Raisins: Are They Good for You?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on January 03, 2024
9 min read

Raisins are dried grapes. The drying process concentrates both the nutrients and sugars 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 such as 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.

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

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, each has its own unique features.

You might hear sultanas called golden raisins. Like most raisins in the U.S., sultanas are made from Thompson Seedless grapes. These are medium-sized green grapes and are grown mostly 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.

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 juicier, sweeter flavor than either raisins or currants.

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

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.

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 such as scones or cookies.

Raisins, sultanas, and currants have similar nutritional qualities. All are rich in antioxidants, which are 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 milligrams
  • 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

Ounce for ounce, raisins have more calories, sugar, and carbohydrates than grapes do, but they also have more fiber, potassium, and iron. Like grapes, raisins give you some vitamin C and vitamin B6. However, unlike grapes, they lack vitamin A.

Raisins are higher in antioxidants than many other fruits. In one scientific comparison of 12 common fruits, golden raisins had the highest level of these cell-protecting substances, with strawberries coming in second, and black seedless raisins coming in third.

Despite their high sugar levels, raisins have a low to moderate glycemic index -- meaning they don't raise your blood sugar as much as some other sweet foods.

Are raisins good for you? There's no question that 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 and other fruits. This makes them less filling and easier to overeat. So, they can be a healthy choice, but only if you 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:

Better heart 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 show 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 factors such as aging and lifestyle. Some of the stronger antioxidants in raisins are called phytonutrients. These plant-based compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Research suggests that phytonutrients may also lower inflammation, relieve pain, and protect your brain.

Better 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 compound may lower inflammation, help your intestines work better, and help balance the bacteria in your gut. One study found it may also act to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Better oral health. Some nutrients in raisins, such as oleanolic and linoleic acid, may have antibacterial powers. 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.

Despite their reputation for stickiness, studies show raisins don't tend to stick to your teeth. Sticky foods can raise your cavity risk.

Lower risk of anemia: Raisins are a good source of iron, and some animal research suggests consuming them might lower the risk of iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which your body doesn't make enough healthy red blood cells. Anemia can make you feel tired and weak.

Raisins are considered safe for most people. Even people with diabetes may be able to snack on small portions, thanks to their moderately low glycemic index.

Too many raisins can cause trouble for anyone. For example, they might contribute to: 

Unwanted weight gain. Some research shows that raisins can help people lose or manage weight because eating some can help you feel full. But they’re relatively high in calories per serving. So, watch your portions if you want to avoid weight gain.

Stomach discomfort. Fiber is good for you. But too much fiber, from any source, can cause digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and cramps. Also, raisins are one of the foods that can cause gassiness in some people with irritable bowel syndrome.

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 such as cancer, so it may be best to opt for organic raisins when possible. Organic foods have fewer pesticide residues.

Not only do raisins make a handy snack on their own for kids or adults, but they’re also 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 to 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.

If you want to make raisins from grapes at home, you have two choices: using a food dehydrator (which you can buy at many home goods stores) or using your oven.

To use the dehydrator:

  • Dip whole grapes in boiling water for about 30 seconds to crack the skins.
  • Dunk them in ice water.
  • Drain them on a paper towel.
  • Put them on your dehydrator trays to dry.

(Note: some recipes omit the boiling and ice water steps and instead suggest poking holes in the skins or cutting the grapes in half).

To use your oven:

  • Wash and dry grapes.
  • Poke holes in them.
  • Put on baking sheets lightly sprayed with oil.
  • Dry in the oven, with the door slightly open, at 145 F for 5-12 hours, depending on the size of the grapes and how dry you want your raisins.
  • Remove the raisins and let them cool.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to a few weeks.

While the fiber, antioxidants, 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 give you more nutrition.

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

  • 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, richer 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.

And don't forget about fresh, canned, and frozen fruits, which you can eat in larger amounts because of their higher water content. U.S. dietary guidelines say adults should have about two cups of fruit each day. But a half cup of dried fruit counts as a full cup serving because of the higher calories and sugar.

Raisins can be a healthy snack, as long as you don't eat too many of them. These dried fruits are especially high in antioxidants and minerals, but you have to watch out for their sugar and calories.

Is it good to eat raisins every day?

In nutrition studies, people who eat as little as an eighth of a cup of dried fruit, such as raisins, on a given day appear to have better overall diets than people who don't eat dried fruits. So, it's reasonable to say that eating raisins every day is fine.

How many raisins should you eat in a day?

Some researchers have suggested that up to half a cup a day may have positive health effects. But those researchers also say more evidence is needed to back up that idea. One thing to consider: a half cup (if the raisins are tightly packed) can contain almost 250 calories.

How many raisins are in an ounce?

There are about 60 raisins in an ounce. A serving that size (which you might get in a couple of mini-boxes) has about 85 calories.