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