Grapes come from fruit-bearing vines called Vitis vinifera. They are round sugar berries known for their colorful shades—ranging from yellow to green to purple to blue. How healthy are grapes? and what are their health benefits?
Grapes have been cultivated for thousands of years and are grown all over the world. There are over 15 different types of grapes: concord, pinot noir, sweet jubilee, riesling, and crimson seedless, to name a few.
How healthy are grapes?
Grapes are roughly 81% water, 18% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and very little fat. One cup of grapes can range between 70-104 calories, and they have a packed nutrient profile. Grapes are loaded with high doses of vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant. They contain vitamin K, which is important for bone health and proper blood clotting. A cup of grapes can provide up to 25% of the daily required vitamin K intake.
Grapes are a good source of potassium needed for muscles, kidneys, heart, and nervous system functioning. Grapes also contain fiber. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar levels, as well as help with bowel irregularities. Interestingly, the Concord grape variety in particular, has been shown to contain the most diverse antioxidant profile.
Antioxidants are a huge reason for how healthy grapes are. Antioxidants help to slow or stop cell damage caused by free radicals (chemically unstable molecules) in the body. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which is damaging to cells, tissues, and organs. This can then cause health issues such as cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions.
Grapes contain antioxidants called flavonoids. These help with overall immune system health, tissue development, and wound healing. Darker grapes are known for having the highest antioxidant content.
Fights against disease
Grapes can be incredibly beneficial in fighting against disease. Metabolic syndrome is a host of medical conditions which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low “good” cholesterol. It increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The polyphenol compounds in grapes can help prevent metabolic syndrome by improving blood flow, cholesterol, and sugar levels.
The antioxidant content of grapes can also help in preventing chronic diseases. Many studies suggest that the fruit can significantly lower risk of developing diabetes. This is in part due to its low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure of how much a certain food can increase blood sugar levels. Grapes typically have a GI of 59, which is on the low side.
Other compounds found in grapes also have protective properties against viruses, bacteria, and yeast infections.
Sources of grape nutrients
Grapes can be eaten whole or juiced into beverages. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70% of grapes world-wide are used for the production of wine. Twenty-seven percent are grown for the sale of fresh fruit and 2% for dried fruit. We can obtain the different nutrients in grapes in the form of beverages or food.
The creation of wine is a five-step process that begins by harvesting grapes. The fruits are then crushed and pressed to extract the juices. Fermentation naturally follows 6-12 hours later to create the alcohol. This step can last anywhere from days to months. Clarifying the wine, bottling, and aging are the final steps.
The health benefits of red wine come from the grapes. The rich antioxidant profile may help with heart health and memory sharpness. Resveratrol, which is found in grapes and wine, acts as an antioxidant to regulate blood sugar and weight. Previous research has also shown that it may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and could potentially act as an anti-cancer agent.
Grape juice can be made by crushing and blending grapes to extract the liquid. Juicing keeps all the health benefits of grapes, such as the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Grape seed extract comes from the seed of wine grapes. The seeds are pressed to extract the oil and then dried. They have about 10 to 20 times the antioxidant content as other fruits and vegetables. Grape seed oil, as the name suggests, comes from extracting oil from the seed of grapes. Grapes can also be used for the production of many delicious vinegars.
Grape seeds can protect against premature aging and disease. Scientific studies have shown that grape seed antioxidant power is 20 times more than vitamin E and 50 more than vitamin C. These antioxidants also have the ability to bind to collagen which is needed for healthy cells and youthful skin.
Health benefits can be obtained by eating fresh grapes or as different forms of the fruit. Grape jam can be made by boiling grapes to a pulp and adding sugar. Jams are a good source of nutrients when consumed in recommended serving sizes. Jam made from chunky fruit servings maintain many of the health benefits: reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Raisins are dried or baked grapes. They are fat and cholesterol free, high in fiber, and a great source of antioxidants. Because they have less amounts of water, they actually have more antioxidants than fresh grapes. They can help fight against anemia, promote strong bones, and help relieve irregular bowel symptoms.
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