how healthy are grapes

Grapes are one of the oldest foods known to man. They were cultivated for wine from as early as 5980 BC. They were used in ancient Egypt as a treatment for a multitude of diseases, from cholera to smallpox. Grapes were used by ancient Greeks and Romans for eating and for wine production. Grapes were one of the first crops to be grown, and there are over 1,000 different genetic types of domesticated grapes (1).

Grapes contain numerous chemicals called polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds found in fruits and vegetables that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect the body against free radicals and can improve health. Grapes are a good source of antioxidants because they are extremely high in these healthy compounds.

Not only are grapes tasty, but their health benefits can be experienced when consumed in any of their many forms: grape seeds, raw grapes, dried grapes (raisins), grape juice, or wine. Here are seven of the top health benefits of grapes.

Improved heart health

Heart disease and heart-related health problems are often at the top of deadly health problems. Often, heart damage is caused by poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, or being overweight. Free radical oxidation of fatty molecules leads to atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. One way to combat atherosclerosis is through diets rich in antioxidants.

The antioxidants in grapes are a good source of polyphenols, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and resveratrol. These compounds have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of heart disease.

One study showed that postmenopausal women that drank red wine were at a lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who did not. The flavonoids found in red wine are thought to scavenge reactive oxygen species, which helps to prevent atherosclerosis (2).

Red grapes especially seem to have heart healthy benefits. They also aid in the prevention of atherosclerosis and fight high cholesterol. Another study showed that after eating Condori red grapes for eight weeks, study participants’ total cholesterol and LDL-C cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol” decreased (3).

Lower risk for type 2 diabetes

Because of its heart healthy properties, it is not surprising to learn that eating grapes leads to a reduced risk for developing type 2 diabetes. One study found that participants who ate one cup of grapes were less likely to develop the disease. Researchers believe the antioxidant resveratrol present in red or black grapes may improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn lowers blood sugar (4).

Another study found that regularly eating grapes helped to prevent the oxidative stress caused by eating sugary foods and improved insulin resistance in people with class 1 obesity. The participants were genetically at high risk to develop type 2 diabetes. The polyphenols in the grapes provided a protective effect against the oxidative stress that leads to insulin resistance (5).

Weight loss aid

In nations that mainly eat the typical ‘western diet’, there is an obesity epidemic. For those struggling to lose weight, the addition of grape seed oil to the diet can improve chances of weight loss.

A study that included participants who were obese used grape seed oil as a supplement to a low-calorie diet. Participants receiving the grape seed oil supplement lost significantly more weight than those that only had a reduced calorie diet. The grape seed oil extract also provided an anti-inflammatory effect, which improved participants overall health (6).

Enhance your immune system

While you should check labels for sugar content before adding fruit juice to your diet, Concord grape juice has been shown to enhance the immune system. One indicator of a healthy immune system is the number of gamma delta T cells present in the intestine, lung, and reproductive tracts. These cells are important immune surveillance cells. In a group of adults that regularly drank 100% Concord grape juice for nine weeks, gamma delta T cell numbers increased. This means improved immunity in otherwise healthy, middle-aged adults (8).

Prevent cavities

An unexpected health benefit that can be derived from grapes is the prevention of cavities.

Grape seed extract has been shown as a cavity preventative. Grape seed extract contains high levels of proanthocyanins, which help inhibit the growth of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium is responsible for tooth decay. Researchers also found the grape seed extract helped with dental remineralization, which is the natural repair process of cavities with the minerals calcium and phosphate (9).

Improved brain function in older adults

For older adults that may be concerned with brain function as they age, drinking Concord grape juice supplements could improve their memory. A study conducted among older adults with mild cognitive impairment reported improvement among those adults that regularly consumed Concord grape juice. Compared to adults that did not drink Concord grape juice, the adults that did scored better on tests of memory and brain function (7).

Improved mood

One study has shown that regularly drinking purple grape juice improved the mood of otherwise healthy young adults. It is thought that the polyphenols contained in grapes increases the blood flow to the brain. The participants felt calmer after drinking grape juice and experienced less stress (10).

How healthy are grapes? From the research reviewed, the grape is an incredibly healthy fruit that not only contributes to improvements in heart health, brain function, and dental health, it may be a mood enhancer as well.

References

1. L, Ben-Nun. MEDICINAL EFFECTS OF GRAPES. Beer-Sheva : s.n., 2018.

2. Grapes and Cardiovascular Disease. Dohadwala, Mustali M. and Vita, Joseph A. 9, s.l. : The Journal of Nutrition, September 2009, Vol. 139, pp. 1788S-1793S.

3. Comparative effects of red and white grapes on oxidative markers and lipidemic parameters in adult hypercholesterolemic humans. Rahbar, AR, Mahmoudabadi, M M and Islam, M S. 6, s.l. : Food Funct., 2015, Vol. 6.

4. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies . Muraki, I, Imamura, F and Manson, J E. f6935, s.l. : BMJ, 2013, Vol. 347.

5. Grape polyphenols prevent fructose-induced oxidative stress and insulin resistance in first-degree relatives of type 2 diabetic patients. Hokayem, M, Blond, E and Vidal, H. 6, s.l. : Diabetes Care, 2013, Vol. 36.

6. The effects of grape seed extract (Vitis vinifera) supplement on inflammatory markers, neuropeptide Y, anthropometric measures, and appetite in obese or overweight individuals: A randomized clinical trial. Parandoosh, M, et al. 2, s.l. : Phytother Res, 2020, Vol. 34.

7. Regular consumption of concord grape juice benefits human immunity. Rowe, CA, et al. (1-2), s.l. : J Med Food, 2011, Vol. 14.

8. Prevention of dental caries by grape seed extract supplementation: A systematic review. Delimont, NM and Carlson, B N. 1, s.l. : Nutr Health, 2020, Vol. 26.

9. Concord grape juice supplementation and neurocognitive function in human aging. Krikorian, R, Boespflug, E L and Fleck, D E. 23, s.l. : J Agric Food Chem, 2012, Vol. 60.

10. Cognitive and mood improvements following acute supplementation with purple grape juice in healthy young adults. Haskell-Ramsay, CF, et al. 8, s.l. : Eur J Nutr, 2017, Vol. 56.

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