Grapes may be one of the most versatile fruits. Besides being delicious eaten out of hand, they also give us wine, raisins, and jelly. As a bonus, they contain powerful antioxidants.
Grapes that are eaten fresh are called table grapes. They come in both seeded and seedless varieties. Red table grapes come in many varieties, some with colorful names like Scarlet Royal and Flame. Nutritionwise, red grapes have a slight edge over other types.
Scholars tell us that grapes date back to prehistoric times, and humans have cultivated them for over 7,000 years. Although grapes grow wild in many areas of the world, they are most closely associated with the area around the Mediterranean. Italy, Spain, and France contain about a third of the world's vineyards. California is not only a major wine-growing area, but also produces about 90% of the table grapes grown in the United States.
The ingredient in red wine that generates the most excitement is resveratrol, an antioxidant. Researchers first recommended drinking red wine for its resveratrol content, but now believe that table grapes and grape juice are good sources, too. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine, due to a longer fermentation process.
Resveratrol isn't the only reason to eat red grapes, though. Here are some others:
Grapes, grape juice, and wine have antioxidants that help the cardiovascular system. These antioxidants, sometimes called flavonoids or polyphenols, can relax blood vessels and reduce inflammation. They also reduce the clotting function of platelets much as aspirin does. These antioxidants reside mainly in the skin and seeds of grapes.
Some studies show that you would have to eat a lot of grapes to improve cardiac function. Grapes can be part of a nutrient-rich diet, but no single food can ensure heart health.
Some people with diabetes believe that they should not eat fruit because of its sugar content. Fruits with a low glycemic index, however, are fine for those with diabetes. A low glycemic index means that the sugar in the fruit will not immediately raise blood sugar. Another number helpful to people with diabetes is glycemic load. This number takes into account how much sugar is in an average serving.
The glycemic index and a glycemic load of grapes is moderately low. The many antioxidants in grapes mean that they are valuable foods, even for people with diabetes.
Many nutritionists recommend fruits like grapes as part of a weight management program. The water and fiber content of grapes make them a filling food. They are also delicious without sugar. To get the maximum value from fruits, eat the whole fruit instead of drinking the juice.
Grapes also contain small amounts of these nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Nutrients per Serving
A half-cup serving of grapes contains:
- Calories: 52
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 14 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 12 grams
Things to Watch Out For
Since the Food Quality Protection Act of 1986, growers have reduced their use of pesticides on some foods. Grapes were once in the high-risk group for pesticide residue, but are now in the low-risk group. Still, 29 pesticides reside in the average American's body, and many experts recommend that consumers buy organic fruit when possible. If buying conventionally grown food is the only practical or economical choice, it's better than skipping the produce.
In an unrelated food safety issue, grapes can be a choking hazard for children under 4. Because of their size and shape, grapes can easily block a child's airway. Grapes should be cut in pieces or mashed before they are given to young children.
How to Use Red Grapes
Most consumers enjoy eating grapes plain. In the summer, frozen grapes can be a refreshing treat. Grapes add flavor and nutrition to many dishes, and red grapes provide a pop of color, too.
- Liven up a chicken salad with red grapes, walnuts, and celery
- Use red grapes in almost any fruit salad
- Top a green salad with red grapes, and add almonds for crunch and mint for flavor
- Add red grapes and other fruit to yogurt
- Pair red grapes with a mild cheese like Edam or gouda
- Add red grapes to your breakfast smoothie.