Grapes don’t often get a lot of recognition when it comes to healthy food talk—usually it’s wine, a grape product, that steals the show—but this little fruit bears a lot of benefits, from its antioxidant content to its affects on heart and brain health. Just check out these five health benefits of grapes!
Grapes are a treasure trove of antioxidants. As a group, grape varieties are known to contain phytonutrients such as flavanols (catechins, quercetin, etc.), phenolic acids, carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, etc.) and stilbenes (such as resveratrol). Most of the antioxidants in grapes are concentrated in the fruits’ skin and seeds; by comparison, the pulp or flesh contains just one-twentieth to one-one hundredth the level of antioxidants.
Reserveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes and grape products such as wine, provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Grapes combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties lend it a bevy of other health benefits.
It’s well-established that red wine offers some heart health benefits, so it should come as no surprise that so do grapes. The high antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory properties of grapes can help reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, prevent clumping of platelets and reduce risk of clots. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of California-Davis found that patients with metabolic syndrome (at risk for heart disease) who took grape seed extract experienced a drop in blood pressure. An animal study at the University of Michigan also discovered that rats given a grape supplement blending green, red and black grapes had lower blood pressure, better heart function and reduced inflammation at the end of the 18-week study.
Thanks to their antioxidant properties, grapes also offer some measure of protection against cancer. Studies have found that grape seed extract can kill leukemia cells and head and neck cancer cells, and can prevent the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate and lung cancer cells in laboratory experiments.
Although few large-scale clinical studies have been conducted, evidence points toward consumption of grapes as being beneficial for brain health. An animal study at the University of Houston found that rats fed a grape-enriched diet experienced reduced anxiety and learning and memory problems brought on by anxiety. Another study found that participants who drank a glass of Concord grape juice daily scored better on the California Verbal Learning Test than participants who did not. Key antioxidant components of grapes have also been linked to improved brain health. In 2008, researchers at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University reported that supplementing with resveratrol, commonly found in grapes, reduced plaque formation, a factor associated with Alzheimer’s and other related diseases, in animal brains.
Grapes have a bevy of other health benefits that science has yet to explore in-depth. Preliminary research shows that grapes have anti-microbial, blood sugar regulation and anti-aging benefits.
Grapes come in many varieties, including wine grapes and raisin grapes, but most of us consume table grapes, which are usually larger in size. Red, green and black are the most common colors consumed, but grapes also come in yellow, blue black, pink, crimson and other colors. Although much of the U.S. falls into the broad band of climate suitable for growing grapes, most grapes grown in the U.S. come from California. During the months of January to April, however, many grapes are imported from South America or Mexico, so be wary of that when purchasing grapes from your local grocer. Grapes rank high on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, so be sure to purchase organic grapes for optimal health benefits.
Growing Your Own Grapes
If you’re interested in growing grapes on a large scale, check out the article Start an Organic Backyard Vineyard.