9 Healthy Benefits of Snacking on Grapes

They're crisp, juicy, refreshing - and remarkably nutritious.

Christina Manian, Real Simple, Jun 29, 2023

Grapes are a cherished fruit for folks of almost every age-a common finger food for kiddos, the star ingredient of adults' favorite happy hour sip, a crisp and healthy midday snack, a jewel of hearty chicken salads and cheese boards. And with as many varieties of grapes and grape-based products available come an equally impressive amount of health benefits, including antioxidants and nutrients that support immune health, brain health, eye health, and much more. So you can enjoy these bite-sized morsels even more knowing how good they are for you, too.

The History of Grapes

Of all the fruits you can find, grapes may have one of the richest histories among them. Archaeological evidence shows that the cultivation of grapes (also known by their latin name Vitis vinifera L.), dates back as early as 6500 BC in the Middle East, with cultural mythology believing these vining fruits to symbolize fertility and abundance.1 The popularity of grapes soon spread like wildfire across the globe, primarily driven by winemaking.

These spherical fruits are technically berries, spawning from the perennial vining Vitis vinifera plant, whose woody arms can climb to upwards of 12 feet in height. There are so many varieties of grapes to enjoy: green, blue, purple, red, pink, even cotton candy flavored. The flavor profiles of these types vary from tart to sweet. Some are perfect for snacking and cooking with, while others are best used in wine production. And with over 27 million metric tons of grapes produced globally during the 2022 to 2023 marketing year, grapes are more coveted now than ever.

Top Health Benefits of Grapes

Beyond their mouthwatering flavor, maybe one of the most alluring aspects of these delectable fruits is the multitude of health benefits they offer. Here are some of the most noteworthy nutrients and health perks of grapes.

01 Grapes contain heaps of antioxidants for an immunity boost.

If you're looking to save up your sick days this year, grapes are a must-add to your grocery cart. These pops of flavor are loaded with vitamin C and plant compounds including resveratrol, quercetin, and anthocyanins.

All of these micronutrients serve as antioxidants in the body, reducing inflammation and defending against disease-causing free radicals.2 Magrone T, Magrone M, Russo MA, et al. Recent advances on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of red grape polyphenols: in vitro and in vivo studies. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):35. doi:10.3390/antiox9010035

In fact, one 2016 review of the current evidence found grapes to be super effective at preventing cancer, thanks to its unique nutrition profile.3 Resveratrol is a well-established broad spectrum anti-cancer agent, addressing dozens of varieties of this diagnosis, from brain and gastrointestinal cancers to thyroid and bone cancers.4 Quercetin equally measures up in the cancer department, helping to eliminate cancer cells through multiple mechanisms in their cellular growth and metabolism cycles.5 And, of course, we can't forget anthocyanins which inhibit cancer cell growth, spread, and even reverse cancer cell drug resistance making them more sensitive to chemotherapy.6

02 Grapes keep your eyesight on point.

While we have plant compounds at the top of mind, grapes also contain the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. These plant chemicals are actually plant pigments of the carotenoid family, well-known for boosting eye health (hello, carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash!). Lutein and zeaxanthin are especially effective for eye health, because they're the only two carotenoids that actually accumulate in the retina. This enables them to fight against age-related eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts.7

03 Grapes protect your heart.

On the heart health front, grapes also seriously deliver as great sources of vitamin K, potassium, and, of course, plant compounds. "Grapes are high in vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting," explains Amy Davis, RD, LDN, dietitian at FRESH Communications. Healthy blood clotting is key not only to wound healing, but also to the prevention of clot-related cardiac events like heart attack and stroke.8

Meanwhile, "resveratrol can improve cholesterol levels and help lower blood pressure," Davis adds. The impact resveratrol has on heart disease is well-documented in the research, as is quercetin.910 Studies have also shown that grape seed extract is particularly effective at treating high blood pressure.11 Managing cholesterol and blood pressure levels are paramount in avoiding the more dangerous implications of heart disease.

04 Grapes support healthy bones.

Step aside dairy-grapes are here to give your bone-boosting powers a run for their money. When it comes to growing and maintaining strong bones, there are far more vitamins and minerals at play than just calcium, which gets all the attention. And you can have many of these in grapes. In fact, you'll find vitamin K, vitamin C, copper, potassium, and magnesium in these ancient berries, all of which work together to support healthy bones and teeth.

05 Grapes are a natural source of the sleep hormone melatonin.

If you have any sleep troubles whatsoever, grapes are here for you as an excellent natural source of melatonin, the primary hormone involved in regulating your sleep-wake cycle.12 This means they're a great thing to munch on to support your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, potentially addressing concerns and various sleep disorders.13

06 Grapes can promote metabolic health and stability.

These juicy fruits can also help regulate our blood sugars and support a healthy metabolism. One review of both animal and human studies found resveratrol to both lower insulin resistance and improve glycemic control (i.e. the body's ability to manage its blood sugars effectively).14 A longitudinal study of over three million participants found that fruit consumption, especially grapes, was associated with lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.15

07 Grapes champion brain health.

Our brains can also benefit from a daily serving of grapes, primarily due to their resveratrol, water, and vitamin B6 content. One review of the data found resveratrol to be linked with neuroprotective mechanisms that can help stave off neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's.16 Quercetin found in grapes also boasts similar brain benefits.17 Meanwhile, a randomized control trial found that a grape extract supplement was linked with improved cognition in older adults.18 Grapes are also over 80 percent water, a vital element for brain health, aiding in brain cell communication, removing toxins and waste from the brain, and delivering nutrients to this all-important organ. All of these impacts equate to hydration's capacity to improve memory and cognition while reducing the likelihood or severity of mood disorders, headaches, and brain-related diseases.19 The vitamin B6 found in grapes also supports healthy brain development.20

08 Grapes are loaded with B vitamins.

Finally, these clustered berries pack a punch when it comes to B vitamins, offering notable amounts of vitamin B6, thiamin, and riboflavin. While we already know the B6 supports the brain, it also plays a crucial role in overall nervous system and immune system health. Meanwhile, thiamin (B1) is central to macronutrient metabolism, and riboflavin (B2) aids in red blood cell production, immune function, and overall growth and development.21

09 Grapes contribute to healthy, glowing skin.

Grapes can even help improve and maintain your skin health. Resveratrol not only helps to reduce inflammation in the skin, but also to protect it from UV rays, wrinkles, and melanoma.22 This fantastic plant compound even helps to stimulate collagen production, further helping to slow signs of aging.23

A Word on Wine, Grapes' Fermented Cousin

It's true that the health benefits associated with grapes, particularly in regards to its resveratrol content, still stand when it comes to wine. But since this powerful plant compound is found in the skin of grapes, red wine is the best option for reaping these grape health benefits during happy hour or dinner.

That said, the alcohol content in wine is, of course, arguably outweighs any health benefits associated with the micronutrient content of this beloved sip. One glass of red wine per day (or less/less often!) is plenty for women, according to the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Not to be a buzzkill, but alcohol, unfortunately, negatively impacts the body on multiple fronts. From promoting inflammation, especially in the gut, to increasing risk for multiple types of cancer, liver disease, mental health disorders, pancreatic illness, and heart disease, there's few areas of our health that booze doesn't touch. In fact, these risks are so pronounced that at the beginning of 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement saying that all evidence points to no amount of alcohol being safe for our health.

Are Grapes Safe to Eat for Everyone?

Before you zoom to the supermarket for 10 bunches of grapes, there are a few additional nuggets of knowledge to keep in mind. "Since grapes are high in vitamin K, those taking blood thinners shouldn't overdo it on consumption," Davis explains. "Grapes can also be a choking hazard for kids, so they should be sliced into smaller pieces before serving to little ones." Grape Recipes Otherwise, grapes fit in with so many ingredients and recipes, both sweet and savory. The perfect snack on their own, straight from the fridge (after a rinse), grapes can be eaten fresh or frozen for a quick burst of energy. You can also add them to salads, oatmeals, chutneys, roasted vegetables, and baked goods. "They're also a great smoothie addition to sweeten without any added sugar," Davis adds.

No matter how you enjoy them, fresh or frozen, cooked or fermented, grapes are an undoubtedly nutritious addition to your healthy routine that the whole family will go wild for. For more inspiration check out these delicious, grape-studded recipes.

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