Grapes are an all-time favorite fruit in many American households, and for good reason. Their unique combination of sweetness and tartness gives them a mouthwatering taste, and their texture is also addictive. Aside from being a great fruit—to eat all by itself or as a fun addition to salads and other dishes—grapes offer an impressive list of health benefits you might not know about.
Grapes are quite high in vitamin K, copper, and vitamin B2, and are packed full of free radical-fighting antioxidants. Read on to discover more ways grapes can support your health, and how to incorporate them into your diet.
5 Fun Facts About Grapes
Before diving into more specifics, check out these fun facts about grapes:
- Grapes were brought to the United States over 300 years ago by the Spanish.
- Grapes are actually considered berries!
- One bottle of wine requires 2 .5 pounds of grapes to produce.
- Raisins are simply grapes that have been left in sunlight to dry.
- With over eight thousand varieties, grapes come in black, red, pink, yellow, purple, and green.
A Brief History of Grapes
You might be surprised to learn that grapes are actually thought to be the oldest cultivated fruit. They are native to Central Europe and Western Asia, and are most famous for their role in winemaking throughout history.
Domestication of grapes (cultivation for commercial use) is thought to date back up to 8,000 years ago in Europe. Many references to grapes are found in the Torah and Bible, as the “fruit of the vine.”
From “Old World” species native to the southeast coast of the Black Sea, to “New World” species stemming from North Eastern and South America, grapes have played a role in countless culinary and religious traditions across the globe. They were introduced to the United States by the Spanish around the year 1700, and today California produces over 90% of our domestic grape crop.
Grapes Nutrition Facts
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrate: 16 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Sugar: 15 grams
Dietary Fiber: 1 gram
Grapes Health Benefits
Grapes aren’t only tasty; they are rich in vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that support your health. Consider the following benefits:
Support Blood Sugar Levels
Grape seed extract is of particular note in this category, which has been studied for its cancer-protective properties. The main types of cancer that have been linked to prevention and grape consumption are breast, colon, and prostate, and the antioxidant content of grapes plays a major role.
Help You Live Longer
The phytonutrient resveratrol, found in grapes as well as other foods, has been studied for its potential role in anti-aging. Fascinatingly, it has been shown to increase the expression of three genes related to longevity.
Promote Cognitive Function
Grape and grape juice consumption has been linked to improved cognitive (brain) function in study participants, and could even make you a better driver. While further research is needed, convincing arguments can be made that grapes are a highly brain-supportive food.
As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of grape varieties around the world. However, here are some of the most commonly consumed (for wine and food):
One of the most popular eaten varieties of grapes, this variety originates in Concord, Massachusetts and is most commonly known for Concord Grape juice. If you’ve tried the juice, you know that these grapes are sweet, dark, and full-flavored.
These grapes are also a dark purple color and are most grown these days in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and Russian River Valley of California. Pinot Noir grapes are used to make the famous wine, and are thin-skinned and thought to have “earthy” flavors.
Originally from the Wurttemberg region of Germany, these grapes are also grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York and in parts of British Colombia. They are large, plump, blue grapes and made to produce dark, tannic wines.
Sweet Jubilees are a seeded grape variety, and they are so big you can actually cut into them like an apple! They mainly grow in Central California, and you can eat them raw and sliced by themselves, or add them to a salad or sandwich. This is definitely a variety that is not to be missed, if you have them available.
Crimson Seedless grapes are the most common “table” variety of red grapes (if you buy red grapes at the grocery store, you are most likely buying this variety). Interestingly, these grapes were bred by USDA Fruit Genetics and Breeding Research in California and introduced to the public in 1989. They have a semi-tart flavor and thicker skin than other varieties.
Not to be confused with the sparkling, celebratory French beverage, champagne grapes are tiny, dark colored grapes that are technically called the Zante currant. Today, they are mainly grown in the United States and Europe, and are a delightful combination of sweetness and tartness (surprising, considering they are literally the size of a pea).
Kyoho grapes are the biggest grape variety in existence, and have a large, inedible seed. In Japan, these grapes are served as dessert or mixed into cocktails. and their fruit is deliciously sweet.
Cotton candy grapes are big, juicy green grapes that have a naturally sweet flavor (like cotton candy). They are mainly grown in Central California, and are a commonly consumed grape variety.
These grapes prefer cooler climates like upstate New York, Germany, and Austria. The Reisling grape is used to make the well-known Reisling wine, which has a bit of acidity to it. These grapes are also made into white grape juice.
How to Use Grapes
Aside from just washing them and popping them into your mouth for a healthy and easy snack, check out a few other great ways to enjoy grapes:
Chill Them For Salads
Probably opt for a seedless variety, and simply store them in the fridge until they are cold, slice them in half (or not) and add them to your favorite salad. They add a crispy, sweet and refreshing addition alongside more traditional salad items like tomatoes and cucumbers.
Enjoy Grapes with Veggies
Serving sliced veggies as an appetizer or snack? Add some grapes to the mix for an extra dose of sweetness and goes surprisingly well alongside vegetables. This might even convince your picky eaters to try a new vegetable, while you’re at it.
Put Them In a Kabob
Add grapes to a grilled kabob alongside veggies and chicken (or beef), or do an all-fruit kabob lightly roasted in summertime. Serve it alongside a chilled, yogurt-based dip.
Eat Them with Cheese
You’re hard-pressed to find someone who won’t love the incredible taste combination of grapes with cheese. Hard cheeses are especially delicious with the sweetness of grapes, and serve them with whole grain crackers for the perfect snack or appetizer.
Make a Kid-Friendly Snack with Melon and Cottage Cheese
Carve out some of the fruit from a half melon, and fill it with cottage cheese and sliced grapes. This is a fun and healthy snack for your kiddos to enjoy (and you too, for that matter).
Wrap it up in Grape Leaves
Stuffed grape leaves are a traditional food served in many cultures, such as Syria, Lebanon and Albania (among others). You can enjoy them while eating out, or make them at home. Try this healthier version that includes lamb and rice.
Grape Jelly Meatballs Recipe
Sound like an odd combination? Don’t be deterred by the inability to imagine such a creation, and trust us that this is well worth trying. Serve as a snack or appetizer at your next dinner party. We can pretty much guarantee your guests will be impressed.
- 1 jar or can of grape jam or jelly (about 16 ounces), or better yet, make your own
- 12 ounces of chili sauce (preferably a natural version, no sugars added)
- About 2 1/2 pounds of meatballs (try this recipe for one great option).
- a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like spice
- Simply combine your grape jam, chili sauce and cayenne in a small saucepan and heat on medium for about ten minutes, mixing occasionally.
- Place your meatballs and jam mixture in a slow cooker and cook for about 3 hours.
Grapes are a healthy and delicious addition to your diet, and will provide a myriad of health benefits from increased brain health to cancer prevention. Enjoy them alone or as part of a salad, or try your hand at Grape Jelly Meatballs. It’s hard to go wrong with grapes.