Monday, July 9, 2012

Did you know?

Grapes, “queen of the fruits” are storehouse of numerous health promoting phyto-nutrients such as poly-phenolic antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. So, include them in your regular diet, be it in the form of fresh fruits, juice or in salads!

Botanically, they are small round berries; grow in clusters on a perennial and deciduous woody vine of the genus: Vitis. Grapes are native to Europe and Mediterranean regions but now widely cultivated all over the planet.

In structure, each individual berry features semi-translucent flesh encased by a smooth thin skin. Some contain edible seeds, while others are seedless. The color of the fruit is due to the presence of poly-phenolic pigments in them. Red or purple berries are rich in anthocyanins while white-green berries contain more of tannins especially, catechin. Interestingly, these antioxidant compounds are densely concentrated in the skin and seeds!

There are three main species of grapes, European (Vitis vinifera), North American (Vitis labrusca and Vitis rotundifolia) and French hybrids.

Some of popular green cultivars are Thompson seedless, sugarone and calmeria.

Red varieties include emperor, red globe, cardinal, and flame seedless.

Concord and zinfandel are some of flavorful blue-black cultivars.

Commercially, many cultivars of grapes are grown for different purposes either eaten as table fruit, fresh or dried (raisin, currant, sultana) or in wine production.

Health benefits of grapes

Grapes are rich in polyphenolic phytochemical compound resveratrol. Resveratrol is one of powerful anti-oxidant, which has been found to play protective function against cancers of colon and prostate, coronary heart disease (CHD), degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer's disease and viral/ fungal infections.

Resveratrol reduces stroke risk by altering the molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels. It does so firstly by reducing susceptibility of blood vessels damage through decreased activity of angiotensin (a systemic hormone causing blood vessel constriction that would otherwise elevate blood pressure) and secondly, through increased production of the vasodilator substance, nitric oxide (a beneficial compound that causes relaxation of blood vessels).

Anthocyanins are another class of polyphenolic anti-oxidants present abundantly in the red grapes. These phyto-chemicals have been found to have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, as well as anti-cancer activities.

Catechins, a type of flavonoid tannin group of anti-oxidants found in white/green varieties has also shown to have these health protecting functions.
In addition, the berries are very low in calories. 100 g fresh grapes just provide 69 calories but zero cholesterol levels.

Grapes are rich source of micronutrient minerals like copper, iron and manganese. Copper and manganese are an essential co-factor of antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is specially concentrated more in raisins. In addition 100 g of fresh grapes contain about 191 mg of health benefiting electrolyte, potassium.

They are also good source of vitamin-C, vitamin A, vitamin K, carotenes, B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamin.


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