From the childhood classic of “ants on a log” to granola to carrot cake, raisins have been in most of our lives since our earliest years. So, are raisins good for you? Well, not only are raisins popular with all age groups and extremely versatile in the kitchen, but raisins nutrition includes being concentrated sources of energy, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
Benefits of raisins include lowered blood pressure and better heart health. Studies have shown that daily consumption of raisins may significantly lower blood pressure, especially when compared to eating other common snacks, making them one of the best natural remedies for high blood pressure. (1) Raisins are so quick and easy to consume, it’s really hard to find an excuse not to include them in your diet on a regular basis!
What else can raisins nutrition offer in way of benefits? Read on.
What Are Raisins?
Today, most raisins are produced from Thompson seedless grapes, which were introduced to California in 1862 by William Thompson. To produce raisins, grapes are laid on brown craft paper trays between the vineyard rows and allowed to dry in the sun when harvested. This is the natural sun-drying process that turns grapes into raisins.
The oxidation and caramelization of the sugars during this process result in raisins’ natural dark brown to black exterior. Raisins are traditionally sun-dried, but they may also be water-dipped and artificially dehydrated.
In the U.S., golden seedless raisins are dried mechanically. The grapes are picked from the vine, washed in a clean water bath and then in hot water to soften the skins. The clean bunches of grapes are laid on wooden racks and sent through gas-heated tunnel dryers, where hot air is forced in and around the racks. While drying, the grapes are exposed to sulfur dioxide gas to prevent oxidation and caramelization, allowing the raisins to dry to their characteristic golden color.
When it comes to raisins nutrition, they have a considerable concentration of phenolic compounds, which play a role in cancer prevention and treatment. (2) Raisins contain the following phenolic compounds: quinic, gallic, chlorogenic and caffeic acids; catechin; and epicatechin. While many people like to avoid sulfur dioxide (especially those who have an allergy), golden raisins have more of some health-promoting compounds because the antioxidant effect of the sulfite used to produce golden raisins inhibits the loss of these compounds. (3)
Golden raisins have been shown to have the highest antioxidant capacity and phenolic content when compared to grapes and sun-dried raisins. (4) In general, though, the drying process for making raisins preserves and concentrates the antioxidant capacity of raisins over fresh grapes. (5)
Sultanas are another type of raisin that come from small, pale golden-green grapes originating in Turkey. These grapes were originally used to make wine, but today they’re primarily used to make raisins. Sultanas are more popular in Europe, and the American variety of the sultana grape is the Thompson seedless.
Muscat raisins are large compared to other varieties, and they’re also sweeter. What about currants? Currants are also dried grapes, but they’re smaller, darker and tangier than your typical raisin.
Raisins are dried grapes, which are the fruits of the Vitis vinifera plant. The three main types of raisins commercially sold are: sun-dried (natural), artificially dried (water-dipped) and sulfur dioxide-treated raisins.
Unlike other dried fruits that commonly have sweeteners added in the drying process, raisins are packaged without any added sugar. Raisins naturally provide a perfect amount of sweetness for the tastebuds. In fact, they’re similar to Medjool dates, one of the best natural sweeteners around.
Are raisins healthy? The one-word answer is definitely: yes! Natural energy isn’t the only plus when it comes to consuming raisins. These delicious dried fruits are also loaded with fiber, potassium, iron and other essential nutrients, but free of saturated fat and cholesterol. They’re also gluten-free, just in case you were wondering.
One small box (1.5 ounces) of seedless raisins contains: (6)
- 129 calories
- 34 grams carbohydrates
- 1.3 grams protein
- 0.2 gram fat
- 1.6 grams fiber
- 25.4 grams sugar
- 322 milligrams potassium (9.2 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams of iron (4.4 percent DV)
- 0.08 vitamin B6 (4 percent DV)
- 14 milligrams magnesium (3.5 percent DV)
- 22 milligrams of calcium (2.2 percent DV)
- 1.5 micrograms vitamin K (2 percent DV)
5 Health Benefits of Raisins Nutrition
Aside from being a popular snack food based on taste alone, raisins contain polyphenols, antioxidants, flavonoids and nutrients that can benefit overall health. Here are some of the top ways consuming raisins can help you live a healthier life.
1. Decrease Likelihood of Cavities & Gum Disease
Contrary to what you might expect from a sweet and sticky dried fruit, raisins can actually improve oral health. In fact, they’re one of the best ways to naturally reverse cavities and heal tooth decay. Research published in the Phytochemistry Letters revealed that raisins can benefit oral health because the fruit possesses antimicrobial phytochemicals that suppress the growth oral bacteria associated with dental cavities and gum disease.
One of the five phytochemicals the study identified in raisins is oleanolic acid. In the study, oleanolic acid inhibited the growth of two species of oral bacteria: Streptococcus mutans, which causes cavities, and Porphyromonas gingivalis, which causes periodontal disease — aka gum disease. So even though raisins satisfy your sweet tooth, they actually help to keep that tooth free from cavities! (7)
2. Excellent Digestive Aid
As a high-fiber food, raisins are an excellent digestive aid. Anything that aids your digestion is going to make you less likely to have common bathroom issues like constipation or diarrhea. Raisins contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which both help keep things moving through the intestinal tract in a healthy way by reducing constipation but discouraging loose stools as well.
Dried fruits might have more calories than fresh, but they also have a higher amount of fiber. For example, one cup of grapes has one gram of fiber while one cup of raisins has seven grams of fiber. By adding raisins to your snacks and meals, you instantly up the fiber content of your culinary creations quickly and easily. (8)
3. Lower Blood Pressure & Reduce Stroke Risk
Data presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific Session in 2012 suggests that individuals with mild increases in blood pressure can benefit from the routine consumption of raisins (three times a day). The researchers found that this daily consumption may significantly lower blood pressure, especially when compared to eating other common snacks. (9)
In addition, raisins are rich in the heart-healthy electrolyte potassium, helping prevent low potassium — a common issue in the standard American diet. Potassium is a key mineral for the proper function of all cells, tissues and organs in the human body. People who get a lot of potassium in their diets have a lower risk of stroke, especially ischemic stroke. (10)
4. Help Manage Diabetes
A randomized study in 2015 evaluated the impact of routine consumption of dark raisins versus alternative processed snacks on glucose levels and other cardiovascular risk factors among patients with type II diabetes. In this study, compared to alternative processed snacks, those who consumed raisins had a 23 percent reduction in glucose levels after a meal. Those who consumed raisins also had a 19 percent reduction in fasting glucose and a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure. Overall, research supports raisins as a healthy snack choice for patients with type II diabetes. (11)
When you eat raisins, the fiber content also helps your body to process the raisins’ natural sugars, which helps prevent insulin spikes manage diabetes naturally.
5. Aid in Preventing Cancer
Studies show that dried fruits, especially dates, prunes and raisins, contain high phenolic components that have stronger antioxidant powers than those in some fresh fruits. Antioxidants are extremely important to our health because they prevent free radicals (highly reactive chemicals that have the potential to harm cells) from causing cellular damage inside our bodies.
Free radicals are one of the primary, underlying factors that lead to the spontaneous growth of cancer cells as well as the spread of cancer, which is why high-antioxidant foods like raisins are such great natural cancer treatments. By including raisins in your diet, not only can you can increase your antioxidant levels, but you can also decrease cellular damage and ward off cancer. (12, 13)
Raisins History & Interesting Facts
Raisin grapes were first grown in Egypt and Persia as early as 2000 B.C. Dried grapes or raisins are mentioned in the Bible a number of times, including when David (Israel’s future king) was presented with “a hundred clusters of raisins” (1 Samuel 25:18), which was probably sometime during the period 1110–1070 B.C.
The early Romans and Greeks were known to adorn areas of worship with raisins. Raisins were also awarded as prizes in sporting events.
Up until the 20th century, the main raisin producers were Greece, Iran and Turkey. By the middle of the 20th century, the U.S. took the lead in raisin production with Australia as the second largest producer. Today, the raisin industry in the U.S. is located solely in California, where the first raisin grapes were planted in 1851. (14)
While Thompson seedless grapes dominate raisin production, they’re also widely used for fresh consumption, making juice concentrate and producing wine.
How to Use Raisins
Raisins are always sold ready to eat. They can be eaten alone as a snack or can be added to rice dishes, stuffing, salads, cold or hot cereals (like granola and oatmeal), puddings, and baked items. Raisins are commonly combined with nuts, seeds and other dried fruits to create trail mix.
When added to baked goods like cookies or cakes, the raisins help retain moisture in the final products. You can also add raisins to fresh fruit or vegetable salads as well as pasta and grain salads.
Traditional raisins and golden raisins can be used in the same way. Since currants are smaller, they can be used similarly, but they don’t retain moisture like larger raisins.
Store raisins in a cool, dry and dark place. After opening, keep packages of raisins tightly closed with a plastic tie or rubber band. They can also be put into a sealable plastic storage bag. Storing raisins in the refrigerator prolongs their freshness for up to one year. Avoid putting raisins in a kitchen cupboard that may be warm (near the stove) because high temperatures can cause raisins to lose their moisture more quickly.
Raisins probably deserve a medal for being the dried fruit that’s easiest to incorporate into your diet. They’re easy and tasty to eat alone, but they’re also just as easy and tasty to throw into such a large range of recipes from zesty vegetable side dishes to healthy desserts. Here are a few delicious ideas to get you started:
Potential Side Effects & Caution of Raisins
The natural sugar in raisins is easy to digest and can provide a great energy boost, but make sure not to exceed one serving size per day so you don’t overdo it on your daily sugar intake. As with other dried fruit, if you’re watching your weight then you definitely don’t want to go overboard on raisin consumption because they’re high in carbohydrates. Stick with reasonable serving sizes. Thankfully, those small boxes make it super easy.
Raisins treated with sulfur dioxide (like golden raisins) may aggravate asthma and other allergic reactions in people with sulfur sensitivities. Read labels carefully to avoid sulfur dioxide. Naturally sun-dried raisins are your best bet if you’re concerned about sulfur dioxide.
If you own a dog, make sure not to let your pet share your next box of raisins. It’s unclear why, but raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. That’s why raisins are commonly on lists of people foods to avoid feeding your pets. (15)
Raisins Nutrition Takeaways
- Most raisins are produced from Thompson seedless grapes.
- To produce raisins, grapes are laid on brown craft paper trays between the vineyard rows and allowed to dry in the sun when harvested.
- Raisins are traditionally sun-dried, but they may also be water-dipped and artificially dehydrated.
- The three main types of raisins commercially sold are: sun-dried (natural), artificially dried (water-dipped) and sulfur dioxide-treated raisins.
- Raisins are loaded with fiber, potassium, iron and other essential nutrients, but free of saturated fat and cholesterol. They’re also gluten-free.
- Raisins contain polyphenols, antioxidants, flavonoids and nutrients that can benefit overall health.
- Raisins decrease the likelihood of cavities and gum disease, aid digestion, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke, help manage diabetes, and aid in preventing cancer.
- They make a great snack in their own right but can also be added to numerous