From red, to green, to purple and almost every color in between, grapes are one of the healthiest little packages in nature. Grapes are a low glycemic food, falling between 43 and 53 on the GI scale. Recent studies connect grapes with better blood sugar balance and better insulin regulation. Grapes are packed with phytonutrients, compounds which occur naturally in plants and have been proven beneficial for humans, such as beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Included in these phytonutrients is resveratrol, a powerful anti-aging and cardio-friendly compound. One cup of grapes also contains 33% of your daily recommended intake of manganese, a mineral needed to help your body produce energy, metabolize fat and protein, and keep your nerves and immune system healthy. Grapes contain catechins, the same compound found in green tea, which have shown to be useful in the fight against free radicals (the molecules which cause cellular damage). Grapes also contain the bioflavonoid quercetin, which your body cannot produce on its own. Quercetin has shown to be beneficial as a respiratory support, an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and in athletic endurance.
What is a low glycemic food and why does it matter?
The Glycemic Index classifies foods based on how they affect blood sugar levels in the 2 to 3 hours following a meal. The index is based on foods high in carbohydrates (sugar) since foods primarily made of fats and proteins have no significant effect on blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the Index is influenced by the size of your portions, fiber content, and the method of food preparation.
Foods are rated on the glycemic index by an assigned score. Foods with an assigned score that is higher than 70 are considered high glycemic foods. Foods scoring between 55 and 69 are considered medium glycemic foods. Foods rated under 55 are considered low glycemic foods.
Foods with a low glycemic score, such as grapes, oatmeal, and carrots do not affect blood sugar levels radically and tend to keep it balanced longer.
An Explanation of Phytonutrients and Their Benefits
Phytonutrients are more easily understood if you know that phyto is the Greek word meaning plant. Ergo, phytonutrients are compounds which come from plants that help promote human health. The term phytonutrient is sometimes used interchangeably with “phytochemicals”. Phytochemicals are an integral part of the plant’s defense mechanism that help shield it from disease and injury, insects, environmental toxins, drought and excessive heat. And if they are beneficial to the plant while growing, they are beneficial to us once consumed.
Phytonutrients are most commonly associated with the “eat a rainbow” meme as eating a rainbow refers to choosing foods of all colors to consume throughout your day to reap the widest and greatest health benefit from your nutritional choices. In general, phytonutrients are associated with red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, peppers, squash, and berries, and with dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.
Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients related to vitamin A. In some cases, they can act as precursors of vitamin A; some act as antioxidants or have other important functions. The best known subclass of the carotenoids are the carotenes, of which beta-carotene is the most widely known. Also included in this group is lycopene. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the liver. 1
Flavonoids are potent antioxidants (greater than vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene) and help chelate heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic, in our body. Flavonoids are classified as “secondary metabolites”, meaning they are not essential for the growth of the plant but are import to its good health. Plants produce flavonoids to protect themselves from cell injury, pathogens, fungi, and bacteria. In recent years, resveratrol, found in red wine, was the topic of study for cancer prevention and its apparent ability to counteract aging-related effects. Another flavonoid, quercetin, is used to treat and prevent asthma symptoms and is a highly effective free radical scavenger in the body. It also acts like an anti-inflammatory which may help guard against heart disease. Catechins, also a flavonoids, are a phytonutrient found in the leaves of green tea which medical research has determined are beneficial for the good health of humans as well. In laboratory tests, the catechins present in tea leaves have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. In addition to this, they are able to prevent the activity of free radicals which can lead to cancer. 2
Grape Seed Extract
Made from grinding the seeds of red wine grapes, grape seed extract is growing in popularity thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Beneficial for cardiovascular conditions, it may also help with arthritic conditions, poor circulation, and high cholesterol. It may also help with eye disease related to diabetes. Grape seed extract is also being studied for use in other conditions such as PMS, skin damage, and wound healing.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Grapes
All of the following cardio benefits have been demonstrated in research studies on grapes and grape components:
•better blood pressure regulation, including blood pressure reduction if high
•better total cholesterol regulation, including total cholesterol reduction if high
•reduced LDL cholesterol levels
•reduced LDL oxidation
•reduced levels of reactive oxygen molecules in the blood
•reduced likelihood of cell adhesion to the blood vessel walls
•less clumping together of platelet cells, when inappropriate
•enhanced release of nitric oxide from endothelial cells lining the blood vessel walls in situations where vasodilation is needed
•better inflammatory regulation in the blood
•increase levels of glutathione in the blood3
GrapeSeedRich Super Strength Grape Seed Concentrate is a 100:1 concentrate guaranteed to contain a minimum of 95% polyphenols and 80% proanthocyanidins. Unlike some grape seed products, GrapeSeedRich (Vitis vinifera) is not made from oven- or sun-dried seeds. It is made exclusively from fresh, non-GMO grape seeds separated during juice production. This method produces a high ratio of the key polyphenols. The extraction process uses water and ultra filtration; not organic or alcohol solvents. The result is a 100:1 concentrate of pure, potent polyphenols.Polyphenols in grape seed are leucoanthocyanins or proanthocyanidins. These flavonoids help to strengthen blood vessels, increasing the tone and elasticity of capillary walls, enhance the effect of vitamin C, and help to quench free radicals. That is why grape seed leucoanthocyanins or proanthocyanidins may be useful in a number of disorders. They improve the biochemical properties of blood vessels, and help different types of vascular disorders including capillary fragility, peripheral chronic venous insufficiency and microangiopathy of the retina.GrapeSeedRich may help allergy sufferers because the leucoanthocyanins exert an inhibiting effect on histamine release, suppressing allergy symptoms.
“Spa”ctacular Frozen Grapes
Great for an after-school snack, appetizer, or sweet treat, you can even use them in your daily smoothies.
1 cup seedless green grapes
1 cup seedless red grapes
¼ cup white sugar
1. Removes grapes from stems and place in a colander to wash thoroughly.
2. Place grapes in a sealable bag, pour sugar into the bag, seal and shake to coat grapes evenly.
3. Arrange on a paper towel on a cookie sheet in a single layer to air-dry, about 15 minutes. Then place cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Transfer to a plastic bag at that point if you’re going to freeze them for longer.
Thanks to Allrecipes.com for this recipe.
Frozen Grape Fruit Salad
You can certainly use the low/no fat versions of the cream cheese and Miracle Whip to make this recipe a little more health-conscious if you wish. A great idea for gatherings.
2 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp. Miracle Whip salad dressing
2 tbsp. pineapple syrup
24 marshmallows quartered or 2 c. plus 40 miniature marshmallows
2 c. pineapple tidbits, drained
2 c. mandarin oranges
1 1/2-2 c. seedless grapes, cut in half
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
Soften cheese, blend with salad dressing. Beat in pineapple syrup and add marshmallows and pineapple. Fold in whipped cream, grapes and mandarin oranges. Pour in 11 1/2 x 13 inch pan. Freeze until firm. When serving, cut into squares and arrange on lettuce leaves about 15 minutes before serving so it can thaw a bit. Serves 12.
Thanks to cooks.com for this recipe.
1. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
2. What are Catechins?
3. Whole Foods
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner, registered with Natural Health Practitioners Canada, who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, naturopathic medicine, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch ® Practitioner and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.