When you bite into a grape, you get more than a burst of juicy, sweet, goodness. You also get a dose of nutrients and antioxidants that may help you stay well. Grapes are low in calories and virtually fat-free.
Grapes have been around for thousands of years. As grapes ripen on their vines, they turn translucent green, black, purple, or red.
Some types of grapes have edible seeds. Other types are seedless. Seedless grapes may be easier to eat, but grapes with seeds tend to be sweeter. The seed itself may taste slightly bitter. The grapes you find in your local grocery store are known as table grapes. Wine grapes are used to make wine. They are smaller than table grapes, but have thicker skins and larger seeds.
Here’s a look at the nutritional benefits of eating grapes.
Grapes are a good source of polyphenols
All grape varieties contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds that give grapes and other plants their vibrant colors. They also offer protection against disease and environmental damage. Polyphenols are known antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body. The grape skins and pulp contain the most polyphenols. They also have the highest antioxidant abilities.
Grapes are good for you, in large part thanks to their polyphenol content. Polyphenols may help fight:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- lung disease
- heart disease
Grapes support a healthy heart
Eat grapes for a healthier heart. The polyphenols in grapes may help prevent cardiovascular disease. In addition to scavenging free radicals, it’s thought that grapes have anti-inflammatory effects, antiplatelet effects, and support endothelial function. Endothelial dysfunction is linked with risk factors for buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Grapes support eye health
Move over, carrots. Grapes may soon take your place as the best food for eye health. According to research from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, regularly eating grapes may help protect retina deterioration. This leads to retinal diseases like macular degeneration. In the study, retinal function was protected in mice fed the equivalent of three servings of grapes daily. In addition, the mice retinas thickened and photoreceptive responses improved.
Grapes may help slow aging
Grapes contain resveratrol, a type of polyphenol, which may help prevent degenerative diseases. Resveratrol may activate your longevity genes and help cells survive.
Grapes also contain polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) like linolenic acid. Linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid abundant in your skin’s epidermis. Research shows that dietary intake of PUFAs is important to skin barrier function. PUFAs are also linked to skin photoprotection, a reduction of inflammation in the skin. They also may improve skin sensitivity.
A popular folk remedy is to apply crushed grapes directly to the skin to help relieve and brighten dry skin.
Grapes may boost memory
Research shows that fruits rich in antioxidants, like Concord grape juice, help reduce oxidative stress that leads to aging. In studies, this reduction increased verbal memory performance and motor function.
One study found that Concord grape juice taken for 12 weeks increased verbal learning in adults who had a declining memory but didn’t have dementia.
Grapes may help prevent metabolic syndrome
According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, metabolic syndrome is the term for a group of risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. These risk factors include:
- a large waistline
- high triglycerides
- low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- high blood sugar
Polyphenol-rich foods like grapes may help protect against metabolic syndrome. Study results suggest that grape polyphenols, in particular grape seed polyphenols, help improve cholesterol profile, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
Grapes provide vitamin K
Grapes are a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps clot your blood. Vitamin K deficiency puts you at risk of hemorrhaging. It may also increase your risk of osteoporosis, although more studies are needed.
Grapes give you fiber
Grapes contain a small amount of soluble fiber. This may lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If you have bowel irregularity, eating more fiber may help.
What about raisins?
Raisins are dehydrated grapes. They are packed with polyphenols. Raisins contain no water, so they actually have higher levels of antioxidants than fresh grapes. A 2012 study discovered that munching on raisins three times a day may lower blood pressure. Raisins contain more sugar and calories, and yet are less filling than grapes, so it’s best to eat them in moderation.
How to incorporate grapes into your diet
Grapes are portable and fun to eat. It’s easy to wash a bunch and enjoy a healthy snack. Other ways to enjoy grapes are:
- make juice out of fresh grapes
- drink 100 percent grape juice (with no added sugar)
- add grapes to a green salad or fruit salad
- add chopped grapes to your favorite chicken salad recipe
- eat frozen grapes for a refreshing summer snack
Grapes are good for you. They are chock-full of antioxidants and nutrients. They also contain fiber and are a low-calorie food. Eating a diet rich in fruits like grapes may reduce your risk of:
- heart attack
Grapes are delicious and easy to eat, but be aware of your serving size. If you eat too many in one sitting, the calories and carbs will add up fast. This may negate any health benefits and increase your risk of weight gain.
Grapes contain natural sugar, but they are considered a low glycemic index (GI) food. This means a single serving is unlikely to raise your blood sugar significantly. But raisins are another story. The sugar in raisins becomes concentrated during the dehydration process. This raises their GI level to moderate. The American Diabetes Association encourages eating fresh fruit as part of a healthy diet. Dehydrated fruits like raisins should be eaten in moderation.
Conventional grapes are known to have pesticide residue. To reduce your exposure, wash them thoroughly and choose organic brands, if possible.