Grapes are a go-to snack for picnics and lunchboxes, but don’t take them for granted. For thousands of years, they’ve been used in some cultures as medicine. Each of these small fruits is loaded with over 1,600 compounds — and many of them can help keep you healthy.
Grapes come in different colors and forms. There are red, green, and purple grapes, seedless grapes, grape jelly, grape jam and grape juice, raisins, currents, and sultanas, not to mention wine.
Up to 8,000 years ago, people first cultivated grape vines in what is now the Middle East.
Today, 72 million tons of grapes are grown each year worldwide, mostly to produce wine. Every year, 7.2 trillion gallons of wine are produced. Grapes are also a popular finger food.
The nutrients in grapes offer a number of possible health benefits. They have been associated with prevention of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and constipation.
Facts about grapes
- Grapes are suitable for people with diabetes, as long as they are accounted for in the diet plan.
- The nutrients in grapes may help protect against cancer, eye problems, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.
- Resveratrol is a key nutrient in grapes that may offer health benefits.
- Grapes are a good source of fiber, potassium, and a range of vitamins and other minerals.
What Are Grapes and Where Do They Come From?
Grape plants, fruit-bearing vines from the Vitis genus of the Vitaceae family, have been with us so long that fossilized leaves, stems, and seeds have been found in Northern hemisphere deposits from the Neogene and Paleogene periods, which cover a stretch of time between 2.6 million and 65 million years ago. Their colorful globe-like, juicy, sugary berries are what we call grapes, whether they come in blue, purple, red, pink, green, or amber.
Grape cultivation began as early as 6,500 B.C. Propelled by winemaking — the fermentation of grape juice into an alcoholic beverage — by 4,000 B.C., cultivation had spread from Eastern Europe and Western Asia into the Nile delta region, after which the practice moved westward into Europe and eastward into China. Grape wine was so important to the ancient Greeks and Romans that they worshipped a god of wine and pleasure, whom they called Dionysus and Bacchus, respectively.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the role of wine in the Christian mass helped grape cultivation flourish in Europe. The practice crossed the Atlantic with the European colonization of the Americas. Today, Italy, France, and the United States are the world’s top producers of grapes.
A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk of various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
Like other fruits and vegetables, grapes are a good source of fiber and water.
Antioxidants and other nutrients in grapes may make them particularly healthful, although more research is needed to confirm some of their benefits.
Here are some of the ways in which the nutrients in grapes may boost health.
Grapes can protect you from a few cancersAccording to the American Institute for Cancer Research, resveratrol—which is found in abundance in grapes—inhibits cancer growth in the skin and breast. It can also help leukemia patients. Resveratrol is an antioxidant which is concentrated in the skins of red and purple grapes.
Animal studies have indicated that quercetin and resveratrol may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against the damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.
These studies have mostly used doses of these flavonoids far higher than those usually consumed by humans.
The polyphenols in grapes, such as resveratrol, are thought to have antioxidant, lipid-lowering, and anti-inflammatory actions that may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). They may achieve this by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure and the risk of irregular heart rhythms.
Grapes contain fiber and potassium, both of which support heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium consumption to improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
A high potassium intake has been associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, and preservation of bone mineral density.
Increasing potassium intake may help reduce the negative effects of too much sodium in the diet.
Grapes have a high potassium content. This suggests they can help reduce the effects of sodium in people with high blood pressure.
Fiber is important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, including heart health and blood pressure. Grapes are a good source of fiber.
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Ensure you have great visionMaintaining good eyesight is not impossible. You just have to include the right ingredients in your diet, such as grapes! According to a study by researchers at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami (Florida) grapes can combat eye diseases as they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful antioxidants that can prevent free radicals from causing damage to the retina.
AllergiesBecause of the anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin, some suggest that consuming grapes may help to alleviate symptoms of allergies, including runny nose, watery eyes, and hives.
Weight LossYou wouldn’t think a fruit this sweet could help you drop some unwanted pounds, but grapes may do just that. A natural compound they contain appears to make it harder for your cells to store fat. It may also help fat cells in your body break up at a faster rate. Just be careful not to eat too many. One serving is 1/2 cup, or about 16 grapes.
Rejuventates the SkinFilled with Vitamin C and antioxidants, grapes can help to revitalize your skin. In fact, they can even protect your skin from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation and free radicals that can, on a lesser scale, cause wrinkles and dark spots. The added Vitamin C is necessary for your skin to form collagen, which helps give your face that youthful firmness.
Immune System BoostA compound in grapes called resveratrol can help shore up the immune system — your body’s defense against germs. More research needs to be done to find out exactly how it may help, but one day, you might see resveratrol in products to help heal wounds or prevent bacterial infections.
Good for Your BrainResveratrol in grapes slows the breakdown of cells that naturally happens as you age. This may prevent harmful plaques from forming in your brain and slowing down how well it works.
Grapes can provide relief from constipationGrapes are rich in fiber and water, which basically means that this is a great fruit if you suffer from constipation woes. Why, you ask? Well, that’s because both fibre and water are essential to regulate bowel movements.
Grapes are also kidney friendlyGrapes are a kidney-friendly superfood. Red grapes expel uric acid from the body. And by doing so, they reduce the pressure from the kidneys.
Better SleepGrape skins are high in melatonin, a chemical that may improve your sleep. Studies show melatonin eases jet lag and insomnia, and may help steady your mood.
Grapes are available year round. Select grapes that are tight to the touch and free of wrinkles. They are best stored in the refrigerator and should be washed before eaten.
The best way to eat grapes is as a fresh fruit. Most grape jellies or spreads, and juices have added sugars, and they can be high in calories.
Both red and green grapes contain resveratrol, but red grapes, and specifically their skins, contain more. It is better to get the benefits of resveratrol from eating grapes rather than drinking wine.
Resveratrol is available in supplement form, but the benefits of grapes include fiber and a range of minerals and vitamins. Dietary sources of nutrients are more beneficial than supplements, because they supply fiber and other nutrients.