Allison Tannis, RHN
Grapes are healthy and tasty little treats that come in many different colours. Nutritionally, grapes are power packed: a source of vitamin B6, thiamin, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants.
Grapes are healthy and tasty little treats that come in many different colours. Nutritionally, grapes are power packed: a source of vitamin B6, thiamin, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. Resveratrol, found in grape skins, is a potent antioxidant that provides more effective protection against free radical damage than vitamins C and E. It is also a potent cancer fighter and protector against heart disease.
Grapes are also the centre of one of the world's most perplexing nutritional questions: the French paradox.
The French Paradox
Heart disease, the leading cause of death in Canada, has sparked interest in the dietary patterns of countries with lower rates of heart disease. France, for example, has an incidence of heart disease 60 percent lower than ours despite its rich cuisine. How is it that a diet high in fat is partnered with a slender and healthy population? This is the French paradox.
One difference between our diets is the amount of red wine consumed by the French. Many believe that it is the alcohol in wine that balances high fat intake. However, recent studies have noted that it's more likely the purple grapes from which red wine is made that can improve heart health.
Grapes Are Heart-Healthy
Research strongly supports grapes as a heart-healthy food. In Circulation (June 2001) researchers concluded that drinking purple grape juice has a direct effect on blood clotting and increases blood levels of antioxidants. Researchers noted that the flavonoids (antioxidants) in grapes positively affect nitric oxide production, helping to reduce the narrowing of arteries. The study also showed that purple grape juice can inhibit platelet clotting, thereby reducing the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Even more convincing is research published in Atherosclerosis (May 2001), which reported a lowering of total cholesterol by grape juice similar to the lowering effect of red wine.
How do you find the most nutritionally packed grape? First, choose purple grapes as their red pigment contains the highest level of flavonoids; then, choose organic. Plants produce higher levels of flavonoids as a response to environmental stress. Organically grown food faces more environmental stress as it is not protected by pesticides as are conventionally grown foods. A report published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (January 2003) showed that organic foods can have up to 50 percent more antioxidant power than conventional grown foods.
Grape juice has also been shown to reduce hot flashes, risk of post-menopausal diseases (osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer), and may prevent Alzheimer's. Its great antioxidant ability means it may be anti-aging.
Health can come in small packages and in tasty ones, at that. Reach for organic grapes and pure grape juice this fall and enjoy good health.