Grapes are a member of the Vitaceae family that has eleven genera. This fruit bearing genus is Vitus, which has approximately sixty species. The plant was cultivated by humans around 6500 B.C.E. and by 4000 B.C.E. the grape could be found in vineyards from Transcaucasia east to Asia Minor and south to the Nile river delta. The grape existed long before humans walked the earth and could be found throughout the world. The Old World grapes were used as a snack food and dried to make raisins, but in Europe the main use of the grape was to make wine. It symbolizes fertility and is used in religious ceremonies because of its resemblance to blood. Though there is only one species found in the wild in Europe the New World has an abundance of wild grape species. When the Vikings landed in what is now Newfoundland they named it Vinland for the grape vines they found. Still today, grapes are valued for their nutritional content and healing benefits.
There are more than a thousand varieties of grapes. Table grapes are large with thin skins and have been bred to a seedless variety; wine grapes are smaller with thick skin and all contain seeds. Grapes grow in various colors; the most common in the United States are green, red, black, blue black, amber, pink, and purple. The varieties of grapes differ in size, shape, and texture. The Moon Drop grape with deep purple skin has been bred to have an elongated shape with firm flesh that has a pleasant sweetness. The Concord grape was cultivated by Ephraim Wales Bull of Boston in 1849. It is a round, blue-purple berry containing large seeds with a rich flavor and easy-to-peel skin. The Champagne grape is one of the smallest of berries—about the size of a pea, they have a sweet flavor with a crunchy texture and are an excellent plate decoration and snack.
No matter whether grapes are eaten fresh, dried into raisins, or made into wine they provide many benefits to the body:
1. Headaches & Brain Health
Grapes provide relief from migraine headaches and have been used as a cure for centuries. For the most benefit, consume grapes as a pure juice and drink every morning. Grapes contain resveratrol which reduces the amount of amyloidal-beta peptides that is prevalent in individuals that have Alzheimer’s disease. They also reduce brain-damaging plaque and increase blood flow to the brain, aiding in mental acuteness.
2. Healthy Digestive System
For a healthy digestive system grapes are an excellent addition to the diet. The berries are a beneficial source of sugar, organic acid, and polyose that provide laxative properties, lessening the incidence of constipation. They also tone the muscles of the lower digestive tract. Because grapes are rich in fiber they help to form a healthy stool, control indigestion, and soothe stomach irritation.
3. Cardiovascular Health
Grapes are beneficial for a healthy heart. They increase nitric oxide levels in the blood to prevent blood clotting and thus reduce the incidence of heart attacks. The high content of flavonoids like quercetin and resveratrol controls the development of free radicals and reduces the clumping of blood platelets to filter blood toxins. Grapes also help relax the blood vessel walls which lowers blood pressure and dilates the blood vessels for improved blood flow. Grapes contain anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the arterial inflammation.
4. Healthy, Youthful Skin
For healthy skin and to reduce the effects of aging grapes contain antioxidants and vitamin C that protect the skin from free radicals. The berries tone the skin when the pulp is rubbed on the face. Vitamin C is also necessary in the formation of collagen that helps with the growth of cells and blood vessels and firms the skin. Grapes resveratrol content protects the skin from the harsh effects of weather, revitalizes damaged tissue, and reduces skin discoloration. Grape seed extract is rich in vitamin E, which helps the skin retain moisture and is an exfoliant resulting in smooth and healthy skin. Green grapes reverse uneven skin tones and lighten acne scars.
5. Immune System & Organ Health
For ocular health and to boost the immune system grapes are rich in vitamins C, K, and A, which are essential in preventing many ocular diseases like macular degeneration. The berries also are high in minerals and flavonoids that boost organ health and the immune system, fighting off colds, flu, and other diseases.
The wild grape was growing primarily in North America before humans walked the Earth, with one wild species that grows in Europe. Found throughout the world grapes are one of the most popular foods. They are used as snacks, found in many recipes, and are extremely nutritious. They are dried as raisins to be used in recipes and as snacks. Grapes have been made into wines for centuries, which is one of their main uses. Furthermore, the oil from the seeds is extracted for healing aids. The grape has earned its place as a superfood.