Raisins have a wide variety of nutrients and can be considered to be healthy if consumed in moderate amounts. Scientific studies show that raisins have many health benefits. However, Calories in raisins are high and they contain high amounts of fructose, which means that excessive intake of raisins may tip the point of being beneficial and have negative, rather than positive, effects on our health.

What are raisins?

Raisins are dried grapes. There are various methods of drying grapes such as a sun-drying technique or artificial/mechanical dehydration. The drying process reduces the moisture contents of raisins from around 80% to 15% (about 4-5 times).

Types of raisins

Raisins come from different grapes. In U.S., there are 7 types of grapes used for raisin production (1)Berkeley Wellness Jan 2016. Types of Raisins: Currants, Golden Seedless, and More. Berkeley University of California. Available here.:

Raisin nameGrape name Description of raisins
Golden Seedless RaisinsThompson Seedless grapesOven-dried to avoid darkening by sunlight. Sulfur dioxide added to preserve light color.
Natural seedless raisinsThompson Seedless grapesSun dried and, therefore, dark brown from the exposure to the sun.
CurrantsBlack Corinth grapesVery dark, tiny, seedless, sour, tangy.
Flame seedless raisinsFlame seedless red grapesDark red, large, seedless and very sweet.
Monukka raisinsMonukka grapesDark, large, seedless. Mostly sold in health-food stores.
Muscat raisinsMuscat grapesSince grapes contain seeds, raisins may be sold with seeds or without (mechanically removed). Mostly used for baking.
SultanasSultana grapesYellow-green, large, soft and sour.

Calories in raisins

Depending on the variety, there are approximately 300 Calories in 100g of raisins and only 70 Calories in 100g of grapes. See the nutritional comparison table below that shows equivalent Calories in raisins and grapes for the most common Thompson seedless variety.

Another caloric comparison can be made with junk food. Considering a snack of 2 oz. (57g) as a standard size, a Snickers bar has 280 Calories, of which 131 Calories (46.8%) come from carbohydrates, while raisins have about 170 Calories, of which about 160 (94.1%) comes from carbohydrates.

Raisins’ nutrition facts: comparison with raw grapes

Raisins are approximately 3.5 times richer in nutrients and energy than raw grapes.

The following is a summary of some nutritional facts, highlighting the difference between raisins and fresh grapes. The table below provides more details.

  • Grapes have about five times more water than raisins.
  • There is 4.3 times more energy in raisins than grapes, by weight.
  • Raisins and grapes have roughly the same weight per volume. For example, one cup of raisins (145g) weighs roughly the same as 1 cup of grapes (151g) (2)USDA. Nutritional information for seedless raisins. Available here. (3)USDA. Nutritional information for grapes (Thompson seedless). Available here.
  • Raisins have, by weight, between 3-4 times more nutrients than grapes, with the following separation for specific nutrient groups:
    – Raisins have on average 4-5 times more minerals than grapes;
    – Some vitamins, like vitamin C, are destroyed during the process of drying (specifically due to heat) and, therefore, there are only about 2 times more vitamins in raisins than in grapes.

These points indicate that, by weight and volume, raisins are nutritiously equivalent to about 3.5 times the amount of grapes, which is contrary to the USDA’s recommendation sheet “ChooseMyPlate.gov” states: “In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group.” (4)USDA. All About the Fruit Group. Available here.

Nutrients per 100 gUnitThompson Grapes (seedless)Seedless raisinsNutrient Ratio of Raisins to Raw grapes
Waterg80.5415.430.19 : 1
Energykcal69.00299.004.33 : 1
EnergykJ288.001252.004.35 : 1
Proteing0.723.074.26 : 1
Total lipid (fat)g0.160.462.88 : 1
Ashg0.481.853.85 : 1
Carbohydrate, by differenceg18.1079.184.37 : 1
Fiber, total dietaryg0.903.704.11 : 1
Minerals
Calcium, Camg10.0050.005 : 1
Iron, Femg0.361.885.22 : 1
Magnesium, Mgmg7.0032.004.57 : 1
Phosphorus, Pmg20.00101.005.05 : 1
Potassium, Kmg191.00749.003.92 : 1
Sodium, Namg2.0011.005.5 : 1
Zinc, Znmg0.070.223.14 : 1
Copper, Cumg0.130.322.5 : 1
Manganese, Mnmg0.070.304.21 : 1
Selenium, Seg0.100.606 : 1
Vitamins
Vitamin Cmg3.202.300.72 : 1
Thiaminmg0.070.111.54 : 1
Riboflavinmg0.070.121.79 : 1
Niacinmg0.190.774.07 : 1
Pantothenic acidmg0.050.101.9 : 1
Vitamin B-6mg0.090.172.02 : 1
Folate, totalg2.005.002.5 : 1
Folate, foodg2.005.002.5 : 1
Folate, DFEg2.005.002.5 : 1
Vitamin A, IUIU66.000.000 : 1

Sulfites contents in raisins

Raisins can contain sulfites to preserve shelf life and their vibrant colors. The type most affected are the Thompson seedless raisins. These grapes are oven-dried to avoid darkening by sunlight and sulfur-dioxide is added to preserve its color.

Sulfites may be harmful for some sulfite-sensitive people, especially asthmatics. (read more..)

Raisins’ health benefits

Are raisins healthy?

Raisins are healthy, if consumed in moderate amounts. Various studies found a number of health promoting properties that help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Raisins are a great source of potassium, magnesium and boron, various phytochemicals, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), such as inulin which have a probiotic effect. See nutrition information tables for raisins below.

The consumption of raisins on a regular basis may help in: (5)Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here. (6)Kim Y, Hertzler SR, Byrne HK, Mattern CO. Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):304-8. Available here. (7)Bays H, Weiter K, Anderson J. A randomized study of raisins versus alternative snacks on glycemic control and other cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Volume 43, Issue 1, 2015. Available here. (8)Patel BP, Luhovyy B, Mollard R, Painter JE, Anderson GH. A premeal snack of raisins decreases mealtime food intake more than grapes in young children. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2013 Apr;38(4):382-9. Available here. (9)Anderson JW, Weiter KM, Christian AL, Ritchey MB, Bays HE. Raisins compared with other snack effects on glycemia and blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial. Postgrad Med. 2014 Jan;126(1):37-43. Available here. (10)Puglisi MJ, Vaishnav U, Shrestha S, Torres-Gonzalez M, Wood RJ, Volek JS, Fernandez ML. Raisins and additional walking have distinct effects on plasma lipids and inflammatory cytokines. Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Apr 16;7:14. Available here. (11)Kanellos PT, Kaliora AC, Liaskos C, Tentolouris NK, Perrea D, Karathanos VT. A Study of Glycemic Response to Corinthian Raisins in Healthy Subjects and in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. June 2013, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 145-148. Available here.

  • lowering blood pressure;
  • decreasing inflammation in the body;
  • reducing blood LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and oxidized low-density cholesterol values;
  • increasing a feeling of satiety;
  • lowering the impact on blood glucose and insulin spikes after meals in comparison to other snacks or glucose of equivalent Calories.

Please note, however, that blood glucose and insulin spikes are also dependent on the serving size. While the impact on blood glucose and insulin after a meal may be low for small servings of raisins, large servings may cause more significant spikes (see the next section below).

Blood sugar and insulin response after the consumption of raisins

Although some studies claim that the consumption of raisins improves the blood glucose control and insulin response after a meal, it is worth noting a few points:

  1. Most of these studies either compare raisin consumption with other snacks of the same caloric value (12)Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here., or equivalent amount of glucose (13)Kim Y, Hertzler SR, Byrne HK, Mattern CO. Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):304-8. Available here. (14)Kanellos PT, Kaliora AC, Liaskos C, Tentolouris NK, Perrea D, Karathanos VT. A Study of Glycemic Response to Corinthian Raisins in Healthy Subjects and in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. June 2013, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 145-148. Available here.
    . While these studies show that a handful of raisins has a lower impact on blood sugar or insulin levels than a biscuit or energy bar, it doesn’t mean that raisins are a better choice than, for instance, fresh fruit or vegetables when it comes to the impact on blood sugar levels.
  2. A number of studies (15)Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here. (16)Bays H, Weiter K, Anderson J. A randomized study of raisins versus alternative snacks on glycemic control and other cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Volume 43, Issue 1, 2015. Available here. (17)Anderson JW, Weiter KM, Christian AL, Ritchey MB, Bays HE. Raisins compared with other snack effects on glycemia and blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial. Postgrad Med. 2014 Jan;126(1):37-43. Available here. suggest that raisins have a low to moderate Glycemic Index. While these studies correctly claim that the Glycemic Index of raisins falls in a low to medium range (between 49 and 66 depending on the variety of raisin) (18)Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney. Glycemic Index. Available here., their Glycemic Load is in the high range when considering the common serving size. This is because:
    The Glycemic Index is not an accurate indicator of the effects of carbohydrate containing foods on our blood glucose levels, since it doesn’t take into account a realistic serving size, as well as the Glycemic Load.
  3. The results of the majority of these studies may be biased due to a conflict of interest, since they are conducted by a consultant for the California Raisin Marketing Board (James W. Anderson).

There is evidence that consuming a small serving after a meal has no effect on blood glucose.
The following table compares the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of various serving sizes of raisins. For comparison purposes, the table also presents the same information for a common serving size of raw grapes.

Glycemic index of raisins and grapes

Food typeGlycemic indexServing (g)Glycemic load
Raisins (19)The University of Sydney. Glycemic index of raisins. Available here.646028 (high)
3014 (medium)
157 (low)
Grapes (20)Glycemic Index of grapes. Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney. Available here.491209 (low)

In short, a common serving of about 2 oz. causes a high blood glucose response while a smaller serving of only 1 oz. falls within the medium range. The safest intake is up to ¾ of an ounce (about 2 tablespoons) which is still within the low Glycemic Load. Please note that aerobically trained adults get better an insulin index, since their insulin doesn’t rise as much as in sedentary people and, therefore, can handle more raisins. (21)Kim Y, Hertzler SR, Byrne HK, Mattern CO. Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):304-8. Available here.

Summary of the studies on raisins

In summary, the results of the available studies described above, on blood glucose and insulin response, show that:

  • Raisins are healthier than sugary snacks, such as cookies of the same caloric value, because they are comparatively much higher in nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals and have a comparatively lower Glycemic response;
  • Eating raisins doesn’t raise insulin level as much as the energy equivalent carbohydrate snacks;
  • Raisins don’t have as negative an effect on blood glucose and insulin levels compared with pure glucose of the same caloric value;
  • A small portion of raisins, such as 2 tablespoons (up to around 1 oz.), has no effect on blood glucose and has several health benefits;
  • A large portion (for instance 60 g) has a high Glycemic Load and the negative effects can outweigh the positive effects from the high amount of nutrients they contain.

Raisin buying and storing tips

  • To avoid un-fresh raisins that may contain mold and aflatoxins, don’t buy raisins from unknown sources or uncovered bins. Pick the known brands that have consistently high quality levels. Raisins should be moist-looking, plump and look clean without damage from insects or mechanical causes.
  • To prevent raisins from drying out, crystallizing or going off and to preserve nutrients, keep them in the refrigerator for up to one year inside of an airtight container. Raisins will keep even longer in the freezer. (22)Berkeley Wellness Jan 2016. Types of Raisins: Currants, Golden Seedless, and More. Berkeley University of California. Available here.

Nutritional information for raisins

Nutritional information for Raisins (per 1 oz. - 28g serving)

MACRO-NUTRIENTS
NutrientAmount% of RDA
for men
Rating
for men
% of RDA
for women
Rating
for women
Fiber (g)13.3-4-
Omega 3 (mg)00-0-
Omega 6 (mg)00-0-
MICRO-NUTRIENTS (VITAMINS)
NutrientAmount% of RDA
for men
Rating
for men
% of RDA
for women
Rating
for women
Vitamin A (IU)00-0-
Vitamin C (mg)0.71.6-1.6-
Vitamin E (mg)00-0-
Vitamin K (mcg)11.4-1.4-
Thiamin - B1 (mg)00-0-
Riboflavin - B2 (mg)00-0-
Niacin - B3 (mg)0.21.3-1.4-
Pantothenic Acid - B5 (mg)00-0-
Vitamin B6 (mg)00-0-
Vitamin B12 (mcg)00-0-
Folate (mcg)1.40.4-0.4-
Choline (mg)3.10.6-0.7-
MICRO-NUTRIENTS (MINERALS)
NutrientAmount% of RDA
for men
Rating
for men
% of RDA
for women
Rating
for women
Calcium (mg)14.21.4-1.4-
Copper (mg)0.111.1Good11.1Good
Iron (mg)0.56.3-2.8-
Magnesium (mg)9.12.2-2.8-
Manganese (mg)0.14.3-5.6-
Phosphorus (mg)28.62.9-2.9-
Potassium (mg)212.35.6-7.6-
Selenium (mcg)0.20.3-0.3-
Sodium (mg)3.10.2-0.2-
Zinc (mg)0.10.9-1.3-
For Table Legend & Data Sources Information click here.

Other nutritional information for Raisins (per 1 oz. - 28g serving)

Other informationAmountRating
Calories (Cal) 92.3-
Kilojoules (kJ)386.2-
Glycemic Index (GI)64Medium
Portion for GL (g)60-
Glycemic Load (GL)28High
Energy nutrientsAmount% of Energy
Total Carbs (g)22.495
Fat (g)0.11.3
Protein (g)0.93.8
For Table Legend & Data Sources Information click here.

Conclusion

Raisins are a nutrient rich and healthy addition to a balanced diet. Add up to an ounce to your cereal, salad or have them alone as a snack to achieve the optimal benefits. Be cautious though, since having high amounts of raisins adds to the Calorie intake, and may raise your blood sugar levels.

References   [ + ]

1. Berkeley Wellness Jan 2016. Types of Raisins: Currants, Golden Seedless, and More. Berkeley University of California. Available here.
2. USDA. Nutritional information for seedless raisins. Available here.
3. USDA. Nutritional information for grapes (Thompson seedless). Available here.
4. USDA. All About the Fruit Group. Available here.
5. Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here.
6. Kim Y, Hertzler SR, Byrne HK, Mattern CO. Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):304-8. Available here.
7. Bays H, Weiter K, Anderson J. A randomized study of raisins versus alternative snacks on glycemic control and other cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Volume 43, Issue 1, 2015. Available here.
8. Patel BP, Luhovyy B, Mollard R, Painter JE, Anderson GH. A premeal snack of raisins decreases mealtime food intake more than grapes in young children. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2013 Apr;38(4):382-9. Available here.
9. Anderson JW, Weiter KM, Christian AL, Ritchey MB, Bays HE. Raisins compared with other snack effects on glycemia and blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial. Postgrad Med. 2014 Jan;126(1):37-43. Available here.
10. Puglisi MJ, Vaishnav U, Shrestha S, Torres-Gonzalez M, Wood RJ, Volek JS, Fernandez ML. Raisins and additional walking have distinct effects on plasma lipids and inflammatory cytokines. Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Apr 16;7:14. Available here.
11. Kanellos PT, Kaliora AC, Liaskos C, Tentolouris NK, Perrea D, Karathanos VT. A Study of Glycemic Response to Corinthian Raisins in Healthy Subjects and in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. June 2013, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 145-148. Available here.
12. Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here.
13. Kim Y, Hertzler SR, Byrne HK, Mattern CO. Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):304-8. Available here.
14. Kanellos PT, Kaliora AC, Liaskos C, Tentolouris NK, Perrea D, Karathanos VT. A Study of Glycemic Response to Corinthian Raisins in Healthy Subjects and in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. June 2013, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 145-148. Available here.
15. Anderson JW, Waters AR. Raisin Consumption by Humans: Effects on Glycemia and Insulinemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Journal of Food Science. Volume 78, Issue s1, June 2013, Pages A11–A17. Available here.
16. Bays H, Weiter K, Anderson J. A randomized study of raisins versus alternative snacks on glycemic control and other cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Volume 43, Issue 1, 2015. Available here.
17. Anderson JW, Weiter KM, Christian AL, Ritchey MB, Bays HE. Raisins compared with other snack effects on glycemia and blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial. Postgrad Med. 2014 Jan;126(1):37-43. Available here.
18. Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney. Glycemic Index. Available here.
19. The University of Sydney. Glycemic index of raisins. Available here.
20. Glycemic Index of grapes. Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney. Available here.
21. Kim Y, Hertzler SR, Byrne HK, Mattern CO. Raisins are a low to moderate glycemic index food with a correspondingly low insulin index. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):304-8. Available here.
22. Berkeley Wellness Jan 2016. Types of Raisins: Currants, Golden Seedless, and More. Berkeley University of California. Available here.

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