As far as healthy snacks go, it doesn’t get much better than grapes. They’re super convenient to pack and take with you—and they taste good, to boot. Best of all, they’re about 84% water. Simple, meaning you get an instant dose of hydration from munching on them. Grapes come in literally thousands of different varieties and colors, all of them delicious in their own unique way. But what happens to your body when you eat grapes? Well, a lot of things. While grapes offer a bevy of health benefits, they can also do more harm than good if you go overboard with your snacking—which, let’s be honest, is pretty easy to do with this fruit.
A 1-cup serving of red or green grapes contains 28% of your daily recommended intake for vitamin K, a nutrient that’s essential for bone and heart health. Not only that, but they’re extremely low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and an excellent source of vitamin C. Studies have shown that eating grapes doesn’t just support your physical health, but also your cognitive health, too: One 2017 study found that when adults took a grape supplement daily, they improved their test scores for attention, memory, and language. That said, grapes are also high in sugar and carbs, and low in protein.
Grapes are incredibly versatile—you can snack on them right off the vine, incorporate them into smoothies, toss them into salads, or even freeze them for a popsicle-like treat. Now, if you’re curious about what happens to your body when you eat grapes, read on. And for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Grapes pack a whopping 23 grams of sugar per cup. However, certified nutritionist Paul Claybrook, MS, notes that this fruit is relatively low on the glycemic index, meaning they shouldn’t cause your blood sugar to spike too much – if you eat them in moderation.
“Your blood sugar will increase but not as significantly as something like soda would cause,” he explains. “Part of the reason for this is that grapes contain some fiber, which slows down the speed at which your body can absorb nutrients, including sugar. There isn’t a whole lot of fiber (just under a gram per cup) but it’s enough to keep your blood sugar in a reasonable range as long as you aren’t pigging out on them.”
Studies even say that Controlling This Hormone May Help Lower Blood Sugar.
You’ve heard of antioxidants, right? Those powerful substances that defend your body from free radical damage? Well, grapes are chock-full of them, and they can help protect and repair your cells from oxidative stress—which is linked to the development of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
“Oxidative stress simply means that there are too many free radicals (waste products) and not enough antioxidants (waste neutralizers) in your body to mop them up,” explains Claybrook. “The result is damage to tissues that can lead to disease. Fortunately, grapes contain tons of antioxidants including flavonoids, phenolics, vitamin C, quercetin lutein, beta carotene, and resveratrol.”
Research has revealed that grapes contain over 1,600 beneficial plant compounds, and since the highest concentration of antioxidants is in the seeds and the skin, it’s better to eat them whole than simply drink grape juice. Additionally, it’s also worth noting that red grapes are higher in antioxidants than green ones because they contain anthocyanins, a type of flavanoid that’s responsible for their color.
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Chronic inflammation can cause a number of long-term symptoms and health issues, including muscle aches and joint pain, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems. It’s also been linked to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and other serious conditions.
Luckily, according to Claybrook, the diversity of powerful antioxidants found in grapes can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Specifically, resveratrol is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Multiple studies have found that taking grape powder extract can increase the levels of anti-inflammatory compounds in your blood.
“While grapes are very healthy, too much of a good thing can still be a problem,” says Claybrook.
If you were to eat, say, 2 cups of grapes, you’d be getting almost 47 grams of sugar—that’s almost the equivalent of two candy bars.
“Sugar causes weight gain, so you don’t want to eat grapes by the pound,” adds Claybrook. “Grapes could also cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, and an upset stomach if you overdo it.”
One serving is about 1/2 cup or 16 grapes—which may seem small, but controlling your portion sizes of this fruit will allow you to reap the benefits without the risks of digestive issues and weight gain.
One cup of grapes contains an impressive 288 milligrams of potassium, which plays a key role in lowering blood pressure. Not only that but studies have shown that red grapes contain compounds that may help to reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
“The polyphenols in grapes have been shown to lower the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries),” adds Claybrook. “They do this of course by eliminating free radicals but also improve the function of the tissues and help avoid LDL cholesterol from being damaged and sticking to blood vessel walls. They also help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, thus reducing blood pressure and keep platelets from sticking together and creating clogs.”
Here are 17 Foods That Lower Cholesterol.
Grapes are a stellar source of vitamin C, packing 27% of the RDI in 1 cup. As you may or may not know, vitamin C is an essential nutrient that benefits your immune system, which may explain why test-tube studies have shown that grape skin extract can protect against the flu virus.
In fact, 2013 research that compared the immune-boosting effects of hundreds of foods found that red grapes stood out—mainly due to the resveratrol, which works with vitamin D to raise the expression of a specific gene involved in immune function.