory dinners, there are countless possibilities. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate more raisins in your diet:

  • For a healthy take on classic oatmeal raisin cookies, try this flourless version. View the recipe.
  • Raisins add excellent flavor to just about any type of sweet spread. Try making this cinnamon raisin cashew butter if you’re in the mood to try something new. If cashews aren’t your favorite, you can substitute another nut. View the recipe.
  • Spice up chicken salad with raisins and sweet apples. View the recipe.
  • Contrary to popular belief, granola is easy to make at home. Raisins are always an excellent addition to your standard granola recipe. This recipe for cinnamon raisin granola can also be made vegan or gluten-free. View the recipe.
  • Pumpkin, raisin, and flaxseed muffins are full of healthy fiber. View the recipe.
  • It may seem strange to add raisins to your pasta. This pasta dish from the staff at the Mayo Clinic includes spinach, garbanzo beans, and raisins. It’s high in iron, protein, and fiber. View the recipe.

Want to try making your own raisins? It’s simple:

  1. Get some grapes.
  2. Remove the large stems.
  3. Wash them in cool water.
  4. Place them on a tray, and set the tray outside on a dry, sunny day (it works best if the tray has holes or cracks for air circulation).
  5. Rotate the grapes to ensure even sun exposure.

In just two or three days, you’ll have your own raisins.

Raisins contain healthy vitamins and minerals. They are also fat-free and cholesterol-free, high in antioxidants, and an excellent source of fiber. Raisins may help you:

  • relieve constipation
  • prevent anemia
  • build and maintain strong bones
  • protect your teeth
  • lower your risk of cancer and heart disease

Raisins contain enough sugar to give you a burst of energy and are a great addition to a healthful diet for most people. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, consider replacing unhealthy, sugary snacks with raisins.

Of course, like any dried fruit, eating too much can be borderline unhealthy because of their high sugar content and calories. While you shouldn’t be afraid to include raisins in your diet, make sure to keep it to a handful at a time.

Jacquelyn Cafasso has been in a writer and research analyst in the health and pharmaceutical space since she graduated with a degree in biology from Cornell University. A native of Long Island, NY, she moved to San Francisco after college, and then took a brief hiatus to travel the world. In 2015, Jacquelyn relocated from sunny California to sunnier Gainesville, Florida, where she owns 7 acres and 58 fruit trees. She loves chocolate, pizza, hiking, yoga, soccer, and Brazilian capoeira. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Last medically reviewed on January 17, 2019

What to know about raisins

In general, and when people consume them in moderation, raisins are a healthful, tasty food to add to the diet. Raisins are a good source of essential nutrients, minerals, and energy in the form of calories and sugars.

Raisins themselves make a quick and simple snack throughout the day. People can use them as a topping for yogurt or cereals, and they can also include them in many other products, such as baked goods, trail mix, and granola.

Raisins on a wooden spoon

Raisins can be a helpful and beneficial addition to the diet.

Aid in digestion

Raisins may be a simple way to help keep the digestive system healthy. Raisins contain helpful soluble fibers, which give body to the stool and help it pass through the intestines easier. This may help improve digestion and promote regularity.

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Prevent anemia

Raisins may play a part in preventing anemia. They contain good amounts of iron, copper, and vitamins that are essential for making red blood cells and carrying oxygen throughout the body.

Prevent too much acidity

Raisins contain substantial amounts of beneficial minerals, such as iron, copper, magnesium, and potassium. These are alkaline, or basic, minerals on the pH scale and may help balance acidity levels in the stomach.

Lower risk of heart disease risk factors

A study posted to Postgraduate Medicine noted that regularly eating raisins may help reduce cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure rate, when compared to other snacks. This is because raisins are a low sodium food that also contains a good source of potassium, which helps the blood vessels relax.

Fight against cancer cells

Raisins are also a good source of antioxidant compounds.

Dietary antioxidants are essential, as they may protect the body from oxidative damage and free radicals. Oxidative damage and free radicals are risk factors in many types of cancer, tumor growth, and aging.

Protect eye health

Raisins contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants that may protect the cells in the eyes from free radical damage. This may in turn help protect the eyes from eye disorders, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Improve skin health

Antioxidants may help keep the skin cells young and prevent damage from aging cells. Raisins also contain valuable nutrients, such as vitamin C, selenium, and zinc. This combination of nutrients and antioxidants may be a helpful addition to a diet that focuses on creating good skin health.

Lower blood sugar

The Postgraduate Medicine study also noted that compared to eating other snacks, regularly eating raisins may help lower a person’s blood sugar. Even though raisins contain a more concentrated amount of sugars than fresh fruit, raisin intake compared to processed snacks decreased hemoglobin a1c, which is a marker of blood sugar management.

This means that a serving of raisins may be an excellent way to satisfy a sweet craving.

While raisins are generally beneficial, there are some times when raisins may not be the best snack.

For instance, people looking to reduce their calorie intake may want to be careful about eating large amounts of raisins. While a single raisin contains the same number of calories as a single grape, raisins are much smaller. This can easily lead to eating too many calories.

Another concern about eating too many raisins is the increase in soluble fiber. Too much fiber may cause gastrointestinal upset, such as cramps, gas, and bloating. Some people may even develop diarrhea. However, it is important to note that this would only result from eating a significant amount of raisins since they do not contain excessively high amounts of fiber.

Lastly, because of their small size, people prone to choking and small children may need to avoid raisins and opt for fresh fruit instead.

However, enjoying raisins in moderation is generally safe.

Share on Pinterest A typical serving of raisins contains 129 calories and 1.42 g of protein.

Raisins are dried grapes, which are the fruit from the Vitis vinifera plant. Because of this, their nutritional content will be similar to that of grapes.

There are some exceptions, however. For instance, while both are good sources of certain antioxidants, raisins may contain higher levels than grapes. This is because the drying process preserves the antioxidants. The drying also significantly decreases the vitamin C content.

A typical serving size of raisins is about 1 ounce (oz), a small box, or about 40–50 grams (g).

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) , the nutritional facts for a serving around this size are:

Dietary fiber – 1.9 g

The same serving size also contains some valuable vitamins and minerals, including:

Vitamin C – 1 milligram (mg)

Magnesium – 15 mg

Potassium – 320 mg

Phosphorous – 42 mg

As a study posted to the Journal of Nutritional Health notes, raisins have very high antioxidant levels and phenol content compared to other popular dried fruits.

Specifically, raisins are a good source of antioxidants called flavonol glycosides and phenolic acids, and they have an ORAC value of about 3,400. ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity and reflects the antioxidant value of a food.

It is worth noting that while the types of antioxidants and ORAC score of a fruit are important, it is crucial that these antioxidants are bioavailable, meaning the body can use them easily.

The review notes that the body can use antioxidants in raisins efficiently, which may make them a simple and effective source of dietary antioxidants.

Raisins are the result of removing the moisture from a grape. Standard raisins typically derive from seedless grapes, though it is possible to produce raisins from most grapes.

While store-bought raisins are generally all natural, and inexpensive, with organic options available, some people prefer making their own. Luckily, making raisins is simple and straightforward using either a food dehydrator or oven.

Follow these steps to make raisins in a dehydrator or oven:

  1. Thoroughly wash the grapes, picking out any damaged grapes.
  2. Strain the extra water in a colander.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the grapes for a minute or so, just long enough to soften the skin.
  4. Strain the grapes again and remove all excess moisture.
  5. Add the grapes to an oiled baking tray or clean dehydrator tray.
  6. For ovens, cook the grapes at 225°F for about 3 hours.
  7. For dehydrators, set the temperature to 135°F and dehydrate for about 24 hours or until the excess moisture is gone.
  8. Store uneaten raisins in an airtight container.

Raisins make a great addition to many diets. Eat them alone or enjoy them in a variety of other ways, such as:

  • sprinkled on a fresh green salad
  • added to a cooked broccoli salad or coleslaw
  • sprinkled on oatmeal or other breakfast cereals
  • added to some curries or spiced rice dishes
  • added to baked goods or pancakes to add sweetness without refined sugar

Raisins can be a simple way to add fruit, healthful nutrients and antioxidants to the diet. Regularly eating raisins may help keep the body healthy and prevent some disorders.

However, it is essential to eat raisins in moderation as they are high in sugars and calories, which may be an important factor for people to consider if they are trying to lose weight.

Overall, raisins are a healthful food and make a great addition to many diets.

Last medically reviewed on May 8, 2019

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer / Oncology
  • GastroIntestinal / Gastroenterology
  • Nutrition / Diet

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Anderson, J. W., et al. (2014). Raisins compared with other snack effects on glycemia and blood pressure: A randomized, controlled trial [Abstract].
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24393750
  • Basic report: 09298, Raisins, dark, seedless (includes foods for USDA’s Food Distribution Program). (2018).
    Fulgoni III, V. L., et al. (2017). Association of raisin consumption with nutrient intake, diet quality, and health risk factors in US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2012.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5642187/
  • Schuster, M. J., et al. (2017). A comprehensive review of raisins and raisin components and their relationship to human health.
    https://synapse.koreamed.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4163/jnh.2017.50.3.203

Raisins: Are They Good for You?

Raisins are dried grapes. The drying process concentrates both the nutrients and sugars present in grapes, making raisins nutrient-dense and calorie-dense.

Raisins originated in the Middle East before making their way to Europe, where they were especially popular among the Greeks and Romans. Historically, raisins were used as currency, as awards in sporting events, and to treat ailments like food poisoning .

Today, raisins are available at most supermarkets. They can be made from a wide variety of grape types. Different grapes create different flavors and textures in the raisins.

Raisins can also be dried in different ways. Natural-dried raisins are dried in the sun and have a dark color. They take about 3 weeks to completely dry. ‌They can also be dried in a home or commercial dehydrator.

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Because they’re high in naturally occurring sugar as well as calories, experts say they should be eaten in moderation .

What Are Sultanas?

Raisins that are made using different drying methods or different types of grapes may have different names. Raisins, sultanas, and currants are three kinds of dried grapes. While they share many similarities, they also have their own unique features.

You might hear sultanas called “golden raisins.” Like most raisins in the United States, sultanas are made from Thompson Seedless grapes. These are medium-sized green grapes and are grown primarily in California.

To create sultanas, the grapes undergo a different drying process. They’re first dipped in a sulfur dioxide solution to keep them from turning dark. Then, instead of being dried naturally, they’re put through large dehydrators. They only take a few hours to dry compared to a few weeks for natural raisins.

Raisins vs. Sultanas

Because of the preservative and quicker drying process, sultanas are lighter in color than standard raisins. They look yellow instead of black or brown, which is why they’re sometimes called golden raisins.

They’re usually smaller than natural raisins and have a more juicy sweetness than either raisins or currants.

Sultanas are commonly added to baked goods, while red and brown varieties are popular for snacking.

What Are Currants?

Not to be confused with the black currant, which is a type of berry, what we call currants in the U.S. are raisins made from a specific type of grape: Black Corinth. They’re also called Zante currants or Corinth currants.

Black Corinth grapes are seedless and quite small. They were originally grown in the Mediterranean region and have been used to make raisins for a long time. Today, Greece is the largest producer of currants. California, Australia, and South Africa also produce currants.

Like raisins, currants are naturally dried and have a dark color.

Raisins vs. Currants

Currants are smaller than either raisins or sultanas. Their flavor is tangier and less sweet than that of other types of raisins.

They’re most often used in recipes like scones or cookies.

Raisin Nutrition Information

Raisins, sultanas, and currants have similar nutritional qualities. All are rich in antioxidants – substances that help your cells fight harmful molecules called free radicals. And they’re all good sources of:

Raisins also contain boron . This mineral helps maintain good bone and joint health , can improve wound healing, and may improve cognitive performance .

A quarter-cup of standard raisins contains:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 32 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 26 grams
  • Calcium: 25
  • Iron: 1 milligram

A quarter cup of sultanas contains:

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 31 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 10 grams
  • Calcium: 20 milligrams
  • Iron: 1 milligram

A quarter-cup of dried currants has:

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 30 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 27 grams
  • Calcium: 40 milligrams
  • Iron: 1.5 milligrams

Potential Health Benefits of Raisins

Raisins are a tasty and convenient food that can add a range of nutrients to your diet. As a dried fruit, however, they don’t have the water content of regular grapes. This makes them less filling and easier to overeat. Stick to small portions to avoid adding too many calories to your diet.

Adding a handful to your cereal or snack can have some potential health benefits:

Hearth health. Research shows that raisins could help lower your risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure and blood sugar . The fiber in raisins lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol , which reduces strain on your heart.

Raisins are also a good source of potassium . Studies have found that low potassium levels contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke . The amount of potassium your body needs increases if your sodium intake is high, which is common in many people’s diets. As a low-sodium food, raisins are a great way to ensure you’re getting enough potassium.

Lower risk of chronic disease. Raisins have higher levels of antioxidants than many other dried fruits. That’s because the drying process concentrates these antioxidants.

Antioxidants help prevent cell damage caused by natural factors like aging and lifestyle behaviors. Some of the stronger antioxidants in raisins are called phytonutrients . These plant-based compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes , osteoporosis , and cancer .

Research suggests that phytonutrients may also have anti-inflammatory , pain relief, and brain-protective properties.

Gastrointestinal health. Raisins are a good source of soluble fiber , which aids digestion and reduces stomach issues.

Raisins also contain tartaric acid . Research shows this protein may have anti-inflammatory properties, improve intestinal function, and help regulate the balance of bacteria in your gut . One study found it may also act to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Oral health. Some nutrients in raisins, like oleanolic and linoleic acid, may have antibacterial properties. Studies have found that this effect may limit plaque -forming bacteria in your mouth.

These antioxidants also help maintain healthy oral pH levels. This can keep your saliva from becoming too acidic , helping with cavity prevention.

Potential Risks of Raisins

Raisins are considered safe for most people. They also have a moderately low glycemic index , which means they don’t cause sharp spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels. This can make them a good sweet snack option for people with diabetes.

But the dense nutrient content of raisins can cause negative side effects if you eat them in large amounts:

Unwanted weight gain. Some research shows that raisins can help people lose or manage weight . But they’re relatively high in calories per serving. So eat them in moderation if you want to avoid weight gain.

Stomach discomfort. The fiber in raisins is linked with a range of health benefits. But too much fiber in your diet can cause digestive issues like gas, bloating, and cramps.

Pesticide concerns. Raisins made from grapes sprayed with pesticides may contain residues. After the raisin-drying process, producers also sometimes fumigate storage areas to keep pests away. Consuming high levels of pesticides has been linked to health issues like cancer, so it may be best to opt for organic raisins when possible. Organic foods have fewer pesticide residues.

How to Eat Raisins

Not only do raisins make a handy snack on their own for kids or adults, they’re part of many sweet and savory dishes from around the world. They’re a good alternative to candy or other sweets, as they can satisfy a sugar craving while offering some nutritional benefits.

Here are a few ideas for how to add raisins, sultanas, and currants into your diet:

  • Mix with nuts and other dried fruits for a healthy trail mix.
  • Sprinkle on top of yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal.
  • Bake into cookies, scones, or granola bars.
  • Toss into a green salad, or try them in a lentil and grain salad.
  • Add as a garnish to curry or stir-fry for a pop of sweetness.

Healthier Alternatives

While the vitamins and minerals in raisins can benefit your health, they’re about 60% sugar. Raisins are generally cheaper than other dried fruits, but some other fruits may contain better nutritional value.

If you’re watching your sugar intake, consider alternatives to raisins like:

  • Dried apricots : They are lower in sugar and calories and a better source of iron and fiber.
  • Prunes : They are lower in sugar and calories than raisins, rich in fiber, and pose less risk from pesticides.
  • Goji berries : While high in calories, they contain about 30% less sugar than raisins and higher levels of antioxidants.

Show Sources

British Journal of Nutrition : “Effect of tartaric acid and dietary fibre from sun-dried raisins on colonic function and on bile acid and volatile fatty acid excretion in healthy adults.”

ESHA Research Inc.: “Raisins.”

Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal : “Nothing Boring About Boron.”

Journal of Complementary Integrated Medicine : “Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents.”

Journal of Nutrition and Health : “A Comprehensive review of Raisins and Raisin components and their relationship to human health.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

National Institutes of Health: “How too little potassium may contribute to cardiovascular disease.”

Nutrition Research : “Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index.”

Nutrients : Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health,” “Is Eating Raisins Healthy?”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity : “Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action,” “Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease.”

Postgraduate Medicine : “Raisins compared with other snack effects on glycemia and blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial.”

University of California at San Francisco: “Increasing Fiber Intake.”

‌Christensen, L. Peter, Raisin Production Manual , Regents of the University of California, 2000.‌

‌The California Garden Web: “Viticultural Information”, “Zante Currant.”‌

‌Politismos Museum of Greek History: The unique foods of Greece and their health benefits.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “What Are Red Blood Cells?”

USDA Food Data Central: “Raisins,” “Sultana raisins,” “Currants, dried.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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