When you think of vitamin C, you may tend to think of oranges as a good source.
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But did you know that grapes are also an excellent way to get vitamin C? With other nutrients like antioxidants, vitamin K and potassium, these little globes are jam-packed with tons of goodness.
“Grapes are fantastic because not only are they affordable, but they’re versatile,” says registered dietitian Anthony DiMarino, RD. “They can be used in a lot of different dishes and situations.”
DiMarino talks with us about the health benefits of grapes and how to incorporate them into your meals.
Benefits of eating grapes
Grapes are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also full of water, which can help keep you hydrated. Here’s how eating grapes can benefit your health.
Helps your immune system
Since grapes are a great source of vitamin C, they may help your immune system fight against bacterial and viral infections like yeast infections.
“If we have a strong immune system, our body’s better able to fight against and prevent any sudden, short-term illness,” says DiMarino.
Full of antioxidants, grapes may help fight off free radicals, which are molecules that can damage cells and may lead to cancer.
“So antioxidants go out and reduce what we call oxidative stress to help reduce the risk of cancer,” says DiMarino.
Grapes also boast the antioxidant called resveratrol, which may protect against cancer by reducing inflammation and blocking the growth of cancer cells. Grapes also contain catechins, quercetin and anthocyanins, other antioxidants which may be a powerful combination against cancer.
Lowers blood pressure
“Grapes are very low in sodium,” says DiMarino. “They fit well into a low-sodium diet plan helping to reduce blood pressure.”
DiMarino says that grapes are also high in potassium, which can help balance out blood pressure too. If you have a low intake of potassium, you may have an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Protects against heart disease
Resveratrol may not only help prevent cancer. It has also been shown to help protect against heart disease.
A study also shows that those whose diets had more potassium than sodium were less likely to die from heart disease than individuals who didn’t have as much potassium in their diets.
Reduces high cholesterol
You’ll find plenty of fiber in grapes, making them a good option to help lower high cholesterol.
“I always explain it almost like a street sweeper. It gets in your bloodstream and carries all that cholesterol out of the body into the liver where it gets processed,” DiMarino says.
In a study of people with high cholesterol, those who ate three cups of red grapes a day for eight weeks had lower total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Protects against diabetes
Grapes have a low glycemic index number, meaning they won’t raise your blood sugar.
In fact, studies show that nutrients in grapes may decrease blood sugar levels and may increase insulin sensitivity, which may help your body use glucose.
Helps maintain brain health
It’s all about resveratrol, which benefits the body in many ways. The powerful antioxidant helps reduce oxidative stress, which can have a positive effect on your brain.
“Think about Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, those can be signs of oxidative stress,” says DiMarino. “Resveratrol may help reduce the chances of those diseases from happening.”
Though a study shows the potential of the antioxidant when it comes to preventing cognitive disorders, there’s still needs to be research on humans to truly understand if it’s beneficial.
Improves bone health
Thanks to vitamin K and minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, eating grapes may help you maintain strong bones.
While all those nutrients are important for bone health, more studies are needed to fully understand how grapes may help bone health.
Slows down aging
Yes, you read that right. If you’re looking to fight Father Time, grapes may help keep you youthful.
Resveratrol (yes, that powerful antioxidant again) stimulates the SirT1 gene, which has been linked to a longer lifespan by affecting cell structure and protecting cells.
“It helps protect certain genes which leads to healthy aging and longevity,” says DiMarino.
Having a hard time getting a good night’s sleep? Grapes may help you catch some ZZZs.
“Grapes do have a degree of melatonin in them,” says DiMarino. “So they’re a great evening snack. They don’t have a lot of calories and they can potentially help you fall asleep.”
What kind of grapes should you eat?
There’s a lot of options out there — ranging in color from green, white, purple and red and coming with fun names like cotton candy and moon drops. So which ones should you eat?
“What’s most important is that you choose an option closest to its natural form,” says DiMarino. “So instead of drinking grape juice or eating raisins, the original, unprocessed grape is where you’ll get the most nutrition.”
A serving of grapes is about a cup. Consider adding them to smoothies and salads like chicken salad. Try freezing them too for a sweet treat.
“You can definitely reap the benefits by having grapes two to three times a week,” says DiMarino. “They’re available year-round and can be a great snack.”