This sweet, refreshing fruit packs major nutritional power.
Humans have been growing grapes as early as 6500 BC, and in the mythology of several cultures, this fruit symbolizes abundance and fertility. In addition to being downright gorgeous–and the main ingredient in our beloved wine–grapes offer a number of health benefits. Here are seven, plus simple ways to incorporate these gems into your daily meals and snacks.
Grapes are rich in nutrients
Once cup of grapes provides about a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs, nearly 20% for vitamin K, and at least 10% for copper. In addition to supporting immunity, vitamin C is needed for DNA repair, and the production of both collagen and serotonin. (The latter promotes happiness and sleep.)
Vitamin C also helps significantly boost the absorption of iron from plant foods; a higher blood level of vitamin C is tied to increased fat burning, both during exercise and at rest. Vitamin K is required for bone formation, and a shortfall is linked to increased fracture risk.
Copper plays a role in energy production, plus the formation of collagen and red blood cells. Grapes also provide smaller amounts of several key nutrients, including B vitamins, potassium, and manganese.
Grapes support immunity
In addition to the aforementioned vitamins C and A, which are both vital for immunity, grapes support the immune system through their natural anti-microbial properties. A one cup portion also supplies about two and a half ounces of water, which is important for hydration, circulation and healthy blood flow, and waste elimination.
Grapes provide anti-aging antioxidants
Grapes contain several different antioxidants, including types known to decrease inflammation and support healthy blood flow. Grape antioxidants are also linked to better brain function (including memory and leaning), anti-aging, and overall longevity. The quercetin in black and red grapes has been shown to protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Quercetin has also been linked to apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to kill off worn out or dysfunctional cells.
Grapes may help you get a good night’s sleep
The natural melatonin in grapes is linked to longer and better quality sleep. That’s key, since insomnia affects a third of the population, and sleep deprivation is tied to a number of health risks–including depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Grapes improve heart health
Grapes are heart-healthy in a number of ways. They have been shown to fend off artery hardening, reduce blood pressure, improve circulation, curb blood clotting, and lower inflammation. Research indicates that grapes also help reduce cholesterol by decreasing the absorption of the compound into the blood.
Grapes protect healthy vision
The lutein and zeaxanthin in grapes protect the retina and eye lens. They’ve been shown to increase visual range; lessen discomfort from glare; enhance visual contrast; and reduce the time it takes the eyes to recover from the stress of bright lights. The dynamic duo also helps lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders.
Grapes aid digestive health
Grapes aren’t spectacularly high in fiber, with one cup supplying one to two grams. But, the fiber and fluid in grapes help support bowel regularity, and grape polyphenols work to positively transform gut bacteria in ways that benefit health. These may include the flourishing of microbes tied to stronger immunity and positive mood.
How to add grapes to meals
Grapes are fabulous on their own as a snack or fruit for dessert, but they can also be added to a number of dishes. Slice and fold them into oatmeal or overnight oats, salads, and cooked or chilled herbed whole grains. Transform grapes into salsa or chutney.
You can also cook them. Grapes are amazing oven roasted, either alone or combined with veggies, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or sweet potatoes. You can also incorporate grapes into better-for-you treats. Try grape pie or tart, or simply dip them into melted dark chocolate.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.
To get more nutrition and diet tips delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Balanced Bites newsletter