They may appear unappealing with their aged appearance and shriveled texture, but raisins are whole, nutrient-dense, and minimally processed foods that are extremely versatile in the kitchen. They can be rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, energy, and electrolytes.
by Meenakshi Nagdeve; last updated June 16, 2021; Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)
Known to be healthier substitutes of sugared candies, raisins can be added to your regular yogurt, cereal, granola, trail mix, or baked dishes to not only enhance their taste but also add a nutritional element to them.
They have a plethora of potential health benefits, which may include improved digestion, bone health, iron levels, blood flow, fertility, and sleep. They can also be known for boosting energy, as well as for their positive impact on eyes, teeth, and hair. Let us look at them in detail.
What are Raisins?
Raisins are created by drying grapes, either in the sun or in driers, which turns the grapes into golden, green, or black dried fruit. They are naturally sweet in flavor and are widely used in cuisines around the world, especially in desserts.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, raisins can be a good source of energy, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. They can be high in sugar and calories, but still, could have a low glycemic index. Raisins may contain zero cholesterol and are rich in various nutrients that include:
- Vitamins: Vitamin C, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, and pantothenic acid.
- Minerals: Potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and sodium.
Calories in Raisins
Raisins are high in sugar and calories but can be beneficial for health if consumed in moderation. Half a cup of raisins has about 217 calories and 47 grams of sugar. Since they may be high in calories, it is recommended that in a day, you should eat a ¼ cup of raisins or 1 small snack box (one and a half oz.). These small snack boxes are available in most grocery stores.
Are Raisins Healthy?
Raisins may be tiny in size, but they may pack a nutritional punch! These dried fruits are added to health tonics, snacks, and compact, high-energy food supplements for mountaineers, backpackers, and campers, who need a high calorific diet to better their performance. A 2011 study published in the Randomized Control Trial Journal shows how raisins may be potent as a brand of sports jelly beans in enhancing the stamina and performance of athletes engaged in high-intensity exercises. Here is our article, ‘Are Raisins Good For You?, which will explain the nutritional value of raisins in detail.
Benefits of Raisins
Let’s take a look at the powerful health benefits of raisins below.
Fiber-Rich & Can Act As A Laxative
Raisins may have an abundant supply of fiber in them, which could help to absorb the natural fluids present in the body. This type of fiber is considered insoluble fiber because it takes in water to gain volume. This could add bulk to the food moving through the intestinal tract, making for more regular bowel movements, and ultimately may help get relief from constipation. The fiber in raisins may also help remove toxins and harmful materials from the digestive tract. A healthy digestive tract may prevent intestinal diseases, bacterial growth, and discomfort from bloating. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, also confirms that adding just two servings of raisins per day – a relatively small dietary change, as they mention could improve colon function.
May Prevent Acidity
Raisins can be rich in potassium and magnesium, which are a natural remedy for acidosis. According to a 2015 study published in Integrative Medicine Journal, a diet that’s low in these minerals, which are two of the most common components of antacids and basic on the pH scale, can cause acute acidity. Thus, consuming a moderate amount of raisins in your diet may reduce the risk of acidity.
May Prevent Anemia & Insomnia
Raisins could contain a considerable amount of iron, which directly helps against anemia. Half a cup of raisins contains almost 1.3 milligrams of iron, which is about 16 percent of the daily recommended amount for men and 7 percent of the same for women, as per a report by the Department of Health and Human Services. Raisins can also be a rich source of the vitamin B complex that is essential for the production of red blood cells. Iron deficiency anemia can be a cause of your insomnia, and therefore, intake of iron-rich raisins may help ensure a good night’s sleep.
May Promote Dental & Oral Health
Raisins are possibly rich in calcium, which may strengthen and can help to remineralize tooth enamel. Further, boron present in these dried fruits could help curb the growth of oral germs. Oleanolic acid, one of the phytochemicals present in raisins, can play a crucial role in protecting your teeth against decay, cavities, and brittleness.
According to a report published in Elsevier’s Phytochemistry Letters journal, oleanolic acid has antimicrobial properties. This antioxidant that is prevalent in raisins can help inhibit bacterias that are a primary cause of dental caries and cavities. Another research states that raisins, despite their stickiness, are swiftly cleared from the mouth and can be relatively less retentive on tooth surfaces compared to other foods. This means they may not erode the tooth enamel causing it to decay, discolor, or turn sensitive. However, further research is required in this area.
Can Be Rich In Antioxidants
Raisins can have high levels of antioxidants that include catechins and polyphenolic phytonutrients. These antioxidants may protect against the damage caused by free radicals, one of the primary underlying factors linked to certain chronic diseases. However, more scientific evidence is required to confirm these findings.
May Promote Bone Health
Calcium, the main element of our bones, is present in raisins. These dried fruits can be one of the best sources of boron, a micronutrient (a nutrient required by the body in a very small amount). Boron may be vital for the proper bone formation and maintenance, and efficient absorption of calcium, says a report published by a team of American researchers in the Integrative Medicine Journal.
It can be particularly helpful in preventing menopause induced osteoporosis in women and very beneficial for bones and joints. Potassium is another essential nutrient found in high levels, which may help strengthen bones and promote bone growth, thereby reducing the chances of osteoporosis.
Gin-soaked golden raisins are a popular folk remedy that may help relieve chronic pain and especially arthritic pain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people can show improvement in arthritic symptoms between 1-8 weeks of consuming 10 of these raisins daily. Having said that, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting this claim and hence more research is needed.
May Increase Fertility
Raisins have long been known to stimulate the libido and induce arousal, primarily due to the presence of an amino acid called L-arginine. The presence of this amino acid can help reduce the symptoms of reduced sperm motility. This is confirmed in research published by a team of Mexican researchers by closely studying patients with diabetes mellitus and asthenozoospermic idiopathy. Arginine can be a natural aphrodisiac that increases the levels of sperm motility, thereby increasing the chances of conception when engaging in sexual intercourse.
May Improve Skin Health
Antioxidants and vitamin C in raisins may help keep the skin radiant, taut, and youthful. Eating them can help prevent conditions like psoriasis and acne as they have strong germicidal properties.
Could Help Promote Hair Health
Daily consumption of raisins may help promote shiny and thick hair as the vitamin C content prevents cell damage. Their anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent scalp irritation, dandruff, and flakiness. That said, more scientific evidence is required supporting this claim.
May Reduce Hypertension
Studies show a connection between lower hypertension and the consumption of raisins. Many of the nutrients packed into them are beneficial. According to a paper presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific Session in 2012, those suffering from hypertension or mild spikes in blood pressure are recommended to consume raisins at least three times a day for 12 weeks.
The report further stated that daily consumption of raisins is likely to lower blood pressure when compared to the intake of other snacks. However, experts believe that it is the high level of the heart-healthy electrolyte, potassium that helps to reduce the tension of blood vessels and decrease high blood pressure. Those who have a potassium-rich diet have a lower risk of having a stroke, states the report.
May Boost Energy
Raisins can be rich in vitamins, amino acids, and minerals such as selenium and phosphorus, which may facilitate the absorption of other nutrients and proteins in the body. Including them in your diet could help improve your overall energy and immune system strength. Raisins may form an ideal part of a diet for athletes or bodybuilders who need a powerful boost of energy. They may also help in healthy weight gain or without accumulating unhealthy amounts of cholesterol.
Can Help Manage Diabetes
In several studies, the connection between raisins and blood glucose levels has been researched. Raisins may have been linked to lower the postprandial insulin response, which means they may stabilize insulin spikes or plunges after a meal. In a 2015 randomized study, the impact of routine consumption of dark raisins compared to other alternative processed snacks on glucose levels was evaluated. It was thus observed that those who consumed raisins, not only may have shown lower cardiovascular risk factors but could also have reduced chances of developing type II diabetes.
This study further showed that those who consumed raisins compared to other snacks may have a 23 percent dip in glucose levels after a meal. These very people also experienced a 19 percent fall in fasting glucose and a considerable reduction in systolic blood pressure. Raisins could also help regulate the release of leptin and ghrelin, which are the hormones responsible for telling the body when it is hungry or full – another key in thwarting the increase in blood sugar levels. Thus, by keeping a check on these hormones, people who eat raisins may improve their chances of maintaining a healthy diet and prevent overeating.
May Promote Kidney Health
Raisins can be rich sources of potassium. According to a 2015 research published in Clinical Nutritional Research potassium may help prevent the formation and reoccurrence of kidney stones. Thus, consuming raisins may reduce the risk of kidney-related diseases. However, more scientific research is required to ascertain that.
Could Improve liver Health
Anecdotal evidence suggests that overnight-soaked raisins and raisin water can be used as part of the liver cleanse diet as the dried fruits may be rich in bioflavonoids that protect you from the free radical activity. Raisin water especially could promote good liver health, which may help purify the blood. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting this claim and hence more research is required.
How to Eat?
Raisins can be included as part of your daily diet in many creative and healthy ways:
- Sweet crunch: You can sprinkle them on salads, peanut butter-slathered celery sticks, fruit bowls, or make them a part of your homemade trail mix.
- Salads: Broccoli salad with raisins, as well as carrot raisin salad are popular recipes.
- Breakfast: Add them to sweeten your oatmeal or smoothie bowl instead of sugar or syrup.
- Dinner: They make a delightful addition to mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, or other side dishes. In the Middle East, they are sprinkled on rice dishes.
- Natural sweetener: You can use them in muffins and pancakes to sweeten it if you are trying to avoid or cut back on refined sugar.
- Snack: The dried fruits, in their raw form, are a healthy snack option for people of all ages. Chocolate-covered raisins, as well as yogurt-covered raisins, are also popular for a quick energy burst.
How to Store?
Once opened, raisins should be kept in a cool, dry area. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months. They retain their flavor, color, and nutritional value. You can also keep them refrigerated for a year. In case they dry out, you can make them usable by steaming them over boiling water for a few minutes.
There are a few risk factors in the excessive consumption of raisins.
- Weight gain: Raisins undoubtedly can be a healthier option than sugared candies and help in satiating your sugar pangs but are still quite high in calories and may cause excessive weight gain if not taken in limited amounts. It is advisable to be careful with portion sizes.
- Diarrhea: Raisins can be rich in fiber and may be considered an excellent remedy for constipation, bloating, and acidity. Naturally, too much of it may cause severe gastrointestinal problems, especially diarrhea.
- Diabetes risk: While raisins may be a healthier snack option than most other sugar-laden processed alternatives, consuming too much of it can lead to weight gain and put one at potential risk of developing diabetes. Over-consumption of anything can be bad for health. That is why it is always best to consult a nutritionist to determine the exact amount of raisins to consume, particularly if you have insulin resistance, diabetes or simply want to lose weight.