The health benefits of grapes include supporting heart health, increasing energy and hydration and more.
Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
In a day and age in which continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are widely available for those with diabetes and without alike to wear and watch, social media is being swept up in a wave of rumors about what foods spike blood sugar levels. Grapes have recently fallen under the microscope, with some “health coaches” claiming that those who have prediabetes or diabetes or want to lose weight should limit or avoid grapes in lieu of other fruits.
We already tapped dietitians to clear up that myth—yes, you can eat grapes if you have diabetes (and you should, if you like them!).
“Grapes are a type of fruit that can certainly fit in a balanced, healthy diet,” confirms Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., RDN, CPT, a registered dietitian nutritionist, founder of Shaw Simple Swaps and the author of the Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies.
But how often is the sweet spot, and what happens when you eat grapes daily or often?
“Grapes are packed with essential carbs, hydration, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols,” says Roxana Ehsani, M.S., RD, CSSD, a Miami-based board-certified sports dietitian.
According to the USDA’s FoodData Central nutrition database, each 1-cup serving of grapes provides:
Carbohydrates: 27 grams
Dietary fiber: 1½ grams
Total sugar: 23 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Total fat: 0 grams
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Sodium: 3 milligrams
Potassium: 288 milligrams (8% Daily Value)
Vitamin C: 5 milligrams (6% DV)
Vitamin K: 22 micrograms (18% DV)
The majority of the energy in grapes comes from carbs, “which is your brain's primary source of energy,” Ehsani says. “Your brain and your muscles love carbs.”
Fresh grapes are also about 82% water, helping you add to your hydration for the day. With each bunch, you’ll also be inching closer to your fiber intake goals (something fewer than 1 in 10 of us meet) and scoring some beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Health Benefits of Grapes
In addition to counting as one of your daily fruit servings and boosting energy by way of the aforementioned calories from carbs, here’s what may happen when you eat grapes daily—or as a regular part of your diet.
You’ll Increase Your Antioxidant Intake
Grapes of all colors contain antioxidants, including gut-friendly, circulation-supporting polyphenols and anthocyanins, which have been shown to help protect against chronic inflammation, diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.
Science suggests that black Concord and purple grapes tend to have higher total antioxidant capacity than red or green grapes; however, all grapes are strong sources of antioxidants.
“Grapes with the darker purple or black hue contain higher levels of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that helps combat free radicals that over time can do damage to your cells and DNA,” Shaw says, but no matter what kind you eat, you’ll score a potent dose.
You Might Improve Your Brain and Heart Health
As we mentioned, all those antioxidants help fight off free radicals in the body that can do damage to your heart and blood vessels over time.
A December 2021 study in the journal Food Chemistry X confirms that grape intake is linked to lower risk for heart disease and hypertension.
“Research is showing that grapes are a ‘functional food,’ meaning they could be considered as a form of medical nutrition therapy. In other words, grapes could be part of a food as medicine prescription to help those with hypertension,” Shaw says. “While more research is needed, it’s exciting to see food being at the forefront of preventive care.”
Strong, well-flowing blood vessels also ensure that your brain is receiving proper oxygen supply. Again, further deep dives are needed to verify the results and dig into why this might be the case, but a small study found that when individuals with early signs of cognitive decline and memory loss ate 2¼ cups of grapes per day, they experienced improvements to brain function (including attention and memory performance) compared to peers who didn’t eat grapes, Ehsani explains.
You'll Score Some Vitamins and Minerals
If you’re not a huge fan of kale, collards, spinach or turnip greens, listen up: “Grapes are a good source of vitamin K, found mostly in dark leafy greens,” Ehsani says, citing the National Institutes of Health. “This vitamin can benefit blood flow and bone health.”
Grapes also contain potassium, which has been shown to help promote heart health and healthy muscle function, Ehsani adds. (For reference, 1 cup of grapes has about as much potassium as two-thirds of a medium banana.)
While it’s not as much as you’d get from citrus fruit or any of these 6 surprising vitamin C all-stars, you’ll score a bit of immune-system-supporting vitamin C from grapes, too.
You May Sleep More Soundly
Melatonin is the body’s primary sleep-regulating hormone. Our bodies create it. Levels slowly increase during the day and peak at night, cueing the body that bedtime is on the horizon.
Melatonin is also found naturally in some foods and drinks, including tart cherries and tart cherry juice, eggs, fatty fish, kiwi, nuts … and, you guessed it, grapes!
Scientists discovered in 2006 that grape skins contain melatonin, which is believed to remain in the grapes even when they’re turned into wine. While it’s certainly not as simple as “eat grapes, snooze well,” a serving of grapes can be part of a multi-faceted strategy to get a better night’s sleep.
Are Grapes Safe for Everyone to Eat?
Grape allergies are rare; however, they do exist. If you have been diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance, definitely steer clear.
Otherwise, “there is no reason to avoid eating them daily if you enjoy them,” Shaw confirms. “With that said, it’s important to eat a variety-filled diet, so consider alternating the color you are choosing to reap the rainbow of benefits.”
For kids under age 5, whole grapes can pose a choking risk. If you have a little one at home and are sharing grapes with them, use a knife to quarter the grapes to help them chew and swallow the fruit with ease, says Shaw (a mom herself).
Tips for Enjoying Grapes
Energy needs and how many food-group servings one needs vary depending on age, activity level, gender and medical history, Shaw says. Most adults should aim for 2 to 2½ cups of fruit per day, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest.
Making one of those cups grapes is a terrific option on all or most days if you enjoy eating this super fruit.
“It’s a good idea to stick to one serving,” Ehsani says. “If you are a grape lover you might want to have multiple servings on one day every so often, and that’s perfectly OK.”
Just keep in mind that it's always a good idea to shoot for a rainbow of colors each week to diversify your vitamin, mineral and fiber intake. Try to mix things up by incorporating citrus, tropical fruits, berries, melons, apples, bananas, pears and stone fruits, too.
Add grapes to your diet by:
Eating them fresh, by the bunch
Add grapes to a cheese or charcuterie board for a sweet complement to the savory elements
Freeze grapes for a poppable, no-sugar-added ice pop
Throw fresh or frozen grapes into your sparkling water, spirit-free drink or glass of wine
Blend them into a Grape Smoothie
Simmer them down into Grape Chutney to use as a sandwich spread or as a sauce for chicken, pork or steak
Frequently Asked Questions
How many grapes a day should you eat?
A serving of grapes is approximately 22 fresh grapes, or roughly 1 cup, Shaw confirms. That counts as one of your fruit servings for the day; shoot for 2 to 2½ servings. Feel free to eat a serving of grapes daily or a few times each week; just try to vary your total fruit intake to diversify your micronutrient intake.
Do grapes have too much sugar?
Grapes contain all naturally occuring sugars and zero added sugars. The natural kind is part of foods like fruit and dairy products already. Added sugars are exactly what they sound like: added into foods as part of the manufacturing process.
Grapes do contain carbohydrates, in the forms of those naturally occuring sugars and fiber. These will likely raise your blood sugar after you eat grapes, Shaw admits. (The same increase in blood sugar happens after you eat anything with carbs.) If this is a concern for you, such as if you have prediabetes or diabetes, speak with a certified diabetes educator to figure out how to incorporate grapes in your meal plan.
“Often, pairing grapes with a fat and/or protein source can help delay the blood sugar response,” Shaw says.
There’s absolutely no need to fully avoid grapes as part of a healthy diet to prevent diabetes unless you're allergic. In fact, according to a 2021 review in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, eating fruits like grapes, raisins, blueberries and apples has been linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
Are grapes good for weight loss?
Due to their high water content, fairly low calorie count (104 calories per cup), plus the bit of satisfying fiber (1½ grams per cup) grapes offer, they can certainly be part of a well-balanced diet for weight loss.
The Bottom Line
“Grapes often get a bad rap as being too sweet or sugary, but they are a nutrient-dense fruit and can be included into a healthy diet,” Ehsani says.
Eating grapes has been shown to help support brain and heart health, and the vitamins and minerals grapes provide can bolster immunity, bones and beyond. And thanks to their carb count and high water level, a handful of grapes is a quick, easy and affordable way to boost your energy.
Feel free to eat 1 cup, the equivalent of one serving, each day if you like, reserving the other 1 to 1½ cups of fruit each day for other nutrient-rich fruits.
Read the original article on Eating Well.