From being used in dishing out sinful desserts and refreshing fruit bowls to being renowned as the primary ingredient in the wine making process, it is not without reason that grapes are known as the queen of fruits. Classified under the family of berries, grapes come in different varieties as well as colours – green, red, blue, purple and black. While majority of the production of grapes in the world are used by the wine making industry, the remaining lot is consumed as fruits and a small portion is used in making dried fruits.
Tracing its roots, it is said that grapes were first domestically cultivated in the Middle East, where it soon became popular when the city of Shiraz started using it to make wine. Eventually, other countries also started growing it and using it in the wine making process.
Grapes are easily available in the markets throughout the year. The vine containing the cluster of berries are not only pretty to look at and delicious with its sweet and tarty taste, but are loaded with essential nutrients that work for the well-being of the body.
Why Grapes are Good for You?
Researchers and many studies have found that including grapes in one’s diet can actually be good for health as it has numerous health benefiting properties –
1. Loaded with Antioxidants Grapes are a powerhouse of antioxidants – they contain a wide range of phytonutrients right from carotenoids to polyphenols. Studies have revealed that these phytonutrients help in preventing certain kinds of cancers and help in maintaining heart health. Among polyphenols, resveratrol is known for its miraculous properties such as inhibiting the formation of free radicals that could cause cancer and dilating blood vessels to ease blood flow and lower blood pressure. Point to note: The antioxidant content is the highest in the seeds and the skin. So, do make use of them.
2. Prevents Skin Problems It is found that resveratrol prevents signs of ageing and other skin problems. According to a study conducted by the team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), resveratrol, when combined with a common acne medication benzoyl peroxide, fights the acne causing bacteria.
3. High Source of Potassium The nutritional breakup of grapes reveals that per 100 grams of the fruit contains 191 mg of potassium. High intake of potassium and lowering sodium content can help your body in numerous ways. Potassium also counteracts excess sodium. A low-sodium-high-potassium diet has proven beneficial for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart health in most cases. According to Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist, author and founder of the Digestive Centre for Women in Washington D.C., a bloated stomach can invite many health-related problems. Cutting down on salt intake and focusing on potassium-rich fiber can help in getting a flat stomach.
4. Good for the Eyes According to a study done by University of Miami, Florida, grapes promote eye health from signalling changes at the cellular level to directly countering oxidative stress. Including grapes in the diet results in lower levels of inflammatory proteins and higher amounts of protective proteins in the retinas, which is the part of the eye that contains the cells that respond to light, known as photoreceptors.
5. Boost Brain Power Certain studies have found that resveratrol helps in increasing blood flow to the brain, thereby it could help speed up mental responses and prove to be beneficial for those suffering from brain related ailments like Alzheimer’s. A study done by the University of Switzerland also found that resveratrol can help remove plaques and free radicals, which affect the brain.
6. Good for the Knees A study done by Texas Woman's University has established that daily intake of grapes can help get relief from knee pain, especially the ones triggered due to symptomatic osteoarthritis. Grapes are high on antioxidants, most important and beneficial one being polyphenols, which help in improving the flexibility and mobility of joints.
7. Anti-Inflammatory Properties It has been found that grapes contain certain enzymes which bring about anti-inflammatory effect in our body. As such it brings about relief to the arteries, promotes heart health and helps in other repair functions of the body.
How to Include Grapes in Your Diet
Besides all the health benefits, grapes are also loaded with vitamins and essential minerals such as Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C and D, calcium, iron and magnesium. However, one shouldn’t overload on grapes as they also contain sugar. It is said that berries should be included at least 3-4 days in a person’s weekly diet plan. And one should always consume a mix of fruits for better benefits. Although if you are consuming only grapes alone, then the serving per day could be 2-3 cups, considering each cup contains about 15-20 grapes.
Cooking with Grapes
The juicy flesh and the sweet and tarty flavour make this fruit an ideal ingredient to cook with. Enjoy them whole by adding them to fruit bowls and summer salads. Try and get your hands on the different coloured grapes (blue and red) to add some drama to your dish. Team them with pearl barley, lettuce, chopped cucumber, capsicum – choices are aplenty!
Coming to baking, you can use them to make berry tarts and clafoutis, top them on pavlovas or pannacottas, roast them along with chicken, or make tea cakes. You could also use them to make sweet and spicy chutneys, compotes and sauces; shake up some refreshing mocktails; or even use them to make sorbets.