Grapes are a go-to snack for picnics and lunchboxes, but don't take them for granted. For thousands of years, they've been used in some cultures as medicine. Each of these small fruits is loaded with over 1,600 compounds -- and many of them can help keep you healthy.
Grapes are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps balance fluids in your body. Potassium can help bring down high blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Most people don't get enough of this nutrient, so eating grapes can help fill the gap.
Healthy Skin and Hair
Grape seeds are rich in vitamin E, which helps your skin stay smooth and hydrated. Other compounds in grapes may help prevent acne and increase blood flow to your scalp for healthier hair
You wouldn't think a fruit this sweet could help you drop some unwanted pounds, but grapes may do just that. A natural compound they contain appears to make it harder for your cells to store fat. It may also help fat cells in your body break up at a faster rate. Just be careful not to eat too many. One serving is 1/2 cup, or about 16 grapes.
Natural chemicals in grapes ease inflammation in your body and help protect your cells from damage. That's good news for your eyes. Studies show that a diet that includes grapes can prevent or delay common eye diseases like cataracts and glaucoma.
Immune System Boost
A compound in grapes called resveratrol can help shore up the immune system -- your body's defense against germs. More research needs to be done to find out exactly how it may help, but one day, you might see resveratrol in products to help heal wounds or prevent bacterial infections.
Good for Your Brain
Resveratrol in grapes slows the breakdown of cells that naturally happens as you age. This may prevent harmful plaques from forming in your brain and slowing down how well it works.
The high water content in grapes can help your digestive system run more smoothly. Grapes are also full of insoluble fiber, which can lead to softer stools.
Grape skins are high in melatonin, a chemical that may improve your sleep. Studies show melatonin eases jet lag and insomnia, and may help steady your mood.
Keep Blood Sugar Low
Grapes have a "low glycemic index," which means they don't raise your blood sugar too quickly. Because of that, they're a good fruit choice if you have diabetes. The polyphenols in purple grapes -- the compounds that give them their color -- may also help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Research shows antioxidants in grapes may prevent or delay the growth of cancer cells. Some cancers that they may protect you from include mouth, lung, throat, pancreas, prostate, and colon.
Fresh Fruit vs. Juice
Some supplements have the same nutrients as grapes, but eating fresh fruit seems to give you the most health benefits. And while grape juice is good for you as well, try not to drink it too often. Juice is high in sugar, and you'll miss out on the dietary fiber that whole grapes have.
Choose the Right Color
The amount of antioxidants in grapes depends on the variety, where they're grown, and how they're picked and processed. It's clear, though, that dark red and purple grapes contain more antioxidants than white or green types.
What About Wine?
Red wine can have health benefits, too. But don't overdo it. Men shouldn't drink more than 2 servings of alcohol each day. Women should stick to one. And if you don't drink alcohol, don't start now. You can easily enjoy fresh grapes and get health benefits from them, instead.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
The Journal of Nutrition: "Grapes and Cardiovascular Disease."
Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences: "Resveratrol, in its natural combination in whole grape, for health promotion and disease management."
Mayo Clinic: "Does grape juice offer the same health benefits as red wine?"
Keck Medicine of USC: "5 Things Grapes Can Do for Your Overall Health."
Cleveland Clinic: "Improving Your Health with Fiber."
CDC: "The Role of Potassium and Sodium in Your Diet," "Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions."
Produce for Better Health Foundation: "How Many Grapes Are You Allowed to Eat Every Day?"
Pezzuto, J. Ed, Grapes and Health, Springer, 2016.
News release, Oregon State University: "Red grapes, blueberries may enhance immune function."
Cleveland Clinic/Healthy Brains: "Food & Nutrition: The Mediterranean Way."
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: "Table and Dried Grapes: FAO-OIV Focus 2016."
Nutrients: "Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin."
News release, The Endocrine Society: "Resveratrol Boosts Spinal Bone Density in Men With Metabolic Syndrome."