The Grapes of Wrath was a literary classic, but that's not important in this context. What is important are the grapes of health, those small berries that come in an assortment of colors – including red, green ( white grapes are actually green), black, yellow, pink, blue (Concord grapes) and purple – and which provide a wide variety of health benefits. Grapes might be small in size, but they are rich with an abundance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Included in the mix are phytonutrients such as phenols and polyphenols; vitamins K, A, C and B6; as well as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and sodium, per organicfacts.net. There's more – grapes contain dietary fiber, healthy carbs, antioxidants, and some protein. Its flavonoids, such as quercetin and myricetin, can even limit free radical damage and slow down the aging process. Aside from all that, grapes contain a healthy dose of water – evident every time you bite into one (be careful you don't squeeze off a wet volley in the face of someone nearby), which means grapes can also play a role in keeping us hydrated, especially important when we're active outdoors on a hot day or engaging in strenuous exercise wherever that happens to be.
Interesting Facts about GrapesPer webmd.com, grapes first came to what is now the United States about three centuries ago, brought here by Spanish explorers. They are indeed classified as a berry, and they are similar to another fruit well-known for its many health benefits – blueberries – in that they share a similar leathery-like outer skin with a fleshy inside. Drop one or two in your mouth, bite away, and feel the fresh flavor spurt onto your taste buds. Here's a real eye opener when it comes to grapes: there are about 8,000 varieties of grapes representing 60 or so species, with the most-popular types grown in America and Europe. For those who prefer their grapes in the fermented form of wine, you can figure on about two and a half pounds of grapes to produce one bottle of wine, per webmd.com. Speaking of wine, note that while more than 72 million tons of grapes are harvested each year worldwide – that's more than bananas, oranges, or apples – only about 12 percent of that goes toward the grapes you keep in a kitchen bowl to be eaten fresh, per livescience.com. As you might have guessed, most of the rest is made into wine.
The Health Benefits of GrapesNow, what you've been waiting for – a summary of grape's health benefits. Let's focus in on six areas:
- Heart Health. Wine aficionados hang their hats on this one. The polyphenols in grapes have been shown to increase the level of HDL (good cholesterol) at the same time it reduces the body's inflammation levels, to include those pertaining to the heart. Red wine, especially, is believed to be heart healthy. Which brings us to what's known as the French paradox, whereby French people, who typically enjoy a culture of smoking and eating foods loaded with saturated fats, manage to live long and healthy lives, presumably because of their love for imbibing on red wine. One more thing – the grape's skin and seeds contain a compound know as resveratrol, which works to keep heart muscles flexible and healthy, per outofstress.com.
- Digestion. Chalk this health benefit up to grapes' fiber content, with fiber playing a key role in the (hopefully) smooth digestion of food. This also plays into healthy regularity as well as our colorectal health. Not only that, but, as pointed out by Mayo Clinic, a diet high in fiber – and grapes go well with a number of other fiber-rich foods – might also help decrease the chances of getting hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Also, per outofstress.com, tests have indicated that grape extracts can stunt the growth of more than a dozen types of bacteria harmful to the intestine and stomach, to include e coli and salmonella.
- Bones. Grapes are a good source of copper, iron, and manganese, which are vital when it comes to the formation of bones and their strength. Vitamin K also enters the picture as a possible contributor to bone health. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, as cited at livescience.com, published a study that found women who consumed 110 or more grams of vitamin K daily – as opposed to a placebo – were almost a third less likely to break a hip.
- Eyes & Vision Care. Grapes, per organicfacts.net, might be able to prevent the age-related loss of vision and macular degeneration, with risk of the latter disease decreased by more than 36 percent if a person is served three daily servings of grapes, as found in studies. Thanks to their antioxidant flavonoids, grapes have also been identified as being able to reduce cataracts, which involve damage caused by free radicals. This is another reason antioxidants often are referred to as having an anti-aging quality, in that the formation of cataracts typically is associated with aging.
- Diabetes. A 2013 study, cited at livescience.com, suggests that grapes could be a preventative when it comes to diabetes, based on two decades of observation of women, in which those who consumed the greater amount of whole fruits, especially grapes, blueberries, and apples, showed a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This was attributed to the presence of resveratrol in grapes.
- Constipation. Relief at last, thanks to grapes and their inclusion of organic acid, sugar, and cellulose, which qualifies grapes as a laxative food effective in overcoming and eliminating constipation, per organicfacts.net. Furthermore, grapes can relieve chronic constipation by toning the stomach as well as intestinal muscles. The presence of fiber can also boost the buildup and excretion of healthy stools.