Health Benefits of the Concord Grape (and Other Dark Purple Grapes)
The Concord grape is the most popular grape variety in the United States. This dark purple cultivar belongs to the Vitis labrusca species (also known as Fox Grape), and its luscious fruits are commonly used to make both wine and grape juice. Concord grapes, along with other dark-skinned grapes, also offer numerous health benefits, many of which are attributed the high levels of anthocyanins and resveratrol they contain. Keep reading to learn all about the wonderful benefits of this powerful superfood.
Cardiovascular Benefits Thanks to Anthocyanins and Other Antioxidants
Although all grapes, including white grapes, contain antioxidants, studies have found the highest levels of these health benefiting compounds in the blue and purple varieties. Much of the antioxidant power of dark-skinned grapes, such as Concord grapes, has been attributed to the high amounts of anthocyanins (and resveratrol) they contain. Anthocyanins, which have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a number of other common degenerative diseases, are also found in many other superfoods and superberries, including aronia berries, black elderberries, honeyberries, and purple carrots.
If you're looking to improve your cardiovascular health by stepping up your anthocyanin intake, eating Concord grapes certainly makes sense. However, eating Norton grapes (derived from the Vitis aestivalis species which is primarily grown in the Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states) may be an even smarter move! A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2004 (vol. 52, issue 22, p. 6779-86) compared the anthocyanin content of three grape cultivars – Concord, Foch, and Norton – and found that Norton grapes had the highest levels of anthocyanins – and the strongest antioxidant activity. In this study Foch grapes had the lowest levels of anthocyanins and the weakest antioxidant capacity.
Concord Grape Juice Has Immune-Boosting Properties
T cells are a subset of lymphocytes (white blood cells) that play a key role in the immune response. A study published in the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food found that gamma-delta T cells – which are particularly abundant in gut mucosa – were positively affected by regular consumption of purple grape juice made from Concord grapes.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study 85 middle-aged volunteers drank either 100% grape juice or a placebo beverage daily for 9 weeks. The study participants were asked not to consume other blue, red, and purple fruits during the study. Blood samples, which were collected both at the beginning and end of the study, showed that who drank the grape juice had much more circulating gamma-delta T cells, higher serum vitamin C levels, and higher serum antioxidant activity than those in the placebo group. Using structural equation modeling, the researchers concluded that 61% of the variance in biological functions at 9 weeks was due to grape juice consumption.
Resveratrol in Dark-Skinned Grapes Offers Benefits for the Skin
If you're still not impressed by the health benefits of grapes, consider this: dark-skinned grape varieties, such as the purple Concord and the black Baco Noir, are also one of the best food sources of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant and health-protecting phytochemical. Most of the resveratrol is found in the skin of the grapes; however, Muscadine grapes also contain considerable amounts in their seeds.
A study published in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that topical application of resveratrate, a stable derivative of resveratrol, protected skin from some of the harmful effects of UVA and UVB radiation. In this in vivo study, resveratrate was shown to control tanning and erythema (redness), sunburn damages, and sunburn cell formation. Other studies also suggest that resveratrol might provide protection against skin cancer.
Looking for a concentrated source of grape skin antioxidants? Try Bioflavia's Organic Grape Skin Powder (available from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) which is made from dried, antioxidant-packed red wine grape skins sourced from the Niagara wine region in Canada. Ideal for smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, granola, and homemade energy bars.
Resveratrol from Grapes Associated with a Reduced Breast Cancer Risk
In 2005, a group of researchers published an interesting study in the April issue of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. The researchers had analyzed the relation between breast cancer risk and dietary intake of resveratrol using data from a case-control study conducted in Switzerland between 1993 and 2003 on 369 cases and 602 controls. This study found that resveratrol from grapes, but not from wine, was inversely associated with breast cancer risk.
How to Reap the Benefits of Grapes
Now that we've established that Concord grapes are a real superfood full of nutritional goodness, let's take a look at ways you can reap the amazing health benefits of (Concord) grapes:
- When eating grapes as a healthy snack or preparing them for a fruit salad, don't bother removing the seeds. Grape seeds are edible and they are good for you, too.
- Buy organic grapes, if possible. Conventionally-grown grapes often contain very high levels of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
- Think of ways to include black pepper and grapes in the same meal – black pepper contains piperine, a compound that has been shown to improve the bioavailability of resveratrol.