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.

The nutrition of raisins

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 216 calories and 42 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 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 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 2.7 grams of fiber, or roughly 6 to 12 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 1.4 milligrams of iron. That’s about 7 percent of the recommended daily amount for most adult females, and 17 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 36 milligrams of calcium per 1/2-cup serving. This translates to about 5 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

Studies have shown 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. 

How to eat raisins

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.
  • This quinoa, raisin, almond salad can be used for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch. 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 perfect for fall and 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.

Make your own raisins

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.

Next steps

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. 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.