So many longevity superstars live in the produce section. And while it's true that all fruits and vegetables have their own unique nutritional benefits, there are some foods that really go the extra mile (or in this case, you may say the extra year). One that's been getting a fair share of attention in the scientific community is muscadine grapes.
Muscadine grapes are native to the southern U.S. The fact that they don't have to be imported from outside the country means that they're commonly found at grocery stores across the country—especially during August through October, when they're in season. There are a few reasons why this particular grape stands out in terms of health benefits, which experts have pinpointed. Keep reading to find out what they are and to see how to reap the maximum benefits from them.
Why muscadine grapes are linked to longevity
Protiva Das, PhD, and Islam El-Sharkawy, PhD, studied muscadine grapes and co-authored a paper of the findings that was published in the scientific journal, Antioxidants. They explain that one major reason why muscadine grapes are linked to longevity more than other grape varieties is because they're higher in antioxidants. (Another, separate study published in the same journal backs this up.) "Muscadine grapes has a huge quantity of flavonoid components—almost 200 times higher than in the average grape," says Dr. El-Sharkawy, who is an assistant professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and is currently researching how grapes can be used to prevent and treat disease.
Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant linked to lowering blood pressure and lowering the risk of heart disease. Dr. El-Sharkawy says muscadine grapes not only have them in a much great number than other grape varieties, but the quality of the flavonoids is better, too. Looking at muscadine grapes, it makes sense; they're bigger than other grapes, so it makes sense they would have more antioxidants than grapes that are smaller in size.
Dr. Das says the high flavonoid component isn't all that makes muscadine grapes special. She says these types of grapes have a wider range of antioxidant types than other grapes. So not only are there a high number of flavonoids, but there's a diverse antioxidant profile too. "Some of these compounds are highly correlated with longevity, like gallic acid and catechine," Dr. Das says.
Dr. Das says that these antioxidants protect the human body from free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can damage cells. We're constantly coming into contact with these free radicals through our environment and food, and antioxidants go to battle for our body, working to fight them off—and warding off chronic diseases in the process. In fact, Dr. El-Sharkawy says some of the research he is currently working on is if encapsulating these specific compounds, like gallic acid, can work as medication for certain types of cancers, including breast cancer.
Interestingly, both experts say that though muscadine grapes are linked to longevity, they aren't convinced that wine is, nor the hype around resveratrol, a type of polyphenol. While some studies do link resveratrol to longevity, Dr. El-Sharkawy says focusing on it is a "big mistake." Dr. Das adds that resveratrol actually isn't found in muscadine grapes, so the connection is irrelevant anyway, in terms of this particular grape.
Erin Barrett, PhD, who is the director of scientific affairs and product innovation at Shaklee, says the researchers at Shaklee saw this to be true as well. "Researchers wondered why people in France had such low rates of cardiovascular disease even though they drank a lot of red wine. This was deemed the French paradox," Dr. Barrett explains. "Because of this, resveratrol, which is found in red wine, was seen as this miracle molecule, but there are actually thousands of molecules in red wine and when scientists started doing clinical trials, they saw that the evidence supporting resveratrol was lacking." So sorry friends, red wine can't deliver the same benefits as muscadine grapes.
How to get the maximum benefits out of your muscadine grapes
If you're eating muscadine grapes with longevity in mind, Dr. Das and Dr. El-Sharkawy say it's important to know that the benefits are primarily found in the skin and seeds—so be sure you're not buying seedless grapes. The rest of the grapes, they say, is primarily water.
In terms of how many muscadine grapes you have to eat on a regular basis to benefit, they say that's tough to say as it hasn't been determined in scientific studies. Their advice isn't to go overboard filling up on grapes. It's to add in the fruit along with other nutrient-rich foods, making it one piece of the foods-for-longevity puzzle.
If you are interested in upping your intake with a supplement, Shaklee sells it as an extract in its supplement, Vivix ($88). (Other brands that sell muscadine grape supplements include Nature's Pearl ($40) and Health As It Ought To Be ($25). Dr. Barrett says Shaklee sources the seeds and skins from muscadine grapes from winemakers. Otherwise, these crucial parts of the grape would go to waste but now they're being upcycled and used in the supplement. "We built an extraction facility right in the grape fields that really concentrates on the seeds and pulp," Dr. Barrett says.
Muscadine grapes are just one of many foods linked to longevity, but they're certainly one that researchers are excited about—especially since they're grown right in the U.S. and easily accessible, for most people. Add them to your cart on your next grocery trip and you could say you'll be getting a *bunch* of extra health benefits.
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