Are Raisins a Healthy Snack?

Junk Food or Healthy Option?

Boy pouring raisins into bowl of muesli mixture, 4 years

Dave King / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Most people think of raisins as a healthy snack for children. In fact, raisins are sometimes referred to as "nature's candy" or "the world's healthiest food."

However, since they are sticky and have a lot of sugar in them, raisins are also frequently considered a risk factor for cavities in children, and some pediatric dentists are not fans of them as a regular snack food for kids.

The Facts About Cavities

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, by the time children reach age 11, over 40 percent already have one or more cavities in their primary (baby) teeth. Of course, eating raisins isn't the only or main cause of these cavities. More significant risk factors include:

  • Not brushing well
  • Drinking too much juice and milk
  • Eating a lot of junk food
  • Not visiting a dentist regularly
  • Drinking milk, juice, or other sweet beverages from a bottle or cup for long periods of time

Still, since cavities are such a big problem in children, you do want to make sure that you do everything that you can to protect your children from tooth decay. However, there is no actual research that shows that cavities are more common in kids who eat raisins.

Raisin Pros

When you review the nutrition facts about raisins, it is easy to see why some people consider them to be nature's best food, especially for kids, because they are:

  • Low in fat
  • Low in cholesterol
  • Fairly high in fiber (2 g per serving), which is good if your child has constipation
  • A good source of iron and have some calcium
  • A good source of potassium

While raisins do have a lot of sugar in them, they are natural, simple sugars, which are healthier than the added sugars in other sugary snacks.

Some research has concluded that raisins have antibacterial properties that actually prevent cavities. A review of the literature in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Food Science suggests that raisins may not be cariogenic (causing cavities) as once thought, and may contain antibacterial properties that can reduce oral bacteria that contribute to dental diseases. Although raisins are sweet and sticky, research implies that they do not stick to the teeth long enough to promote the formation of cavities. More studies are needed to validate these theories.

The biggest threat to children's teeth is sugary snacks, like cookies and candy. Unlike raisins, these processed foods provide no nutritional value.

Raisin Cons

Since raisins have so many things going for them, why would you avoid offering them to your children?

Some dentists lump raisins in with all of the other typical junk foods that kids eat. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), sticky foods like dried fruit, including raisins, can damage your teeth since they tend to stay on the teeth longer than other types of food. If your children eat raisins and other dried fruits frequently, the ADA advises rinsing their mouths with water after eating them and to brush and floss carefully to remove any raisin residue.

Also, keep in mind that not all raisins are the same. Many commercial cereals contain raisins that are coated with refined sugar. It is better to buy cereal with unsweetened raisins or add them to cereals yourself. Furthermore, the effect of raisins on your child's teeth depends on how many he eats and how often.

A Word From Verywell

Raisins are clearly a healthy food and a good source of many vitamins and minerals that your kids need as part of a healthy diet. And since they taste so good and are easy to eat, they make a great snack.

Since it is possible that eating raising may lead to cavities, however, it's important to err on the safe side and to take care of your child's teeth when he eats raisins. So in addition to your regular routine of dental care each morning and at bedtime, you might brush and floss your child's teeth after he eats raisins, especially if you often find small pieces of raisins leftover in between your child's teeth. If you are concerned, talk to your child's dentist for his take. Certain children are more prone to cavities than others, and in some cases, raisins may not be advised.

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