Grape Greatness

Green and black grapesWe’ve all heard that red wine is beneficial to our health, but it’s actually the grapes used to make wine that provide such amazing health benefits. These delicious berries may even help us live longer.

Grapes’ greatness is due in large part to their overwhelming number of phytonutrients, which reduce the risk for countless diseases. Each grape contains hundreds of these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Leading the pack is the powerful phytonutrient resveratrol. Resveratrol has recently been shown to increase expression of three genes all related to a longer lifespan. Also, resveratrol has been linked to a range of possible benefits, from improving cardiovascular health and fighting cancer to reducing inflammation and strengthening the body’s immune system. With the help of resveratrol and hundreds of other phytonutrients, grapes’ benefits include these among many others.

The blood sugar benefits of grapes provide us with another valuable reason to eat grapes. Once eaten, the sugar in grapes has a lower rate of absorption into the blood stream (glycemic index of 43-53), than many foods. Better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity have now been connected with intake of grapes.

red grapeBoth red and purple grapes contain another influential phytonutrient known as anthocyanin. This key player appears to also hold an important role in helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, decreasing brain function, and cancer.

While plentiful, phytonutrients aren’t the only nutrients in grapes. One cup of grapes, with about 100 calories, provides more than a quarter of the daily recommended amounts of vitamins K and C. Grapes are also a great source of fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese and even contain some vitamin A, E, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

However, organically grown grapes are particularly recommended in order to avoid pesticide residues. In a recent study of 99 vineyards in the Mediterranean, grapes that had been organically grown did not have detectable amounts of pesticide, unlike conventionally grown table grapes on which significant pesticide residues were found.

By the way, seedless grapes are not a result of genetic modification, as mistakenly spread around the web. In fact, seedless varieties of grapes are the result of natural mutations and breeding. Grape varieties can be vegetatively propagated, withheld from pollination, crossbred or even grafted to produce seedless grapes without direct manipulation of the grape plant’s genetic material.

Kale Quinoa SaladDon’t miss out on grapes’ delicious taste, convenience, and powerful nutrients. Take September’s Healthy Challenge and eat more grapes this month. Add them to salads like my copy-cat Kale Quinoa Salad from Cheesecake Factory, or add them to grains of any sort. Eat them fresh or frozen to enjoy their delicious taste and health-boosting nutrients.