Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grapes Are A Lifesaver !!

      Colorful, tasty, handy, healthy, and always refreshing 

No one in their right mind resists and offered grape. I can only imagine the thoughts of the first human to eat a sweet grape. WOW !! It's just difficult to resist a bunch of colorful grapes placed in front of you, and the good news is that grapes are packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and are essentally medicinal due to various health benefits they provide. They may even save your life, yes there are many books written about the medicinal effects of grapes. Curing everything from cancer to bad eyesight. There are many types of grapes available, varying in color, sweetness, and taste. There are black, purple, green as well as red, and shades in between. Whatever type of grape you like, they are full of essential vitamins like Vitamin A, C, B6, B and Folate. A four ounce serving of grapes is 20-25% of your daily required serving of Vitamin C. The most significant minerals present in grapes are Manganese and Potassium. These minerals are essential to maintain good blood health, reduce the risk of hypertension, help with depression and improve immunity. The other minerals found in grapes are Copper, Zinc, Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron and Selenium

First a little history, Grapes are said to be the oldest cultivated fruit. Archeologists claim wild grapes were present in the Caucasus Region in the Stone Age, and in Asia since 5000 BC. We know this because this was the time when man learned fermentation and began to turn grapes into wine. Egyptians were the first on record to make wine, but they made it only for the religious purposes and for their temple rituals. They didn't indulge in social drinking. The Phoenicians took grapevines from Asia to Greece around 1000 BC, and let the genie out of the bottle, so to speak. The Mediterranean climate suited grapes, so grapes started spreading throughout the Mediterranean.


It was the Greeks and the Romans who started growing grapes for the production of other foods, mainly sugar substitutes, because sugar was virtually unknown to them. They prepared different kinds of jellies and syrups. These syrups were of different concentrations and were used to add taste in various dishes. Grape syrups are still prepared in Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Verjuice was another product made out of unripened grapes which was mainly used as a substitute to vinegar. Grapes were found in Egyptian tombs. From Western Asia and Central Europe, grapes have made the long journey, to reach all across our globe. The old world grapes, found in Europe and the near East, have more than 10,000 varieties. South America and North Eastern America are the places of origin for other species, known as the New World species. The old world, "mother"  species is native to the area across the southeast coast of the Black Sea (near the south of the Caspian Sea) to Afghanistan and is still found in these regions.

The Fox grapes, were discovered by red hair Vikings who explored the eastern seaside of Northern America long before Columbus. Another North American species is muscadine grapes, they're found in the southeastern region of North America. After British colonization in America, grape cultivation got a real boost, but in the freezing winters of the North America, the old world grape vine cuttings could not survive. So, the indigenous species were improved upon and cultivated. This resulted in a new and more popular version called Concord Grapes. In 1655, the Dutch took grapes along with them to Cape of Good Hope. Gradually grapes became a popular crop in Australia and South America too. In 1700, the Spanish introduced grape cultivation to California. Since then many different species have been tried here. As a result California produces nearly 90% of total crop in America. Grapes also show up in the eastern parts of Canada and even in British Columbia. In the nineteenth century, the Victorians were very excited about grapes. They were the first to experiment with different species in hothouses. At the same time, the grape spa or "uvarium" was introduced in France. These were the, rejuvenation, slimming, and diet clinics of their time.

Grapes have long been classified as a low glycemic index (GI) food. Better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity have now been connected drinking grape juice, grape seed extracts, and individual phytonutrients found in grapes. Several grape phytonutrients are now believed to play a role in longevity. At the top of the list in this area of research is resveratrol.  Resveratrol a stilbene phytonutrient present mostly in grape skins, but also in grape seeds and grape flesh. Resveratrol has recently been shown to increase expression of three genes all related to longevity. The body can reap the benefit of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules in grapes. Especially the cardiovascular system. All cells in our blood need protection from potential oxygen damage. In our arteries where oxygen concentration in our blood is especially high, our blood vessel linings also need strong antioxidant support. Chronic inflammation in our cardiovascular system is how we develop cardiovascular disease. Cardio benefits provided by grapes and grape components are impressive. Several recent studies on grape extract intake by animals, as well as grape juice intake by humans, suggest that grapes may provide us with some important cognitive benefits as well. For example, daily consumption of Concord grape juice in a 1-2 cup amount over a period of several months has been shown to improve the scores of study participants, taking the California Verbal Learning Test.

The anti-oxidants are one of the best benefits you get from eating or drinking grapes. The reason grapes are rich in antioxidants is due to the presence of phytonutrients called polyphenols. These antioxidants bind with the free radicals ( those crazy cells that damage other cells looking for that missing electron)
present in your body and reduce the risk of inflammation and plaque formation in our arteries. Grapes also help in the generation of nitric oxide, which improves heart health by reducing blood clots, and oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which causes plaque. Resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and seed, keeps the heart muscles flexible and healthy. Part of the reason why red wines have gained popularity is because of their high concentration of resveratrol. The French who eat a high fat diet have been found to have low heart disease stats, a phenomenon known as the "French Paradox". This is largely because of their consumption of red wine and grapes. Grapes also contain a glucose based compound called saponin. Saponin helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol and settles down inflammation reducing the risk of heart diseases. So grapes are definitely good for the heart. Some articles I've read quote studies that say drinking a couple of glasses of grape juice made from purple grapes, especially the Concord, helps reduce the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer.

Grapes also have several anti-microbial properties, but they don't harm the beneficial bacteria in the stomach. Tests have shown that grape extracts inhibited the growth of 14 different types of harmful bacteria commonly found in human intestine and stomach including E coli, Salmonella and H. pylori which causes stomach ulcers. Grapes are also a diuretic, rich in potassium and low in salt, so they help the body rid itself of toxins. The grape has a high sugar content, 17 g per 100 g. Good sugar, but these guys are calorie dense one cup is about 110 calories. So if you're counting calories be aware. For the rest of us, I say "eat them till your wallet is empty" Grapes also contains Vitamin B, and helps keep the muscular and nervous systems working well. This makes grapes ideal for adults, children, elderly, aliens, and athletes.

The 2014 edition of the "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" by the Environmental Working Group has once again identified conventionally grown grapes as one of the problem fruits in terms of the amount of pesticide applied and residues. Pesticide residues can easily be avoided buy certified organic grapes. In a recent study of 99 vineyards, pesticide residues were found on conventionally grown table grapes, but were determined to be undetectable on grapes that had been organically grown. This new evidence adds to my confidence about the added health benefits of organically grown products. Delicious and healthy, you just can't go wrong with grapes. So look up a friend or TWO and share some grapes. Good Luck...





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