Roughly 8,000 years ago, people cultivated grape vines in what is now the Middle East. Nowadays, grapes come in different colors, forms, seedless or not, and popular juices and wines. Today, 77 million tons of grapes are grown every year around the world, with only 36% of that amount being table grapes. Grapes are also healthy snacks, with people enjoying them out of hand.
Grapes are not just snacks; rather, they are quite versatile. The versatility, variety, and portability of grapes allows them to grow around the world in different conditions. The single largest producer of grapes in the world is Spain, contributing to 13% of the global supply. China comes in at a close second with 12%, France produces 11%, Italy offers 9% and Turkey produces 6%. All of those nations together make up just over 50% of global grape production.
Health Benefits Of Grapes
According to research, a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Similar to other fruits and vegetables, grapes are naturally rich in fiber and water. They also exhibit powerful antioxidants, which make them a particularly healthy fruit to add to your diet. In Ancient Egypt, for example, people used sap from grapevines to make ointments that remedied skin and eye conditions. Other healers used grapes to make wine elixirs that relieved constipation, smallpox, liver disease, and cholera. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of grapes.
Grapes contain polyphenols, including resveratrol, which exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipid-lowering properties. All of these actions may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Grapes may also prevent platelet build-up and be able to reduce blood pressure. Researchers found that grapes contain a significant amount of potassium, which helps combat the effects of excess sodium in the body. Additionally, one study of data from 12,267 adults in the United States found that the more sodium people consume in relation to potassium intake, the higher the risk of all-cause mortality.
The sugars in grapes are not a major concern for diabetics, but it’s best to keep track of the carbohydrates. A handful of grapes won’t lead to a crazy blood glucose imbalance, but an entire carton might. In 2013, a study was published regarding grapes’ potential preventative properties against diabetes. The study observed a large group of women over the course of two decades. The results indicated that those who consumed more whole fruits, particularly grapes, apples, and blueberries, had a much lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Drinking fruit juice, however, increased the risk of the condition. Additional animal studies found that grape seed extract may play a role in diabetes prevention. Researchers from a 2015 study found that this diabetes prevention effect may be due to the resveratrol content in grapes. Resveratrol can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
The research seems to come back to resveratrol and the other antioxidants in grapes, in regards to associated health benefits. Resveratrol is highly concentrated in the skin of red grapes, and lab studies suggest that it may slow or prevent the growth of tumors in lymph, stomach, liver, colon, breast, and skin cancer. Grapes also contain quercetin, which is another anti-inflammatory flavonoid that may slow cancer growth. A 2009 review of studies found that grapes exhibit various anti-cancer agents, with resveratrol being the primary inhibitor of breast cancer cell growth.
Resveratrol seems to benefit the body in many ways, specifically in regards to inhibiting inflammation and oxidative stress. It’s very common for oxidative stress to play a role in the development of both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. A small-scale study monitored 12 elderly people with memory issues but not dementia. Participants who drank one or two cups of fresh Concord grape juice every day for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements in verbal learning, compared to those who did not drink juice. Another study reported similar findings.
Grapes are excellent sources of both vitamin K and copper, two nutrients that contribute to stronger bones. One study found that vitamin K may play a role in preventing breaks or fractures. The same study found that women who consumed 110 micrograms of vitamin K daily were 30% less likely to break a hip, compared to women who didn’t consume vitamin K. Vitamin K also increases the effectiveness of osteocalcin, a protein that promotes calcium balance and bone mineralization. Copper also works to maintain strong bones, with one study explaining the copper is necessary for the enzymes involved with the synthesis of bone components.