Health Benefits of Grapes (Besides Wine!)

Over 9,000 years ago, humans figured out the process of making booze, specifically a honey and rice concoction brewed in what is now central China, according to Scientific American. Evidence exists that a couple thousand years later, in and around the region now known as Iran, fermentation of grapes produced wine. However, winemaking likely emerged much earlier, perhaps even back in the Paleolithic period, or Old Stone Age. By 1700 B.C., the king of Babylon, Hammurabi, established wine trade laws. Even Louis Pasteur sang its virtues: “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”

Today, people still revere wine and its powers, both emotional and physical. In fact, in recent times, many treat wine as a medicine. Its curative qualities supposedly include heart health, due to the presence of antioxidants known as polyphenols such as resveratrol, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Grapes: The Basis of Wine

Today, only about 12 percent of grapes grown worldwide are destined for consumption as fruit. Fermentation produces great flavors that go along with the polyphenols found in wine, but grapes in their natural form provide plenty of health benefits as well. In fact, the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that many of the benefits associated with drinking red wine may be available from regular, unfermented grapes.

Fighting Free Radicals

Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons that form due to oxygen exposure. Because of their instability, these molecules easily react and cause “chain reactions” that result in cell damage. Free radical damage occurs in numerous conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Aging
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Growth of tumors and cancer
  • AIDS

Antioxidants fight free radicals. Some antioxidants work better than others do, however. Proanthocyanidin extract from grape seeds has particular effectiveness in fighting free radicals, and is “highly bioavailable”4 meaning that a large percentage of the amount ingested gets into the body’s circulatory system. With many substances, using methods other than IV drug treatment results in lower bioavailability. That is not the case with proanthocyanidin, which helps the body fight certain cancers, including breast, lung, and gastric adenocarcinoma. It also helps repair liver and kidney damage due to overdoses of certain drugs.

Flavonoids Fight Heart Disease

Grapes contain a flavonoid called quercetin. Quercetin, like other flavonoids, gives fruits and vegetables their color. The University of Maryland Medical Center describes quercetin as an antioxidant that “scavenges” damaging free radicals. Quercetin potentially acts as:

  • An antihistamine
  • An anti-inflammatory
  • A preventative against heart disease and cancer
  • Polyphenol Platelet Proliferation Prevention

    Another benefit of grapes is their high polyphenol content, which has the potential of reducing cardiovascular disease by preventing the build-up of platelets, thus decreasing blood pressure. This is a substance available in grape seed products, the same as proanthocyanidin.

    Stay Regular – Eat Grapes

    Grapes contain a lot of water, and any food with a high water content helps prevent constipation. Stay regular: eat grapes. Their benefits go far beyond their high water content because they are chock full of fiber. One serving of 15 to 20 grapes is only around 70 calories and provides at least one gram of fiber. Alternatively, eat them in their dried form: raisins. The fiber content of raisins is even higher, due to their dried, concentrated form.

    Red Grape Resveratrol

    Resveratrol is a compound found in red grapes that is a potent immune system booster. It is a stilbenoid, a compound that works in conjunction with vitamin D to strengthen the immune system. Resveratrol, along with blueberries’ pterostilbene, leads the pack in boosting the human immune system. While study results were based on laboratory evidence, they still present a promising possibility to researchers seeking substances that stimulate the immune system. What’s more, there are likely many other substances yet unidentified in grapes that may also provide great potential health benefits.

    Producing Grapes With High Health Benefits

    The concept is simple: healthier soil yields healthier fruit. Organic farming practices promote more sustainable farms. However, strict organic compliance is unattainable for many farms. One practice that implements the spirit of organic ideals is integrated pest management, or IPM. Integrated pest management requires growers to pay strict attention to what critters are causing crop problems. It avoids “preventative” pesticide and herbicide applications, in favor of using only those chemicals required to address pest issues as they arise.

    IPM is implemented by many major producers of fruits and vegetables, both in the United States and in countries that export large amounts of produce to this country. For instance, in the Sedona region of Mexico, Gilberto Salazar, a grower of several fruit and vegetable crops, including table grapes, avoids pesticide use as much as possible. His operation’s “Integrated Pest Management” plan strives to use the smallest amounts of chemical herbicide and pesticides, only when absolutely necessary. Beyond that, the only chemicals employed are those that comply with government regulations in terms of application, dosage, and frequency. Similar to Gilberto Salazar, many growers seek producing the best, most nutritious fruits, such as grapes, by providing optimal growing conditions.

    IPM efforts are worth the time spent and effort expended:

    • Lower overall costs by saving time and money on chemical applications
    • Better long-term soil health
    • Improved produce nutrition levels

    It makes sense: allowing nature to control the growing process as much as possible yields better quality produce, especially in terms of nutrition and the absence of potentially harmful chemicals.

    Gilberto Salazar Escoboza is extremely family orientated and has been married for 24 years. He was born and raised in Hermosillo, Mexico. Gilberto has been the General Director of Videxport ever since he took over the family business in 1987. He enjoys reading and writing about the latest trends in the produce industry.

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