A bunch of grapes lying in a dish is tempting enough to encourage one to extend their hand and put a couple in the mouth. One doesn’t need to be hungry or wait for a proper time to partake of a few juicy grapes; it can be eaten anywhere and at any time of the day. In fact, grapes are a popular between-meal snack as well as a refreshing addition to both fruit and vegetable salads.

Grapes are small round or oval berries that have a sweet, tart flavour and a unique texture. They grow in clusters of 15 to 300, and can be crimson, black, dark blue, yellow, green, orange and pink. White grapes are actually green in colour, and are evolutionarily derived from the purple grape. Mutations in two regulatory genes of white grapes turn off production of anthocyanins which are responsible for the colour of purple grapes. Some contain edible seeds while others are seedless.

Dried grapes are known as raisins, while sultana were originally made from Sultana grapes of Turkish origin, but the word is now applied to raisins made from wither white grapes or red grapes which are bleached to resemble the traditional Sultana.

Grapes are usually eaten raw and are the primary source of red and white wine, which is the most important use of grapes. Approximately 71 per cent of world grape production is used for wine, 27 per cent as fresh fruit, and two per cent as dried fruit. Apart from that, they are used for making jams and jellies, candies and grape juice which have numerous health benefits.

Grape seed extract can be used for treating high blood pressure and cancer; and certain varieties of grapes are pressed to produce grape seed oil which is used in salad dressings, deep frying, flavoured oils, marinades, baking, sunburn repair lotion, massage oil, lip balm, hair products, body hygiene creams and hand creams. Dried grapes or raisins, which are extremely nutritious and help in many disorders including constipation, acidosis, anaemia, fever, eye care, sexual weakness and also in gaining weight.

Grapes are usually classified as table or wine grapes depending on their use: those used raw or used in a recipe are known as table grapes and the others as wine grapes or raisin grapes, used to make wine or dried fruit.

Grapes are rich sources of vitamins A, C, B6 and folate, and essential minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. They are also used to treat illnesses. Due to their eminent therapeutic value, grapes can be used to cure asthma. The assimilatory power of grapes is also higher which increases the moisture present in the lungs. Also, grapes increase the nitric oxide levels in the blood, which prevents blood clots thereby reducing the chances of heart attacks, while the antioxidant present in grapes prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol that blocks the blood vessels. Ripe grape juice is an important home remedy for curing migraine. It should be taken early in the morning, without mixing additional water. Furthermore, grapes are very effective in overcoming constipation. They are considered a laxative food, as they contain organic acid, sugar and cellulose. They also relieve chronic constipation by toning up the intestine and stomach. Grapes also play an important role in dyspepsia. They relieve heart burn and cure indigestion and irritation of the stomach.

Light and white grape juice replenishes the iron content present in the body and prevents fatigue while providing instant energy. The anti-oxidants present in grapes also provide the needed boost to your immune system. In addition to that, grapes can substantially reduce acidity of the uric acid and help in the elimination of acid from the system, thereby reducing the work pressure of kidneys. A recent study shows that purple coloured Concord grape juice helps in preventing breast cancer. Significant reduction in mammary tumour mass of laboratory rats was seen after they were fed grape juice on an experimental basis.

Resveratrol, a beneficial polyphenol present in grapes, reduces the levels of amyloidal-beta peptides in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Studies suggest that grapes can enhance brain health and stall the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, grapes can prevent the age related loss of vision or macular degeneration. Three servings of grapes a day can reduce the risk of macular degeneration by over 36 per cent. The flavonoids present in grapes have antioxidants, which can reduce and fight the damage caused by free radicals such as cataract, apart from cardiovascular diseases, cancer and age related problems.

Grapes contain a compound called pterostilbene, which has the capacity to reduce cholesterol level. Saponins present in grape skin can also prevent the absorption of cholesterol. Red grapes have strong antibacterial and antiviral properties and can protect you from infections, especially poliovirus and herpes simplex virus. Grapes are found to have strong anti-cancer properties due to the anti-inflammatory effect of resveratrol present in them. Grape juice prevents the risk of cancer and suppresses the growth and propagation of cancer cells. The pigments in grapes enhance the overall immunity of the body.

Thus, grapes play a pivotal role in preventing innumerable health disorders and can be used as home based remedies for several ailments.

Updated Jul 01, 2012 01:03am

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