Grapes are so much fun to eat with their round shape and unique texture — not to mention their sweetness combined with a bit of tart flavor. Plus, grapes nutrition makeup make them good for you and especially great to add to salads, have as a snack between meals and to enjoy as frozen treats. Considered a part of the berry family, you can find some grapes with edible seeds while others are seedless.
Similar to blueberries, grapes are often covered by a protective, whitish bloom. They grow on a grapevine (Vitis vinifera) and belong to the family Vitaceae, which is comprises about 60 inter-fertile wild Vitis species found throughout Asia, North America and Europe under subtropical, Mediterranean and continental–temperate climatic conditions. Grapes are vastly used for cultivation of fruit, juice, jams and wine.
We all know how delicious and versatile grapes are — used to make wine, raisins and grapeseed oil, among other grape products — but do you know all the benefits grapes nutrition provides? These delicious fruits has been shown to help extend life, reduce obesity and diabetes risk, and may even help prevent cancer. Plus, grapes can boost your brain and heart health, among many other remarkable benefits of grapes nutrition.
Types of Grapes
Grapes that are eaten as is or used in a recipe are typically called table grapes, and wine grapes are found in vineyards and are used to make wine. Raisin grapes are grapes that are typically dried by the sun, whether on paper trays or dried on the vine, so they become the dried fruit known as the popular kid-favorite raisin.
Table, wine and raisin grapes come from the same family of plant, but there are about 60 different species. Within these 60 species, there are literally thousands of grape varieties. If you have ever tried to study the origin of wine in various countries, you see that much if it has to do with the region in which grapes are grown. Italy alone has more than 1,000 varieties of wine grapes in its hillside vineyards.
Table grape varieties are most often larger in size and are usually found seedless. They have relatively thin skins, making them more pleasant to eat than the wine grape due to being less bitter.
Wine grapes are usually smaller in size, contain seeds and have relatively thick skins. While the thicker skin may be more bitter, one benefit is that it helps provide the wine with a richer aroma.
All types of grapes come in a variety of colors. While green, red and black are the most commonly consumed color varieties in the U.S., grape colors also include amber/yellow, blue-black, crimson, pink and purple. White grapes may be a term that you’re familiar with, but they’re actually green in color.
Grapeseed oil is another notable form of the grape because it’s high in polyunsaturated fatty acid omega-6s, especially linoleic acids. It’s also a good source of vitamin E and is great as a moisturizer for hair and skin.
With all the talk about sugar these days, many have concerns about the calories and carbohydrates found in grapes, but the benefits of grapes nutrition far outweigh those concerns. Here are just some of great things grapes nutrition provides:
Who doesn’t want to eat foods that will help them have a longer, healthier life? Well, the classic grape may be one of those amazing foods due to the phytonutrients found within them. Resveratrol, which is a stilbene phytonutrient mostly found in the grape skins but also found in grape seeds and grape flesh, has been shown to increase expression of three genes all related to longevity.
Studies indicate that resveratrol content varies significantly with genetic background, but generally, resveratrol totals are lower in the leaves than the skins. (1) That means the skin is responsible for a great deal of grapes nutrition benefits, particularly helping extend life. In fact, some of the longest-living cultures, like those in the blue zones, include grapes in their diets.
2. May Help Reduce Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
Metabolic syndrome, related diseases and obesity are the most prevalent nutrition-related issues in the U.S. Evidence suggests that polyphenols in grapes and grape products may reduce metabolic syndrome and prevent development of obesity and type 2 diabetes by acting as multi-target modulators with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. (2, 3)
Grapes have been classified as a low glycemic index (GI) food, with GI values ranging between 43–53. However, having a low GI value is not necessarily the same as having blood sugar benefits. Recent studies have shown that grapes, grape juices and grape extracts, due to the amazing phytonutrients found in them, may offer better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation and increased insulin sensitivity. (4)
Freeze-dried grape powder and grape powder extracts, obtained from red, green and blue-purple seeded and seedless California grapes, were tested for their effects on glucose tolerance and inflammation and showed improved glucose tolerance and reduced inflammation. In addition, grape seed extract may prevent metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and obesity while improving gut health.
3. Loaded with Antioxidants
When cells are exposed to oxidative stress, they easily undergo oxidative damage that leads to a cascade of degenerative processes that can cause numerous diseases. Antioxidants may be the most effective way to control oxidative stress and avoid occurrence of oxidative damage — therefore reducing the risks of health issues and life-threatening disease.
Flavonoids, found in grapes, represent high-antioxidant properties that help reduce oxidative stress. It’s reported that flavonoids, as a result of their metabolic conversion in the human body, may generate large amounts of simple phenolic acids, which have significant effects in scavenging free radicals and improving the action of other antioxidants.
Vitamin C and manganese are two important nutrients to note, particularly given that grapes are some of the highest-concentration vitamin C foods around, but grapes are filled with antioxidant phytonutrients that range from common carotenoids, like beta-carotene, to unusual stilbenes like resveratrol.
In fact, the number of different antioxidant nutrients in grapes would take awhile to list. Although the entire grape is useful to our bodies, the seed and the skin contain the richest concentration of antioxidants. Because of this, most research has been conducted on grape skin, grape skin extract, grape seed, grape seed extract, or on grape extracts that contain skin, seed and flesh. The flesh of the grape contains approximately 1/20th–1/100th of the total antioxidant capacity of the seed or the skin.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Action
Inflammation is a protective response of tissues against cell injury, irritation, pathogen invasions, as well as mechanism for eliminating damaged cells. If prolonged, chronic inflammation can develop, which is considered to be the main cause of diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune and pulmonary diseases.
Grapes nutrition polyphenols have been shown to decrease chronic inflammation. As natural compounds, grape flavonoids and proanthocyanidins can target multiple pathways to overcome chronic inflammation and may be more effective than synthetic anti-inflammatory drugs. Those compounds also make grapes some of the best anti-inflammatory foods around. (5)
5. Helps Keep Your Cardiovascular System in Good Shape
The list of cardiovascular benefits provided by grapes is pretty amazing! The cells in our blood need protection from potential oxygen damage. Chronic inflammation in our cardiovascular system can increase the risk for many types of cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, optimal regulation of the cardiovascular system is especially important.
Several studies have shown that consumption of grape products may have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system by enhancing endothelial function, decreasing LDL oxidation, improving vascular function, altering blood lipids and modulating inflammatory process. A recent study demonstrated that consumption of resveratrol-rich grape extract could provide vascular protective benefits in patients with coronary artery disease when compared to the action of a conventional grape extract or a placebo. (6)
6. May Help Prevent Cancer
Another area of special benefit of grape consumption is cancer prevention. The rich supply of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients provided by grapes nutrition can help us avoid the dangerous combination of chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, making this fruit a tremendous cancer-fighting food.
Fiber is greatly needed for a healthy colon, and grapes provide us with approximately 1 gram of fiber in every 60 calories. This antioxidant-fiber combination may be one of the reasons that colon cancer prevention has become more prevalent in health research on grapes. In fact, a study conducted by the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Milan and the San Paolo Hospital in Italy found that natural grape extracts regulate colon cancer cells malignancy. (7)
Researchers have shown that grape skin extract possesses positive chemotherapeutic results against breast cancer. (8) Let’s not forget the raisin, which has been noted for its effect on human colon cancer cells and pancreatic cancer cells by having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. (9, 10)
7. Better Brain Function
Studies suggest that the consumption of flavonoid-rich grape products may have a significant beneficial effect on brain function and the central nervous system. Grape flavonoids, specifically anthocyanins, can prevent neurodegenerative processes both by inhibition of neuro-inflammation and by reducing oxidative stress.
A clinical study demonstrated that 12 weeks supplementation with purple grape juice in the diet may have neurocognitive benefits in older adults with early memory decline. Consumption of grape juice was also found to improve memory functions in older adults with mild memory decline, possibly helping work as an Alzheimer’s natural treatment. (11)
8. Antimicrobial Benefits
Numerous grape phytonutrients have been shown to have antimicrobial properties. These phytonutrients range from common flavonoids like quercetin to less common stilbenes like piceatannol and resveratrol. While more studies need to be conducted, researchers think that they may be able to help us prevent microbe-related problems like food-borne illness. (12)
Grape juice, skin and seed extracts from table grapes have been found to have a strong inhibitory effect against the growth of some bacteria. Alcohol-free red and white wine extracts have been shown to have moderate antifungal activities on Candida albicans. This antifungal activity of grape products has made them attractive for commercial applications, such as skin care products. And the grape flavonoids may play an important role in a healthy gut, ultimately providing beneficial effects in control of weight loss.
One cup of fresh grapes has about: (13)
- 104 calories
- 27.3 grams carbohydrates
- 1.1 grams protein
- 0.2 gram fat
- 1.4 grams fiber
- 22 micrograms vitamin K (28 percent DV)
- 16.3 milligrams vitamin C (27 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram copper (10 percent DV)
- 288 milligrams potassium (8 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (5 percent DV)
Don’t let their small size fool you. As noted earlier in this article, the grape contains a ton of phytonutrients. A single grape variety most likely contains some, but not all, of the phytonutrients listed below: (14)
- Stilbenes — resveratrol, piceatannol, pterostilbene
- Flavanols — catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins, proanthocyanidins, viniferones
- Flavonols — quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, isorhamnetin
- Phenolic acids — caffeic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid, gallic acid
- Carotenoids — beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Are Seedless Grapes Genetically Modified?
Many think that if a grape is seedless, it has been genetically modified. Of course, GMO grapes should be avoided, but seedless does not mean they’ve been genetically engineered. Some seedless varieties of grapes are the result of natural mutations, and these varieties can be vegetatively propagated to allow for commercial production.
Other grape varieties produce seedless fruit if pollination is withheld while some can be produced by crossbreeding or grafting. None of these methods involve direct manipulation of the grape plant’s genetic material, keeping most of grapes nutrition intact. But like most foods, certified organic versions are best to ensure that you’re not consuming GMOs. (17, 18)
Should We Drink Red Wine?
The consumption of red wine and its benefits have been discussed for a very long time. The French paradox refers to research observations about heart health in the French population in relationship to its saturated fat intake.
Despite eating fairly large amounts of saturated fat in their overall diet, the French people, as a whole, have been observed to have much lower levels of heart disease than would be expected with high saturated fat intake.
It’s thought to come from the support of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidants provided to their cardiovascular systems by red wine. Research studies have shown that grapes may provide better blood pressure regulation, better total cholesterol regulation and reduced likelihood of cell adhesion to the blood vessel walls. (19)
In order to get everything grapes nutrition has to offer, you can add this fruit to a variety of dishes or create a grape-centric recipe. Try the following grape recipe to start:
Roasted Grapes with Walnuts
- 1/2 pound grapes, separated into small clusters and gently washed
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ cup walnut halves
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a saucepan, place the walnuts and lightly toast them on medium to high heat. Keep your eye on them, and be careful not to burn them as they will toast quickly. Once toasted, set aside.
- Place the grape clusters in a single layer on a baking sheet. In a bowl, blend the sesame oil, cinnamon, salt and then drizzle on top of the grapes. Roast for about 12 minutes until the skins are slightly crisp.
- Place in a small bowl or dish and top with the walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Try these delicious grapes recipes as well:
Though wild grapes are available, they’re not cultivated like the traditional grape, possibly due to anthropogenic pressures on their natural habitats and pathogens introduced from North America during the second part of the 19th century.
The cultivation and domestication of the grapevine appears to have occurred between the seventh and the fourth millennia BC, in a geographical area between the Black Sea and Iran. From this area, cultivated forms were spread by humans in the Near East, Middle East and Central Europe. (20)
Evidence of ancient winemaking was discovered dating back to the end of the seventh millennium BC. In addition, numerous archaeological grape seeds attributed to the cultivated grapevine were found in Chalcolithic and mid-Bronze Age archaeological level in the Near East. Grape cultivation gradually spread west from the eastern Mediterranean areas. It then spread from there, eventually working its way to the U.S. (21)
Since the fourth century, as the Christian faith spread its influence throughout Europe, the study of grapes and vineyards experienced a geographical expansion.
Though numerous regions within the U.S. grow grapes, today, more than 800,000 acres across California alone are planted with fresh grape, wine and raisin vineyards, and 99 percent of U.S. commercially grown table grapes are from California.
Grapes may pack a big punch with pesticides from the conventional growers. The 2014 edition of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides by the Environmental Working Group has once again identified conventionally grown grapes as one of most problematic fruits and vegetables in terms of pesticide residues.
By purchasing certified organic grapes, you can avoid the damaging intake of pesticides. In a recent study of 99 vineyards in the Aegean Sea area of the Mediterranean, pesticide residues were found on conventionally grown table grapes but were determined to be undetectable on grapes that had been organically grown. This is great news and provides the evidence needed that going organic is a must. (22)
- Grapes nutrition provides longevity, may help reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes, contains lots of antioxidants, exhibits anti-inflammatory action, helps keep your cardiovascular system in good shape, may help prevent cancer, boosts brain function, and provides antimicrobial benefits.
- The most commonly consumed grapes in the U.S. are green, red and black, but grapes can also be amber/yellow, blue-black, crimson, pink and purple. In addition, there are table grapes, most commonly eaten as is; wine grapes, used to produce wine; and rains grapes, dried by the sun to produce raisins.
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