The ways to consume grapes are endless - from red, green and purple grapes to seedless grapes, grape jelly, grape jam and grape juice. And don't forget about wine and raisins!
Who knew that back when I was a kid sitting around chomping on grapes that I was doing the same thing that kids had done for thousands of years. This popular fruit's history actually goes back as far as 8,000 years, when grape vines were first cultivated in what is now the Middle East.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions. But a growing number of studies have recently shown that the consumption of grapes decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.
Cancer - Grapes contain powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols, which slow or prevent many types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate and colon. The resveratrol found in red wine famous for heart health is a type of polyphenol found in the skins of red grapes.
Heart Disease - The flavonoid quercetin is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been found to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against the damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in studies. Quercetin has the additional bonus of anti-cancer effects; however, more studies are needed using human subjects before these results can be confirmed. The high polyphenol content in grapes may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms. The fiber and potassium in grapes also support heart health. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Mark Houston, MD, MS, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St Thomas Hospital in Tennessee. In one study, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day). High potassium intakes are associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
High Blood Pressure - As noted above, potassium has many benefits for the body. It may be that a low potassium intake is just as big of a risk factor in developing high blood pressure as a high sodium intake. Because of their high potassium content, grapes are recommended to those with high blood pressure to help negate the effects of sodium in the body. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation for potassium. Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.
Constipation - Eating foods that are high in water content like grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe can help to keep you hydrated and your bowel movements regular. Grapes also contain fiber, which is essential for minimizing constipation.
Allergies - Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin, consuming grapes may help to alleviate symptoms of allergies including runny nose, watery eyes and hives.
Diabetes - A large cohort study published in the BMJ in 2013 found that certain fruits - but not juices - may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. Over the course of the study, 6.5% of the participants developed diabetes, but the researchers found that consuming three servings per week of blueberries, grapes, raisins, apples or pears reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%.
Diabetic Neuropathy and Retinopathy - A few studies have shown promise that resveratrol can protect against diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy, conditions caused by poorly controlled diabetes where vision is severely affected. One study in which diabetic rats were treated with resveratrol for two weeks found that it reduced the effects of neural changes and damage associated with diabetic neuropathy.
Alzheimer's Disease - Researchers have also found resveratrol to be beneficial for treating Alzheimer's disease, relieving hot flashes and mood swings associated with menopause and improving blood glucose control.
Acne - A study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy claims a compound derived from red grapes and found in red wine - resveratrol - could be an effective treatment for acne, particularly when combined with an already existing medication for the disorder.
Knee Osteoarthritis Pain - New research presented at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, California, suggests that regular grape consumption may help alleviate pain associated with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee, and improve joint flexibility and overall mobility. Researchers attribute these potential benefits to the polyphenols found in grapes.
Overall Immune Function - may be enhanced by red grapes and blueberries. In an analysis of 446 compounds for their ability to boost the innate immune system in humans, researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University discovered just two that stood out from the crowd - the resveratrol found in red grapes and a compound called pterostilbene from blueberries.
Power Up Your Weight Loss - Exciting research led by MaryAnne DellaFera, PhD at the University of Georgia found that resveratrol (particularly when combined with soy isoflavones) works on the body in two ways to significantly assist with weight loss efforts: 1) it dramatically reduces cells’ ability to store fat by about 130 percent; and 2) causes fat cells to disintegrate at a rate 246 percent higher than normal.
Protect Your Heart - In research, resveratrol demonstrated the ability to improve the dilation of blood vessels, which may allow blood to flow more easily through blood vessels. It has also been shown to relax the walls of the blood vessels, making their diameter larger, thereby lowering blood pressure, and allowing a higher volume of blood to flow through all areas of the body, delivering increased oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. Another study found that just 10 mg of supplementary resveratrol resulted in a dramatic reduction in heart-attack risk factors.
Mop Up Brain Damaging Plaques - Studies at the University of Switzerland proved resveratrol’s brain-protecting ability. They found that resveratrol mopped up brain-damaging plaques and free radicals, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. So powerful is this important nutrient that it has even been referred to as “Reverse-it-all” by many health practitioners.
Improve Brain Power - In a British study, students given resveratrol increased blood flow to their brains by 200 percent. Scientists believe resveratrol can help speed our mental responses.
Protect Your Skin from Cancer - In numerous studies, resveratrol has had a positive effect on cancer. Research also shows that resveratrol protects the skin from damaging UVB rays of the sun, thereby protecting it against skin cancer.
Protect Your Body from Radiation - What’s more, this potent nutrient has even been shown to protect the body against radiation therapy when used as an adjunct to radiation treatment of cancer.
Turn On Your Longevity Gene - In one study, scientists identified resveratrol as a nutrient that activated the human gene for survival and longevity.
Fight Diabetes Onset – Pre-diabetics given resveratrol had a 10 percent drop in blood sugar levels, according to research by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Turn Down Inflammation - Resveratrol works as an anti-inflammatory, which may be one of the reasons it may be effective for heart disease.
Supports Muscle Recovery - As a potent antioxidant, it supports the cells and organs in eliminating uric acid and other toxins from the body, supporting muscle recovery for athletes.
One cup of red or green grapes contains 104 calories, 1.09 grams of protein, 0.24 grams of fat, 1.4 grams of fiber, 4.8 milligrams of vitamin C, 10 micrograms of vitamin A, 288 milligrams of potassium, 0.54 milligrams of iron and 3 micrograms of folate.
Grapes are high in water content and good for hydration. High water-content fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense, meaning they provide a large number of essential nutrients while containing few calories. Grapes contain 70 milliliters of fluid per cup.
Grapes are high in antioxidants important for eye health such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and red grapes contain the phytochemical resveratrol in their skins, the antioxidant synonymous with wine known to lend protection from several chronic diseases and conditions. Grapes also boast the power of the flavonoids myricetin and quercetin which help the body to counter-act harmful free radical formation.
When it comes to grapes, remember that color matters! The deeper, darker, and richer the color the more phytonutrients the grapes will have to offer.