If a low-carb diet has you wondering whether grapes are good for you, you're in luck: the little globes pack in a ton of health benefits, says registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet, RD. (Phew!) Here's what she says you need to know.
- Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, registered dietitian and founder of Street Smart Nutrition
What are the nutritional benefits of grapes?
1. Grapes are full of polyphenols
Polyphenols are active compounds naturally found in plants (including many fruits and vegetables); grapes are particularly high in them. "The polyphenols in grapes that we tend of think of have antioxidant properties, which may support health by lowering risk of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease," Harbstreet says. Another 2015 meta-analysis found that grape polyphenols could help reduce blood pressure.
2. Grapes are a good source of vitamin K
Just half a cup of grapes gives 14 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, which is pretty great for such a small serving. "Vitamin K is an important nutrient for blood clotting, bone health, and may play a role in regulating blood pressure," Harbstreet says. "Although our bodies are capable of synthesizing some Vitamin K on their own, we still rely on food sources." Harbstreet adds that vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so pairing your grapes with a bit of cheese, avocado, or salmon will help the nutrient be more easily absorbed by the body.
3. They have potassium
Grapes contain potassium, with 176 milligrams per cup. (The recommended about is 3,500 to 4,700 milligrams a day.) "One of potassium’s primary roles in the body, among many, is to help regulate blood pressure," Harbstreet explains. "Sodium and potassium work in tandem to control blood pressure, and while the focus is usually on reducing sodium intake for heart health, there’s also benefits to increasing potassium intake. Potassium is also a key electrolyte, which is why it’s often included in sports drink mixes for rehydrating during intense training or to replace fluids from excessive sweating." So yes, the fruit does make a pretty excellent post-workout snack.
4. Consuming grapes could help reduce the risk of cancer
According to scientific research, regularly consuming grapes could contribute to a lowered risk in cardiovascular cancer. "In vitro and in vivo studies have shown that grapes have strong antioxidant activity, inhibiting cancer cell proliferation and suppressing platelet aggregation, while also lowering cholesterol," one study reads. The reason for is those powerful polyphenols and other phytochemicals.
5. Grapes are hydrating
Grapes are 80 to 84 percent water, meaning that consuming them helps the body stay hydrated—especially during the summer. This, Harbstreet says, is a major benefit that's often overlooked. "This can help supplement fluid intake and offer a cool, refreshing snack option," she says. "It’s important to include snacks you genuinely enjoy eating, and if this is a fruit that brings you joy when the weather is warm, that’s a health benefit that can’t be discounted."
Frequently asked questions about grapes...answered
1. Does the color or variety of grapes matter?
When you're at the grocery store, you may find yourself wondering whether the green is healthier than the red, or vice versa. (Or giving a major side-eye to "Cotton Candy" grapes which...sound too good to be true?) Harbstreet's opinion: Don't stress about it. "While differences in color will reflect differences in polyphenolic compound content, the color of grapes usually comes down to personal preference," she says. "There are subtle differences in taste, texture, and size that might cause you to prefer one variety over another. But in general, including grapes in your diet can provide you with a serving of fruit, something that most Americans aren’t getting enough of."
2. Are raisins as healthy?
While grapes are going to be more hydrating than raisins, Harbstreet says they are still a great healthy snack option, and they actually have three times the amount of antioxidants as grapes. "Raisins are the dried form of grapes so there will be more concentrated flavor and energy when compared to the fresh grape counterpart," Harbstreet says. "Generally, raisins are a minimally processed food, although there are some flavored varieties that enhance the natural flavor and sweetness with other ingredients." In other words: when buying raisins, check the ingredients list for added sugar or other shady add-ins. "Raisins can still provide sweetness and chewy texture to recipes and snacks, as well as counting towards your fruit servings for the day," Harbstreet says. "They’re also convenient to grab-and-go or pack for busy days, so if you need to rely on simple snack options, they can absolutely be a healthful choice."
3. Is wine good for you?
According to scientific researchers wine—particularly red wine—is good for your heart in moderation. Because wine is made from fermented grapes, you still get all those amazing polyphenols and antioxidants, but consuming too much alcohol regularly can be bad for your health, especially liver and brain health.
4. Are there any bad side effects to be aware of when eating grapes?
Harbstreet says there aren't any red flags to be aware of when eating grapes, but, like any food, there is always the risk of being allergic or intolerant. If you've never had grapes before, start small; eat just a couple and see how your body reacts before upping your intake. And of course, eating too many grapes in one sitting can overload the digestive tract because of all the fiber, so keep your serving size moderate.
Originally published July 8, 2019. Updated October 2, 2020.
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