Nutrition and Health Benefits from Grapes

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Nutrition and Health Benefits from Grapes
by Dan Gerhardt · All Zones · Food Nutrition · 0 Comments · March 15, 2011 · 6,419 views

The Grapes of Wrath

Grapes are little bits of heaven on earth. Jesus may or may not have prematurely pulled the rabbit out of the hat with his first miracle (mothers always think that they know best), but, either way, the grapes were left out of the loop entirely, with reckless abandon and total disregard. You would think that this would greatly upset and offend them, having someone steal their thunder like that, pulling the rug out from under them in the blink of an eye, with such an effortless gesture as a simple waving of the hand. After all, grapes have laboriously spent thousands of years struggling to do the same, only without all the hoopla. Grapes are like that, though- steadfast, loyal, and valuable, but humbly blending into the background, not wanting to be the center of attention, not wanting to stir up any more drama than already exists. Throughout history, grapes have been witness to some of humanity's greatest triumphs and darkest hours. Just listen to Queen Cleopatra, while floating down the Nile, "Not now, Marc Antony, I have a headache. What's that? Grapes, you say? Ohh, little Roman devil, you." Or Emperor Ceaser, while lounging, but obviously stressed-out, at a banquet feast, "Peel me some grapes, or I'll off your head!" Or Christ Jesus, while liesurely strolling through some vineyards, "I am the true vine." (There he goes again). Or Judas Iscariot, burping up his fish and bread at the last supper scenario, "You want me to drink your what? Oh gross! Stop it, you know that I have a weak stomach." Or, how about Governor Pilate, after turning away from the frenzied crowd, "What is this? I condemn the Son of God to death and all you bring me is a cistern full of water? I need more than that to calm my nerves and cleanse my guilt." Then, slyly turning back around while wringing his hands, "Uh, Jesus, before you go, I was wondering if you could do me one last favor..."

Grapes are just very relaxing to be around, and their popluarity has not gone to their heads. They may not completely shield us from the insanity of the world, but they do assist in alleviating us from some of the absurdities of life. Grapes are tough-skinned, yet vulnerable, dead serious, yet light-hearted, and complex, yet simple at the same time. Grapes are not perfect, though, and they have their issues. Individually, one-on-one, grapes are pleasant and articulate, but once they cluster together, mass hysteria takes over and they start to mumble and chatter and make wildly unsubstantiated claims, such as their stubborn conviction that they invented the internet. Grapes can also tend to get a little paranoid, buying into all kinds of conspiracy theories about how the FBI is secretly wiretapping their vines without a warrant. Then there is that nonsense about how a secret cabal of banking elites are using multinational corporations, Homeland Security and the CIA in an insidious plot to take over the world. I can not figure out why they would be so anxious when they have been witness to many a world empire. Maybe that is just how they roll. Maybe they are pertinent in the soothing of our own incessant stream of mental static by taking much of it upon themselves. From the outside-in, all plump and juicy, grapes appear calm and reassuring, as if they are in a constant state of fervent prayer, but one has to wonder if, from the inside-out, they really feel more like shriveled raisins, as if their cup is running over with their own wine-soaked sweat. I suppose that all depends on whether they stay connected to their source or not, and whether or not they are hung out to dry.

Grapes in History

Growing wild since prehistoric times, grapes have a long and abundant history. Grapes are thought to be first cultivated in both Central Asia and Europe as early as 6,000 years ago, where the practice quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. Grapes have held several pivotal roles in numerous biblical stories, being referred to as the "fruit of the vine." Grapes were also pictured in hieroglyphics in ancient Egyptian burial tombs. During the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, grapes were prized for their use in winemaking. Grapes were readily planted in the Rhine Valley in Germany, a place of notable wine production, in the 2nd century AD. Around this time, over 90 varieties of grapes were already known.

As European travelers explored the globe, they brought the grape with them. Grapes were first planted in the United States by Franciscan monks in the early 17th century at a Spanish mission in New Mexico, where they were used for the purpose of making sacramental wine. From there, they quickly spread to the central valley of California where climate, and absence of grape-preying insects, best supported their production. There are over now 50 varieties of grapes that are cultivated as table grapes and over 60 varieties of grapes cultivated for wine making. The original grapes were red, and now join the blue, red, purple, black, golden, and green ones as the most common varieties.

Nutritional & Health Benefits From Grapes

Grapes rank right up there with blueberries and blackberries as excellent sources of antioxidants. Many of the health benefits attributed to grapes are due to the pigments that are concentrated largely in the skin and seeds. Anthocyanins tend to be the main polyphenolics in red grapes while the catechins are the more abundant phenolic in white grapes. The phenolic content of grape skins depends upon the variety, the soil, climate, geography, and cultivation methods. Grapes are also rich in ellagic and caffeic acids that help fight cancer.

Grapes are rich sources of vitamins A, C, B6, and folate in addition to essential minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. Grapes are packed with flavonoids that act as very powerful antioxidants. Grape seeds provide an edible oil. Grape seed extract has been found to strengthen capillary walls, increase circulation, reduce edema, and prevent blood clots. The tannins and pigments in red, purple and black grapes protect the cardiovascular system by a number of physiological mechanisms. Recently, it was shown that a Concord grape extract lowered LDL cholesterol, raised HDL cholesterol, and decreased inflammation. Grapes are high in potassium, which is an alkaline mineral that supports the parasympathetic nervous system, and acts as a natural calmative, having a positive effect on relieving nerve and muscle tension. The iron content in grapes helps to prevent anemia.

Resveratrol, a chemical compund found in grapes acts as an effective agent for cancer prevention due its ability to block many steps in the formation of tumors. Resveratrol contained in red grapes and berries has been shown to inhibit prostate cancer cell growth. Concord grape juice can protect healthy breast cells from DNA damage caused by harmful chemical carcinogens. Grape juice also suppresses the growth and development of breast cancer cells in laboratory animals given chemically induced tumors. The grape juice reduced both mammary tumor size and the number of tumors per animal. The pigments in grape juice also improve the immune sytems response. Promising data suggests the use of grape juice to promote brain health and delay neurodegenerative diseases. Participants that drank purple grape juice and similar fruit juices three times a week were about 70% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. When laboratory animals were fed Concord grape juice they showed significantly improved scores on memory and coordination tests.

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Dan Gerhardt

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Dan Gerhardt - Aside from being a life-long gardener, Dr. Dan Gerhardt is a chiropractor and nutritionist.

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