Grapes: A Food For the Heart

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grapes_a_food_for_the_heart_imageBy Bree West

Grape vines have long been favored for their sweet and juicy fruit. They’ve been eaten since prehistoric times, and we know they have been cultivated as far back as 5000 B.C. Spanish explorers introduced grapes to America about 300 years ago during a Spanish mission to New Mexico where they quickly spread to California—an ideal growing location.

Today grapes are the leading fruit crop in the world, and there are three main species, European, North American, and French hybrids. European varieties are the most popular, accounting for about 95 percent of the grapes that are grown worldwide and include the popular Thompson seedless grape. These grapes are typically used as a table grape and for making wine, something they were highly regarded for in Greek and Roman civilizations. The North American grapes, including Concord grapes, are used for table grapes and juices, as the skins of these grapes are easily removed from the fruit. The French Hybrids were created from a crossbreed of European and North American grapes and are typically used for the making of wine.

Grapes are a great source of health-promoting flavonoids, or strong antioxidants, for the body. It’s usually a case of the darker the color of the grape, the higher the concentration of flavonoids. Grape seed extracts are also very high in these flavonoids, particularly the flavonoid procyanidolic oligomer, which is used medically for treating varicose veins and other vein disorders. Flavonoids have also been shown scientifically to help prevent and even reverse atherosclerosis.

Actually, grapes and grape products are even thought to be the explanation for the "French Paradox." The French eat a diet that is high in saturated fats and cholesterol, but they have a lower risk for heart disease than Americans. Many researchers think this disparity is due to the French diet of consuming grapes and grape products quite regularly. Grape products increase the antioxidant capability of the blood, which helps to protect against vascular damage and prevent blood from clumping together and forming clots that lead to heart attack and stroke.

nutritional_benefits_of_grapes_imageAnother benefit found in grapes that has become increasingly studied and popular is the compound resveratrol. Resveratrol is from a group of compounds called phytoalexins that plants naturally produce to defend themselves against environmental stressors such as bad weather or insects. It is an antioxidant that has been scientifically shown to help reduce the buildup of plaque from the arteries, which helps to also decrease the risk of atherosclerosis. Resveratrol also shows some promising anti-cancer and anti-aging benefits due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Fresh grape skins have the highest amount of resveratrol at about 5–10mg per serving whereas red wine has about 1.5–3mg per liter.

Grapes have nutritional benefits that are similar to those of other berries and their nutritional quality can be enhanced when you eat the seeds, which are edible in all varieties. Specifically, grapes are good sources of vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and K, as well as flavonoids and resveratrol. Though grapes are high in antioxidants, they are also high in sugar, so they should be eaten in moderation. The good news is it doesn't take a large amount of grapes to get the benefits from the antioxidants.

Grapes don't ripen after harvesting, so when buying grapes, look for ones that are well colored, plump, wrinkle-free ,and firmly attached to the stem. Grapes should be kept in the fridge where they should stay fresh for several days.

Concorde Grape Cheesecake with Fig and Grape Puree

Crust:

  • 1 cup macadamia nuts 
  • 1 tbs agave
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Filling:

  • 1 cup fresh concorde grape juice
  • 1 1/2 cups cashews 
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tsp agave
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp melted coconut oil 
  • 1 tbsp lecithin

Get the recipe at RawFoodRecipes.com

Claims on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Sunwarrior’s awesome expert writers do not replace doctors and don’t always cite studies, so do your research, as is wise. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.

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