Grapes are loaded with nutrients and provide many of the same health benefits of wine, without the alcohol.
Phytonutrients, plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing, compounds. are bioactive compounds that are not designated as traditional nutrients, but have been shown to have health benefits in humans – grapes are loaded with them, particularly in the skin.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant synthesized by the grape plant for antifungal and defensive properties. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the health benefits of resveratrol. It lowers risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing lipid oxidation and it modulates levels of lipids and lipoproteins in the body. Resveratrol is also a potent antioxidant, which not only reduces oxidation, but also helps to strengthen other antioxidant substances in the body.
The polyphenols found in grapes, have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing platelet aggregation which prevents blood clots, protect low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” from free radical damage, lower blood pressure, and improve the function of blood vessels.
Grapes are also an excellent source of manganese and a good source of vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium, and vitamin C.
Grapes – History + Use
Grapes grow in clusters of 6 to 300 on vines. They range in color from crimson to black to yellow. Grapes were first cultivated as early as 5,000 BC. They are mentioned in many biblical stories where they are referred to as “fruit of the vine”.
European travelers spread them all over the world during their travels. They were first brought to the US in the 17th century, where they migrated to the central valley of California and thrived due to the climate and absence of grape-preying insects. Today California produces most of the grapes consumed in the US.
Grapes should be stored in the refrigerator and washed right before eating. To keep them fresh longer, grapes can be frozen by arranging them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and placing them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, they can be stored in a plastic bag. Frozen grapes make a delicious snack, especially on a hot day.
Grapes can be enjoyed alone as a snack or used in a variety of recipes. Below are some ways to increase the amount of grapes in your diet:
- Serve stewed grapes with meat items
- Add grapes to rice dishes for a touch of sweetness
- Add to a green salad or fruit salad
- Place sliced grapes on your favorite sandwich
- Serve grapes with cheese and crackers
Grape juice is an excellent way to take advantage of the health benefits of grapes without the alcohol content of wine. Studies have shown that juice made from concord grapes have the highest amount of antioxidants when compared to other juice products.