In case you need even more reason to add the fruit to your rotation, here's a rundown on the benefits of eating grapes.
Between their crispy texture and sweet-tart flavor, grapes are super satisfying to eat. It also doesn't hurt that they're adorably bite-sized and suited to on-the-go snacking. However, the benefits of grapes go beyond their convenience and taste. The fall fruit is associated with some noteworthy health perks. Ahead, discover all the need-to-know grape nutrition facts, plus creative ways to use grapes at home.
What Are Grapes?
Grapes are small, oval-shaped fruits that grow in clusters on vines, according to the U.S. National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Grapes are native to Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean, but today they grow all over the world, according to an article in the journal BMC Plant Biology. Several varieties of the fruit exist, but the grapes you'll usually find at the supermarket are Thompson Seedless and Flame Seedless, which are green and reddish-purple, respectively. Both types are known as "table grapes" (meaning they're meant to be eaten fresh, unlike grapes for winemaking) and are varieties of European grapes, as noted by Utah State University.
While their name may not have tipped you off, grapes are actually berries. In botany, a berry is a single fruit with an outer skin, juicy flesh, and central seeds, according to Colorado State University. Grapes (including the seedless versions) fall under this category, though most folks don't consider the fruit a berry. Still, grapes are eaten like other berries — i.e., fresh or in jams, juice, smoothies, etc.
Grape Nutrition Facts
For such a small fruit, grapes pack a nutritional punch. They're rich in antioxidants, including resveratrol, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and catechins, according to an article in Neurochemistry International. Grapes also offer essential nutrients such as fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and B vitamins, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Here's the nutritional profile of 1 cup (~151 grams) of raw red or green Thompson seedless grapes, from the USDA:
1 gram protein
<1 gram fat
27 grams carbohydrate
1 gram fiber
23 grams sugar
Health Benefits of Grapes
Below, the most noteable health benefits of grapes, according to registered dietitians.
Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease
Noshing on grapes is an excellent way to up your intake of antioxidants. A quick refresher: Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that fight off free radicals, explains Rhyan Geiger, R.D.N., registered dietitian and founder of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage, leading to oxidative stress and increasing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, according to an article in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Eating antioxidant-rich foods such as grapes can help keep free radicals in check, potentially staving off cell damage and disease.
The antioxidant benefits of red grapes are especially notable. That's partly because they contain anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant. Anthocyanins are plant pigments that give red, purple, and blue produce (such as red grapes, berries, and red cabbage) their color, as noted in an article in Frontiers in Pharmacology. The skin of red grapes also contains resveratrol, another antioxidant, according to an article in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Support Healthy Digestion
Grapes contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, which are essential for healthy digestion, according to Geiger. "Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive tract and helps push along foods in your system," she explains. This can encourage regular bowel movements, potentially easing constipation. Meanwhile, soluble fiber absorbs water and creates a gel-like substance in the GI tract, helping firm up stool and preventing diarrhea.
The water content of grapes can help support healthy digestion too. "Grapes are about 82 percent water," according to Marissa Meshulam, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian and founder of MPM Nutrition. This is essential for digestive function, as H2O helps break down the foods you eat, she explains. If you're looking for a food-forward way to improve your digestion, you'll certainly appreciate this grape health benefit.
Worth noting, whole grapes have more fiber than grape juice, according to Geiger. That's because the fiber is found in the flesh of grapes, which is removed during the juicing process. If you want to take advantage of the digestive benefits of grapes, go for the whole fruit.
If you're looking for a filling snack to hold you over between meetings, enjoy some grapes. The gel-like substance formed by its soluble fiber helps food stay in the stomach longer, creating a feeling of fullness, says Meshulam. Try pairing grapes with other satiating foods, such as nuts or Greek yogurt, for an easy snack to fight hanger.
Promote Heart Health
Another benefit of eating grapes extends to your heart, according to an article in Food Chemistry: X. As mentioned, grapes are a stellar source of antioxidants, which pump the brakes on oxidative stress. "This reduces inflammation in the body, which is key [in] preventing heart disease," explains Meshulam. The fruit's soluble fiber can also reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol, while its potassium content helps lower blood pressure, she adds. These effects are beneficial for the heart, as high LDL cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are major risk factors for heart disease.
How to Wash, Store, and Eat Grapes
At the grocery store, you can typically find grapes in the refrigerated area of the produce section. They're often available in seedless varieties, though you can sometimes find seeded versions. (You can totally eat the seeds, though most folks don't love the texture or taste, says Meshulam.) Red and green are the most common types, but it's also possible to find black, blue, gold, and white grapes in stores, according to South Dakota State University. For the freshest fruit, pick grapes that are plump, firm, and free of wrinkles or discoloration. They should also be fairly dry and attached to the stems. At home, you can store grapes in their original container for up to one week in the refrigerator, according to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. When you're ready to eat, pick the grapes off the stems and rinse them in a colander under running water.
Grapes are also incorporated into packaged products, such as juice and jams. But compared to whole fruits, these items have significantly less fiber (which is lost during processing) and more sugar, according to Geiger. Similarly, raisins (which are dried grapes) often contain added sugar. That said, if you need or want to watch your sugar intake, consider choosing grape products without added sugar or making your own. For example, this grape juice recipe by Alpha Foodie is one way to enjoy the benefits of grape juice without the extra sugar.
How to Use Grapes
Although fresh grapes are delicious on their own, they work well in other recipes. Here are a few creative ways to eat the fruit:
Frozen. For a no-fuss frozen treat, pop grapes in the freezer and enjoy them as is. This easy snack requires minimal prep work, which can be a lifesaver during the summer months.
In salads. If your salad needs an extra crunch, add a handful of halved grapes. Try pairing them with other fall foods, such as sliced apples and nuts.
As a roasted topping. Did you know that you can roast grapes in the oven? The result is a sweet, slightly caramelized fruit that's *chef's kiss.* Enjoy roasted grapes just like you would other cooked fruit, e.g., on top of pizza, in warm fall salads, or with meat. Check out this recipe for roasted grapes from A Dash of Megnut.