Raisins: Are They Good for You?

Raisins are dried grapes. This drying process concentrates both the nutrients and sugars present in grapes, making raisins nutrient 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 and come in different colors depending on the drying process used. Golden yellow raisins are commonly added to baked goods, while red and brown varieties are popular for snacking. 

Raisins are a nutrient-dense food that’s minimally processed, with no added ingredients or preservatives. But they’re also high in sugar and calories, so they should only be eaten in moderation.  

Nutrition Information

A quarter-cup of raisins contains: 

  • Calories: 108
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 29 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 21 grams

Raisins are a good source of: 

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

Potential Health Benefits of Raisins

Raisins are a great snack option that can add a range of nutrients to your diet. As a dried fruit, however, raisins don’t have the water content of regular grapes. This makes them less filling than whole fruit and easy 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:  

Heart Health

Research shows that raisins can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure and blood sugar. The fiber in raisins works to lower 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 our bodies need increases if our sodium intake is high, which is common for many people's diets today. As a low-sodium food, raisins are a great way to ensure you’re getting enough potassium. 

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Lower Risk of Chronic Disease

Raisins have higher levels of antioxidants compared to other dried fruits. The drying process also preserves these antioxidants, promoting greater activity than in fresh grapes.

Antioxidants prevent cell damage caused by natural factors like aging and lifestyle behaviors. Some of the more potent 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 our 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 phytonutrients in raisins — like oleanolic and linoleic acid — may have antibacterial properties. Studies have found that this effect may limit plaque-forming bacteria in our mouths.  

These antioxidants also help maintain healthy oral pH levels. This can keep our 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 raisins a great sweet snack option for people with diabetes. 

However, the dense nutrient content of raisins can cause adverse side effects if eaten in large amounts: 

Unwanted Weight Gain

Some research shows that raisins can help people lose or manage weight. However, they contain many calories per serving, so they should be eaten in moderation to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Stomach Discomfort

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

Pesticide Concerns

Raisins made from grapes sprayed with pesticides may contain residue in the final product. After the raisin-drying process, producers also sometimes fumigate storage areas to keep pests away. High levels of pesticide ingestion is linked to health issues like cancer, so it’s best to go with organic raisins whenever possible. Organic foods have fewer pesticide residues and can’t be fumigated. 

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Healthier Alternatives

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

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

  • Dried Apricots : lower in sugar and calories, and a better source of vitamin C
  • Prunes : lower in sugar and calories than raisins, rich in vitamin C, and pose less risk from pesticides
  • Goji berries : while high in calories, they contain about half the sugar of raisins and higher levels of antioxidants
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 30, 2020

Sources

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., Salem, Oregon: “Raisins.”

Environmental Working Group: “Raisins: No. 1 on the Dirty Dozen List?”

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.”

Nutrients: “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.”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “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.”

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