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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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