Heart-healthy and tasty, too

Re­search sug­gests that Con­cord grapes make one heart-healthy juice.

Re­search has long sup­por­ted the re­com­mend­a­tion of one glass (5 ounces) of red wine for heart health, but many non­al­co­hol drink­ers want to know if grape juice of­fers the same health be­ne­fits? The an­swer is yes, if it’s 100 per­cent purple grape juice. 

   “You get sim­il­ar be­ne­fits, but red wine would provide those health be­ne­fits at a bit high­er level,” shares Susan Mills-Gray, Nu­tri­tion & Health Edu­ca­tion Spe­cial­ist with the Uni­versity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion.

   When grapes are fer­men­ted, the pro­cess cre­ates/lib­er­ates tan­nins, which are the be­ne­fi­cial com­pounds found in red wine. Tan­nins act as an­ti­ox­id­ants in sup­press­ing pro­duc­tion of the pep­tide re­spons­ible for harden­ing ar­ter­ies.

   Grapes and red wine also share the health be­ne­fits from res­veratrol, an an­ti­ox­id­ant found in the skin of red and purple grapes. 

   Res­veratrol pro­motes health­i­er blood ves­sels, which leads to bet­ter blood flow and over­all im­proved heart health. Res­veratrol has been found to block im­ma­ture fat cells from de­vel­op­ing and func­tion­ing, which can pre­vent/re­duce body fat. Res­veratrol is also found in blue­ber­ries, cran­ber­ries, pea­nuts and pea­nut but­ter.   

   Most grape juice is made from the Con­cord grape. The Con­cord grape is far from or­din­ary. This little purple fruit (and its cous­in the white Niagara grape) packs quite a nu­tri­tion punch to help fuel healthy, vi­brant life­styles.

   Con­cord grapes have nat­ur­al plant nu­tri­ents called poly­phen­ols, in­clud­ing many of the same ones found in red wine. Not only do poly­phen­ols give Con­cord grapes their vi­brant col­or, these plant nu­tri­ents also act as an­ti­ox­id­ants and de­liv­er be­ne­fits to help pro­mote over­all health.

   What’s more, re­search sug­gests that Con­cord grapes make one heart-healthy juice. Most 100 per­cent grape juice is made with whole Con­cord grapes — skin, seeds and all — and con­tains no ad­ded sug­ar, col­or or fla­vor.

   Get­ting enough fruits and ve­get­ables each day is im­port­ant for over­all health. In par­tic­u­lar, most people fall short on get­ting enough vi­brantly colored, blue and purple fruits and ve­get­ables, which only ac­count for about 3 per­cent of total fruit and ve­get­able in­take. That’s not great news, be­cause a diet rich in a wide vari­ety of col­or­ful fruits and ve­get­ables en­sures the broad­est range of vit­am­ins, min­er­als and be­ne­fi­cial plant nu­tri­ents.

   Dark-skinned blue and purple fruits, like the Con­cord grape and grape juice, provide plant nu­tri­ents not found in many oth­er col­ors of fruits and ve­get­ables. In fact, ac­cord­ing to a na­tion­al sur­vey, con­sum­ing blue and purple fruits and ve­get­ables is as­so­ci­ated with health­i­er eat­ing pat­terns in chil­dren and adults, and over­all bet­ter health in adults. 

   Drink­ing the right amount of 100 per­cent juice made with Con­cord grapes can be a smart way to add purple fruit to the diet and to liven up your day. But it’s im­port­ant to re­mem­ber that many purple grape juices aren’t made with Con­cord grapes, which means they may not have the same amount of plant nu­tri­ents, and there­fore have less nat­ur­al poly­phen­ol power. Check the la­bel to make sure that the grape juice that you’re buy­ing is 100 per­cent grapes.

   “The typ­ic­al rule of thumb is that if you don’t drink al­co­hol, you shouldn’t start, so 100 per­cent purple grape juice is cer­tainly a good op­tion,” adds Mills-Gray.

   Juice also con­tains slightly less cal­or­ies than wine — juice has 4 cal­or­ies per gram, wine has 7 cal­or­ies per gram. So, en­joy the be­ne­fits of the juice of the vine without the al­co­hol and drink 100 per­cent grape juice!

Grape Juice Smooth­ie 

   Here’s an es­pe­cially heart-healthy drink. Not only is it low in fat, but red grapes con­tain the same phyto­chem­ic­als found in red wine that pro­tect against heart dis­ease. 

   To freeze grapes for this re­cipe or for a great frozen snack, place the in­di­vidu­al grapes on a tray and place them in a freez­er. When frozen, pour the grapes in­to a re-seal­able bag and store in the freez­er.

1/2 cup grape juice, chilled 

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt 

1 cup frozen, seed­less red grapes 

   In a blender, com­bine grape juice, yogurt and grapes and blend un­til mix­ture is smooth and frothy. Pour in­to 1 tall glass.  ••

   An­gela Shelf Medear­is is an award-win­ning chil­dren’s au­thor, culin­ary his­tor­i­an and the au­thor of sev­en cook­books. 

   Her new cook­book is “The Kit­chen Diva’s Dia­bet­ic Cook­book.” Her Web site is www.di­vapro.com 

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