Grapes

Grapes and Wine: The Ruby Healers

by Deep, Radi, and Mithu on October 6, 2009

in Natural Health Foods

Irám indeed is gone with all its Rose,

And Jamshýd’s Sev’n-ring’d Cup where no one knows;

But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields,

And still a Garden by the Water blows.

The grape, immortalized in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, still lifts our spirits today and has proved itself to be a cornucopia of health enhancing properties gifted to us by Nature.

Mithu has a particular interest in grapes and their health benefits as she tried the grape cure, made by famous by Johanna Brandt, at a time when she was seriously ill after a major bout of typhoid. She went on a forty-five day fast consisting exclusively of organic grapes (mostly red) and grape juice. At the end of the fast, she went down from a size 12 to a size 10, wardrobe-wise, and had more energy and vitality than she knew what to do with. All the symptoms of her illness completely disappeared and the only “side effects” she experienced were a craving for any foods other than grapes and an addiction to recipe books!

Description:

To begin with some basics, the grape, botanically a “true berry” belonging to the genus Vitis, grows in clusters of six to three hundred on perennial and deciduous woody vines. The fruits come in a variety of hues ranging from black, dark blue and crimson to pink, yellow, and green.

Most grapes come from cultivars of Vitis vinifera, the European grape vine, native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Some such as Concord grapes come from America while Vitis amurensis is the most important Asian species. Countries producing wine from grapes include France, Italy, Turkey, the U.S., Iran, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Lebanon, and India among others.

Nutritional Profile:

Grapes contain a host of valuable nutrients. Some of the main vitamins and minerals in grapes include Vitamin A, a good number of the B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc and Sodium.

The purple/red grapes owe their color to concentrations of flavonoids (a group of phytonutrients), especially Quercetin and Resveratrol. The deeper the grape color, the higher the flavonoid concentrations. Apart from being present in grape skins, Resveratrol is also present in high concentrations in red wine but not in white wine. Particularly good sources are wines made from Muscadine grapes.

Phenolic compounds, another variety of phytonutrients which help to inhibit heart disease, are found in the skins of grapes with red varieties generally yielding higher concentrations. This also applies to wine benefits: white wines contain lower phenolic content than red wines since the grape skins are removed before fermentation.

Grapes contain a number of important organic acids such as malic acid, gallic acid, silicic acid, and oxalic acid, as well as powerful antioxidants such as anthocyanin and alpha-tocopherol.

Other important nutrients, apart from Resveratrol found in grape skin are beta-carotene, lycopene, and ellagic acid.

Red wine contains high concentrations of saponins which increase proportionately to the alcoholic strength of the wine. These valuable phytonutrients, which dissolve into the wine during the fermentation process, help to lower cholesterol by preventing its absorption.

Pterostilbene, a powerful antioxidant found in grapes, also helps to lower cholesterol and is known as an anti-cancer compound.

History:

A fruit known from ancient times, the grape was cultivated by the ancient Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans for consumption both as food and wine. In Indian Ayurveda, drakshasava is an age-old grape-based herbal preparation prescribed for heart health, improved blood circulation, proper digestion and elimination, and for respiratory conditions, including tuberculosis.

Notable Health Benefits of Grapes, Grape Juice, and Red Wine:

Heart Ailments:

Quercetin and Resveratrol, the two major flavonoid compounds occurring in purple grapes and red wine, have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and may inhibit the initiation of atherosclerosis as a result of their ability to inhibit platelet clumping and the formation of blood clots. They further protect LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation which is what makes it into an artery damaging molecule. As we mentioned earlier, pterostilbene may also lower cholesterol levels.

These activities appear to contribute to what is known as “the French paradox.” Though the French enjoy high fat diets, incidents of heart disease are low due to their habit of consuming red wine with their meals. They have obviously got this one right!

Studies have also shown that purple grape juice improves endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease.

For those with high blood pressure, here is some good news. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a glass of red wine with your evening meal may be a good idea for those suffering from this condition. For those who either don’t like alcohol or don’t trust themselves to drink in moderation, red grape juice also provides most of these benefits so you can take your pick. Drinking around six glasses of red grape juice provides the equivalent beneficial effects of two glasses of red wine on blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks.

Strokes:

Resveratrol, which has proved helpful with high blood pressure problems, also improves blood flow to the brain, thereby reducing the risk of strokes. This is according to an animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Alzheimer’s:

Research suggests that purple grape juice can promote brain health and help to significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Studies by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York further suggest that red grape seed extract could help against memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.

Cancer Protection:

There is evidence that grape Resveratrol can prevent and fight cancers of several kinds such as the prostrate, the lungs, the liver, the colorectal system, and the breast by inhibiting the cells that are involved in cancer initiation, promotion, and progression. In addition to Resveratrol, there are substances in grapes, notably anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which are anti-proliferates and can help to halt the growth and propagation of cancer cells. Caffeic acid, a potent cancer-fighting agent is also present in high concentrations in grapes.

Joanna Brandt described how she healed herself of stomach cancer in her well known book, “The Grape Cure.” Though she did not know of all of the cancer healing properties of grapes at the time, we can now surmise the role of Resveratrol and other known cancer-fighting compounds found in grapes in her healing process.

A point to note is that while Resveratrol in red wine can have a protective effect in lung cancer, the opposite goes for white wine, which could even be harmful for this condition.

Grapes as an Anti-Ageing Food:

Many studies have confirmed that caloric restriction prolongs longevity. This effect is due to the activation of “Sir2”, an enzyme belonging to a family of molecules called sirtuins found in almost all life forms. In the search for a small molecule that could directly activate this enzyme, Resveratrol was found to be the most potent of all the polyphenols tested. At relatively low doses, Resveratrol stimulates sirtuin activity but higher doses have the opposite effect. A suggested dose is one glass of red wine or red grape juice drunk daily.

Loss of Vision:

Grape nutrients such as flavonoids and Vitamin A have beneficial effects on vision defects due to macular degeneration and cataracts.

Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Viral Actions of Grapes:

Purple grape juice and red wine have powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and can help to inhibit food-borne pathogens such as bacteria and viruses without harming probiotic bacteria in the body.

Cautions:

  • The beneficial effects of red wine can be destroyed by excessive consumption, which can lead to serious health problems.
  • Some people can suffer migraines from drinking red wine and in others it can bring on gout.
  • Wine often contains unlisted added preservatives, colors, and flavors that can cause adverse reactions. Sulphur dioxide, an additive which is frequently found in red wine, can bring on an asthmatic attack in those sensitive to the chemical.
  • Pregnant women should avoid all forms of alcohol, including wine since this can cause fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Grapes should not be consumed in combination with certain products some of which are: milk, fish, beer, mineral water, and melons as this can cause serious stomach problems.
  • Before ingesting grapes, grape juice, or wine, we would suggest you consult your physician if you suffer from any of the following conditions: obesity; diabetes; diarrhea and dysentery; colitis and stomach ulcers; or any other serious underlying conditions. This precaution also holds for anyone who is interested in trying the grape fast.

Concluding Words:

And so the grape, that queen of fruits, comes down the ages to raise our spirits and bestow her healing gifts on us. To further quote our friend, Omar Khayyám, she truly is:

The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice

Life’s leaden Metal into Gold transmute[s].

So cheers and happy wining and dining!

Stop Press:

One of our readers provided us with a link to a website that markets a product called “Resveratrol Ultra.” This product appears to have got a number of positive reviews in the media so you might like to check it out:

http://www.resveratrolreviewed.org

Key Reference Sources:

  • Adnani, Seema. Health Benefits of Grapes. Organic Facts (http://www.organicfacts.net)
  • Craig, Winston. Health Benefits of Grapes. Vegetarianism and Vegetarian Nutrition. (http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info)
  • Folts, J.D. 2002. Potential Health from the Flavonoids in Grape Products on Vascular Disease. Adv Exp Med Biol 505:95-111
  • Fritzgerald, Edward. (n.d.) The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. London: Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd.
  • The George Mateljan Foundation: The World’s Healthiest Foods. Grapes (http://whfoods.org)
  • Michael S. 2008. Grape Seed Extract May Protect Against Alzheimer’s (http://www.wellsphere.com)
  • Pandey. Kundan. 2009. Grapes: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits (Buzzle.com)
  • Wikipedia. Grape (http://en.wikipedia.org)
  • XavierL18. Best 4 Health Benefits of Grapes. Perfect Shape (http://www.the-perfectshape.com)

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes

1 Comment

  • At 2009.10.24 00:00, Energy Bar said:

    There are a lot of good opinions here. Really gives me a new way of looking at things.

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