Grapes - the marble-like delights loved by all, have been a part of our diet since time immemorial. Of course, with time, we learnt to cultivate different types of grapes, experimented and found the various uses of grapes, and reaped the many health benefits of eating grapes.
Two factors have made grapes the go-to fruit for all ages - their rich taste and immense health benefits. Packed with vitamins and other nutrients, the health benefits of eating grapes - from skincare to weight loss - are worth admiring.
Apart from being consumed as a fruit, there are quite a few other uses of grapes such as winemaking, aromatherapy, and in the treatment of various ailments.
Let's get to know this wonder fruit a little more.
History of grapes
Grapes are true berries and belong to the family Vitaceae. Their botanical name is Vitis vinifera. Growing in clusters, grapes are consumed either raw or processed to make products like raisins, wine, vinegar, jam and jelly.
Grapes are believed to have originated 130 million years ago in Europe. They were first cultivated around 6,000 BC in modern-day Georgia and Armenia, and Iraq (Mesopotamia). For centuries, grapes were used only to make wine. This practice continued until the 16th century. Ancient inscriptions and drawings of wine jugs prove that wine was a major part of the cuisine. But, during the rule of the French King Francois I (1494-1547), things changed and people began consuming grapes as fruit. However, even today, the quantity of grapes used for making wine is more than what is consumed as fruit.
It is believed that grapes were brought to India by the Persians who invaded Maharashtra in 1,300 AD.
Different types of grapes
Although there are around 10,000 different varieties of grapes cultivated across the world, only a few make it to our homes as table grapes. Here's a look at some of the popular global varieties of grapes:
Moon drops: These are purple-skinned, finger-like grapes with a firm and crunchy flesh. They are mostly grown in Central California, USA.
Concord: Bluish-purple in colour, Concord grapes are sweet and full of flavour with easy-to-peel skins and large seeds. They are grown in areas around New York, Washington, Michigan and Lake Ontario, USA.
Champagne: These are one of the smallest variety of grapes, with tender flesh and a sweet taste. They are cultivated in California, USA, and in parts of Europe around the Mediterranean sea.
Crimson seedless: These are the most popular table grapes with a light red colour, firm flesh, and a sweet and tart taste. They are grown in California, USA.
White grapes (green grapes):
Cotton candy: These have a distinct cotton candy-like taste and are one of the most popular varieties across the world. They are grown around Central California, USA.
Riesling: Mostly used for making wine, this variety has a sweet taste with a tinge of acidic flavour. They are grown in Austria, Germany, Canada, New York region of the USA, and Alsace region of France.
Sultana: Commonly known as Thompson Seedless, these Turkish-native, small, oval-shaped grapes are loaded with sugar, and are mostly used to make raisins. They are grown in Turkey, California in the USA, and Australia.
Fry Muscadine: These cherry-tomato sized brown-gold grapes have a crispy outside and a sweet taste. They are cultivated in Georgia.
There are certain varieties of grapes grown exclusively in India too. In fact, our country is among the top ten grape-producing countries. The grapes produced in India can be broadly classified into four major varieties. They are:
Dilkhush (clone of Anab-e-Shahi)
Thompson seedless and its clones (Tas-A-Ganesh, Sonaka and Manik Chaman)
Nutritional value of grapes
Although small, grapes are packed with nutrients. Here's a look at the nutritional value of grapes (serving size of 100g):
Total fat 0.2g
Saturated fat 0.1g
Total carbohydrate 18g
Dietary fibre 0.9g
Betaine 0.1 mg
Choline 5.6 mg
Folate 2.00 mcg
Folic acid 0.00 mcg
Niacin 0.188 mg
Pantothenic acid 0.050 mg
Riboflavin 0.070 mg
Thiamin 0.069 mg
Vitamin A 66.00 IU
Vitamin B6 0.086 mg
Vitamin C 3.2 mg
Vitamin E 0.19 mg
Vitamin K 14.6 mcg
Calcium 10.00 mg
Copper 0.127 mg
Fluoride 7.8 mcg
Iron 0.36 mg
Magnesium 7.00 mg
Manganese 0.071 mg
Phosphorus 20.00 mg
Sodium 2.00 mg
Zinc 0.07 mg
Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Health benefits of eating grapes
Use over the years and modern-day research have both proved that grapes have plenty of health benefits. Here's a look at some of them:
Cancer: Grapes contain resveratrol, a phytochemical which acts against the growth of cancer cells. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, resveratrol can slow the growth of cancer cells and inhibit the formation of tumors in the lymph, liver, stomach and breast cells. It can also trigger the death of leukemic and colon cancer tumors.
Blood pressure: Resveratrol can reduce hypertension by improving the dilatation of blood vessels, which allows a free flow of blood. This avoids clogging of the blood vessels which is the main cause of heart diseases.
Heart health: A research article titled, 'Grapes and Cardiovascular Disease', states that the various polyphenol compounds present in grapes, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and resveratrol, play a crucial role in curing cardiovascular diseases. They reduce blood pressure and prevent irregular heart rhythms.
Constipation: Grapes have dietary fibre which relieves indigestion and irritation in the stomach. The fibre also facilitates the smooth passage of stools. It also helps reduce dyspepsia which causes bloating, nausea, burping and discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen.
Allergies: The polyphenols in grapes have antioxidant properties and relieve conditions such as congestion and inflammation of the airways, and swollen sinuses. Grapes also increase the level of moisture in the lungs, which helps provide relief in asthma.
Diabetes: Resveratrol helps in bringing down the blood sugar levels in non-diabetics and plays an important role in preventing diabetes. It also reduces the risk of heart ailments in diabetic patients. Although grapes contain sugar, their low glycaemic index doesn't increase blood sugar levels.
Diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy: Polyphenols extracted from grape seeds have been known to be very effective in treating diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy.
Eye health: Grapes contain lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are vital for good eye health. They reduce the levels of inflammatory protein, while simultaneously increasing the levels of protective protein in the retina, thus improving eye health.
Acne: Resveratrol's antioxidant properties inhibit the growth of bacteria that causes acne. It also strengthens blood vessels, thereby enhancing skin elasticity.
Skin: Grapes have vitamin C which is essential for the formation of collagen, which helps in the growth of cells and blood vessels. Resveratrol protects the skin from harmful weather, and improves the strength and firmness of the skin. Grapes also contain antioxidants that can help with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
Weight loss: Grapes are low in calories and have no fat at all. In addition to this, the presence of resveratrol and dietary fibre make them ideal weight-loss foods. Resveratrol lowers the ability of the cells to store fat and causes fat cells to disintegrate. This plays a significant role in aiding weight loss.
Hair: The antioxidants in grapes increase blood circulation in the scalp which results in good hair growth. Grape seed oil is used to get soft, shiny and manageable hair. It also acts as a good moisturiser and cures dandruff.
Pregnancy: Since grapes provide vital nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and folic acid, they can be consumed during pregnancy. However, they should be had in moderation, since excessive amounts of resveratrol might cause toxicity in pregnant women.
Brain power: Resveratrol speeds up the mental response of the human mind by increasing the blood flow to the brain by 200%. Grapes also reduce the oxidative stress in the brain, which promotes memory and overall brain health.
Cholesterol: Grapes contain the compound pterostilbene, which can lower the blood cholesterol and triglyceride level, and prevent cardiovascular diseases. The antioxidants in grapes also prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which is responsible for causing coronary diseases.
Bones: Minerals such as copper, manganese and iron are present in grapes. These promote the growth of bones and strengthen them as well. They also improve bone calcium retention and collagen formation, which prevents conditions like osteoporosis.
Anti-ageing: The antioxidants and vitamin C present in grapes protect the skin from the effects of free radicals. This tones the skin, eliminates wrinkles and dark spots, and reverses the signs of ageing. Grapes also speed up metabolism which induces perspiration and gives a radiant appearance.
Grape juice benefits
Grape juice has qualities similar to that of the fruit. It can be given to children and those adults who find it difficult to eat table grapes. According to a study by Lamport et al, consumption of grape juice improved immediate spatial memory and performance in everyday tasks such as driving. Another study by Stein et al showed that drinking grape juice improved endothelium-dependent vasodilation and prevented LDL oxidation, thus possibly preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Dried grapes benefits
Dried grapes or raisins are loved by everyone and are truly a power-packed food. They are prepared by drying the grapes under the sun. Here are some of the benefits of eating raisins:
Maintains oral health
Promotes hair health
Grapes in your baby's food
You can give grapes to your baby once you start her on solid foods, usually around 10 months. With so many nutrients and health benefits, grapes are an ideal food for babies. But, make sure you start with small amounts and watch for signs of allergy to the fruit. To feed grapes to your baby, slice each grape into two, remove the seeds, and mash the contents. Don't give your baby a full grape to swallow, as it could lodge in her throat and cause choking. You can also give her fresh, homemade grape juice.
Interesting facts about grapes
With such a long history, there are so many interesting facts about grapes. Here's a look at a few of them:
The world's most widely grown grape variety is Kyoho from China. It is like the Concord variety.
Dinesh Upadhyaya from Mumbai holds the Guinness world record for the most number of grapes eaten in one minute (73 grapes).
The largest single bunch of grapes was grown in Spain, and it weighed 10.12kg.
A plantation of grapes is called a vineyard.
Grapes contain 80% water and 20% dietary fibre.
In one bunch, there are 75 grapes on an average.
Oil extracted from grape seeds are used in the production of skincare products.
China is the world's top grape-producing country, followed by Italy and USA. India holds the seventh position.
Grapes are fruits with a wonderful taste and an amazing array of health benefits. Their ancient history and association with humans for over 6,000 years make them even more special. Let us enjoy these beautiful berries, and benefit from the goodness they offer.
About the author:
Written by V Saravana Kumar on 17 October 2019
The author is a writer, translator, editor, artist, graphic designer and a start-up enthusiast. He is also learning the art of parenting through his two teenaged children.
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