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Superfood: Grapes

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Perhaps Hanna-Barbera was onto something when they gave an ape a grape — a single bunch is packed with vitamins and minerals sure to sweeten any day. A type of liana plant known for its long-stemmed woody vine, the grape fruit (no, not grapefruit) is actually considered a berry. They come in various shades of red, purple, and white, bursting with benefits from heart health to skin clarity [1] [2] [3].

Grape Expectations — Why They’re Super

Photo by Caitlin Covington

Grapes are packed with hundreds of antioxidants, including vitamins C and K and beta-carotene, which help rid the body of pesky free radicals (byproducts of oxygen use) that cause cellular damage. Antioxidants act as free radical hunters to prevent and repair the damage to cells [4] [5].

What's more, grapes are a great source of phytonutrients, the most notable of which is resveratrol. Resveratrol has made big headlines in recent years for its potential cardiac benefits like lower levels of LDL cholesterol (high levels of which can lead to heart problems) and prevention of blood vessel damage. Plus, it may help inhibit cancer cell growth and possibly help treat cognitive impairment [6] [7].

Think grapes are just good eats? Wrong! This fruit's super power is not just through the belly — it's good for the skin, too! Grape seed oil contains high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (a fatty acid and antioxidant). Slathering on some grape seed oil can help skin fight off collagen- and elastin-destroying enzymes and could also inhibit damage caused by free radicals [3]. Isn’t the old saying, “A grape seed a day keeps the wrinkles away?” (Well, now it is.)

A Raisin to Believe — Your Action Plan

Though grapes are low on the glycemic index, meaning they don't have a quick and drastic effect on blood sugar levels, a single cup contains more than 20 grams of sugar. (More than many other types of fruit.) And while sugar from natural sources like fruit might not be as bad as added sugar to foods that don't naturally contain it, it's still smart to keep an eye on sugar intake to prevent overdoing it. With the high sugar content in mind, when selecting a bunch to munch for a small snack, it’s best to make judgment based on appearance. Choose fully ripened grapes that are plump, wrinkle-free, and are juicy on the inside but not leaking juice all over the container (which signals they've started to spoil).

When it's time to get grapey, red and purple grapes might just beat out green grapes when it comes to nutrients. The dark skin on these little globes comes from anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that may aid in improving memory and motor function [9] [10].

The sweetness of a grape is determined by its color. (Or by sneaking a delicious bite when the produce manager isn’t looking.) The deeper the color, the sweeter the grape. Green grapes should be yellowish-green in color, red varieties should be close to the color crimson, and the purples should have a deep bluish-black color. Grapes last for up to five days when given a good bath (and dry!) as soon as they arrive home. Plunk them into a sealed plastic container to keep 'em fresh before use!

Our Favorite Grape Recipes from Around the Web:

Breakfast: Perfect Summer Fruit Salad

Lunch: Curried Chicken Salad With Grapes

Side dish: Carrot, Grape, and Raisin Slaw

Appetizer: Arugula Salad With Shrimp and Grapes

Dinner: Pork Chops with Grilled Polenta Squares and Roasted California Grapes

What’s your favorite way to work grapes into your diet? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kellie Davis is a freelance writer and blogger turned fitness coach living in Northern California. She published short fiction and essays in... Read More »

Works Cited

  1. Health benefits of wine and alcohol from neuroprotection to heart health. Vasanthi, H.R., Parameswari, R.P., DeLeiris, J. Herbal and Indian Medicine Research Laboratory, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India. Frontiers in Bioscience, 2012 Jan 1;4:1050-12.
  2. Botanical flavonoids on coronary heart disease. Wang, C.Z., Mehendale, S.R., Calway, T. Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research and Departments of Anesthesia and Critical Care, The Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2011; 39(4):661-71.
  3. Dietary nutrient intake and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M., Franco, OH., Granger, SP., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008 Aug: 88(2): 480.
  4. Phenolics and antioxidant capacity of table grapes (vitis vinifera l.) cultivars grown in Chile. Lutz, M., Jorquera, K., Cancino, B., et al. Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de Alimentos Funcionales, Univ de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile. Journal of Food Science, 2011 Sep; 76 (7), 1088-93.
  5. Protective effect of Öküzgözü (vitis vinifera l. cv.) grape juice against carbon tetrachloride induced oxidative stress in rats. Pirinoccioglu, M., Kizil, G., Ozdemir, G., et al. Dicle University, Faculty of Science, Chemistry Department, Diyarbakir, Turkey. Food Function, 2012 Mar 21.
  6. Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. Baur, J.A., Pearson, K.J., Price, N.L., et al. Department of Pathology, Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Ageing, Harvard Medical School, Boston. Nature, 2006 Nov 16; 444(7117), 337-42.
  7. A berry thought-provoking idea: the potential role of plant polyphenols in the treatment of age-related cognitive disorders. Cherniak, E. Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Geriatrics Institute, Geriatrics and Extended Care Service and Geriatric Research Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC) of the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Apr 5;1-7.
  8. Dietary nutrient intake and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Cosgrove, M., Franco, OH., Granger, SP., et al. Corporate Research, Unilever Colworth Park, Bedford, United Kingdom. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008 Aug: 88(2): 480.
  9. A berry thought-provoking idea: the potential role of plant polyphenols in the treatment of age-related cognitive disorders. Cherniak, E. Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Geriatrics Institute, Geriatrics and Extended Care Service and Geriatric Research Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC) of the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Apr 5;1-7.
  10. Reversals of age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation. Joseph, JA., Shukitt-Hale, B., Denisova, NA., et al. United States Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts. Journal of Neuroscience, 1999 Sep 15; 19(18): 8114-21.