Raisins - Health Food or Junk Food?

Most people think of raisins as a healthy snack for children. In fact, you have likely heard of them referred to as "nature's candy" or "the world's healthiest food."

If you ask a Pediatric Dentist though, you will likely get a different story. Since they are sticky and have a lot of sugar in them, raisins are also frequently high on the list as a risk factor for children getting cavities.

So while some people might have handed out small boxes of raisins on Halloween as a healthy alternative to candy, for example, other parents might have lumped them in with all of the other Halloween candy that they wanted their kids to avoid.

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According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, by the time they reach kindergarten, over 40 percent of children already have one or more cavities. Of course eating raisins isn't the only or main cause of these cavities and bigger risk factors likely include:

  • not brushing well
  • drinking too much juice and milk
  • eating a lot of junk food
  • not visiting a dentist regularly
  • getting a bottle or cup at night
Still, since cavities are such as big problem, you do want to make sure that you do everything that you can to protect your children from tooth decay.

Pros of Eating Raisins

When you review the nutrition facts about raisins, it is easy to see why some people consider raisins to be nature's best food, especially for kids. Among the things that raisins have going for them include that they are:

  • low in fat
  • low in cholesterol
  • fairly high in fiber (2g per serving), which is good if your child has constipation
  • a good source of iron and have some calcium
  • a good source of potassium
What about all the sugar? While raisins do have a lot of sugar in them, they are natural, simple sugars. These are better than the added sugars that most other sugary snacks that children eat and it is this sugar that gives raisins their sweet taste that most kids love.

Cons of Eating Raisins

Since raisins have so many things going for them, why would you ever think about not offering them to your children? Consider that one dentist, in an article about common dental problems, lumps raisins in with all of the other typical junk foods that kids eat and goes so far as to say that 'parents that supply snacks such as raisins, dried fruit snacks, sweetened cereals, and fruit juices may be contributing to the demise of their children's dentition.'1

On the other hand, raisins were recently found to contain phytochemicals which have been found to inhibit the growth of bacteria that are commonly found in the mouth and are thought to be responsible for causing cavities.

This study was in a lab though, and whether this translates into really inhibiting cavities in kids who eat raisins hasn't been proven yet.

Keep in mind that no study has ever been done to show that cavities are more common in kids who eat raisins either.


Common pediatric dental problems. Creighton PR - Pediatr Clin North Am - 01-DEC-1998; 45(6): 1579-60.

Where It Stands

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, especially for picky eaters.

Since it is possible that eating raising may lead to cavities though, it is important 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.

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