What’s not to love about grapes? Whether fermented into wine, dried as raisins, or preserved into jellies and jams, the sweet-as-candy fruit (which is technically a berry) appeals to the palates of toddlers and adults alike.
Grapes come in various shades of red, purple, black, green, and white and have been around forever. And clearly, they’re still in style — grapes are the highest value fruit crop in the United States with production values at more than $6.5 billion.
Grapes are an impressive fruit — their rich history and sheer versatility (what other fruits taste equally as delicious when fresh, frozen, and fermented?) are boast-worthy enough, but there are even more benefits beneath their colorful, paper-thin surface.
For such a small fruit, grapes are loaded with important nutrients. Here’s what you’ll take in from eating 1 cup (151 grams) of red or green grapes.
- Calories: 104
- Carbs: 27.3 grams (g)
- Protein: 1.1 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Fiber: 1.4 g
- Vitamin C: 5% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin K: 28% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 7% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 6% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
- Potassium: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 10% of the RDI
- Manganese: 5% of the RDI
A cup o’ grapes a day keeps the doctor away — or at the very least, helps you meet your vitamin and mineral needs. One cup of grapes provides more than a quarter of your daily vitamin K needs along with 5 percent of the recommended vitamin C requirements.
Vitamin C works double-time as a vitamin and antioxidant, helping form and preserve your bones, skin, and blood vessels and keeping your immune system ready for battle. Vitamin K is equally as important: It helps your blood clot (no bleeding out from paper cuts here), improves bone health, and keeps your heart in tip-top shape.
Grapes can also help you add critical minerals like potassium, copper, and manganese into your diet — key in helping you stay hydrated, keeping your bones strong, and maintaining a healthy nervous system.
Beloved by skin care brands and wellness gurus alike, antioxidants are powerful plant compounds that can repair cell damage and oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Long story short (we’ll spare you the chemistry lesson ) — free radicals are harmful molecules that are naturally made by the body.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, their production is expedited by less-than-wholesome activities like smoking and drinking alcohol, as well as stress, eating lots of fried foods, and being exposed to toxic chemicals and air pollution.
Oxidative stress accelerates the aging process (yikes) and is linked to the development of an assortment of different diseases, including inflammatory conditions, cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s).
Resveratrol, classified as a polyphenol, is one of the more powerful antioxidants in grapes — the queen bee, if you will. Clinical trials suggest that resveratrol can reduce disease biomarkers in people with neurological disorders, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Other star players on the antioxidant lineup include vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, lycopene, and ellagic acid. Don’t worry, we won’t quiz you on spelling.
Remember those antioxidants we harped on about? Turns out they’re good for more than just disease prevention — studies suggest they might even protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Don’t stop using your SPF, of course, but every bit helps.
A 2021 animal study found that a diet rich in grape polyphenols increased protection against UV radiation-induced damage and inflammation — which, in theory, means that adding grapes to your diet could mitigate the damage your skin receives while lounging in the sun like a sea lion.
While it’s not yet clear if these findings are applicable to humans, there’s plenty of reasons to believe that good ol’ grapes could be the hot new skin care bonus. That’s because they’re rich in anthocyanins, a type of pigment and antioxidant that has been found (in human studies!) to protect against UVB-induced aging and even prevent the breakdown of collagen. Forever young, baby.
What if we told you that eating grapes could help protect you from cognitive decline in regions of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia? That’s the suggestion made by a group of researchers who set out to determine how our favorite bite-sized, antioxidant-rich fruit might affect older adults with mild cognitive decline.
In a small study, test subjects were instructed to take either an “active grape formula” (translation: 36 grams of freeze-dried grape powder) or a placebo twice daily for 12 months.
When 1 year was up, the researchers found that the placebo group had significant decreases (a bad thing) in metabolic activity in the frontal and temporal cortical regions of the brain — the parts of the brain known to decline in the early stages of dementia.
The grape-eating group, on the other hand, saw no significant changes in metabolic activity (a good thing!) leading researchers to conclude that regularly eating grapes might slow down the process of cognitive decline in adults.
Despite their sugary-sweet taste, grapes are surprisingly low on the glycemic index — the scale that tells you how quickly carb-containing foods affect your blood sugar. That means that unlike other sweet treats (like candy, donuts, or sugary cereal), snacking on grapes won’t cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar, which over time, can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and contribute to weight gain.
In even more exciting news, studies show that resveratrol (which grapes are loaded with) can even increase your insulin sensitivity, which aids your body in processing sugar and helps lower blood sugar levels over time.
They may be cute and small, but grapes may pack quite the punch when it comes to protecting your body from certain types of cancer.
Grapes contain an awe-inspiring combination of antioxidants including resveratrol, quercetin, kaempferol, catechin, epicatechin, and anthocyanins that have preventive effects against a variety of cancers.
Researchers theorize that when combined, this A-team of antioxidants could produce an additive synergistic effect that increases their cancer-fighting power.
While studies on grapes and cancer in humans are rare (we’re waiting!) there are a couple of small studies that give a reason for optimism. One test-tube study found that grape extract is able to reduce the invasiveness of colon cancer cells, while another found that it can prevent the development and spread of breast cancer cells.
Though grapes are low on the glycemic index, meaning they don’t have a quick and drastic effect on blood sugar levels, a single cup contains more than 20 grams of sugar. (More than many other types of fruit.) With that said, if your doctor has you watching your sugar intake, that’s something to note.
When selecting a bunch to munch on, it’s best to make a judgment based on appearance. Choose fully ripened grapes that are plump, wrinkle-free, and are juicy on the inside but not leaking juice all over the container (which signals they’ve started to spoil).
If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, red and purple grapes might just beat out green grapes when it comes to nutrients, thanks to the high concentration of anthocyanins in their skin. Grapes last for up to 5 days when given a good bath (and dry!) as soon as they arrive home, just be sure to stick them in a sealed plastic container after drying off to keep ’em fresh before use.