Grapes, grape seeds, grape oil health benefits [Archives:2008/1220/Health]

December 29 2008

Salma Ismail
Grapes have a long and abundant history. While they've grown wild since prehistoric times, evidence suggests they were cultivated in Asia as early as 5000 BC. The grape also played a role in numerous religious stories, being referred to as the “fruit of the vine.” Grapes were also pictured in hieroglyphics in ancient Egyptian burial tombs.

The fruit grows in clusters of 6 to 300, and can be of a wide range of colors including black, dark blue, yellow, green, crimson, and pink. The grape skin contains many of the fruit's vital nutrients.

Grapes can be eaten raw or used for making jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, wine, grape seed extracts and grape seed oil.

Health benefits

A one cup serving of grapes yields 57 calories, 6 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 2 mg of sodium, 1 gram of dietary fiber and vitamins A and C. Grape seeds, grape skin, and grape juice contain several types of polyphenols, including resveratrol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. Flavonoids, an amazing array of over 6,000 different substances found in virtually all plants, are responsible for many of the plant color, the stronger the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoids.

Protecting against heart disease

Grapes and products made from grapes, such as wine and grape juice, may protect from their high-fat diets. Diets high in saturated fats like butter and lard, and lifestyle habits like smoking are risk factors for heart disease. Yet, the French that have these habits have a lower risk of heart attack than Americans do. One clue that may help explain this “French paradox” is their frequent consumption of grapes and in various forms.

Two flavonoid quercitin, and resveratrol appear to decrease the risk of heart disease by, Reducing platelet clumping and harmful blood clots and Protecting LDL cholesterol from the free radical damage that initiates LDL's artery-damaging actions.

May help battle obesity

According to a new study, resveratrol reduces the number of fat cells and may one day be used to treat or prevent obesity. is consistent with the theory that the resveratrol in red wine explains the French paradox, the observation that French people eat a relatively high-fat diet but have a low death rate from heart disease.

Protecting against cancer

Recently, several studies have also identified resveratrol as an excellent candidate for use as a cancer-preventive agent in prostate, lung, liver and breast cancer. Resveratrol has demonstrated striking inhibitory effects on the cellular events involved in cancer initiation, promotion, and progression, and its safety in animal studies of cancer development resulting from exposure to chemical toxins is excellent.

Minimize brain damage in stroke victims

A stroke can happen in a matter of seconds, but can incapacitate people for the rest of their lives. Strokes are sudden, quick and, in many cases, permanent.

When a stroke happens due to a blockage of blood flow to the brain, no oxygen or nutrients can enter the affected region of the brain. Soon after, neurons in the affected area of the brain begin to release excitatory amino acid neurotransmitters that encourage calcium to move into the neurons. This calcium influx generates “reactive oxygen species,” or “free radicals,” that can be very damaging. Studies with animal models indicate that the influx of calcium and generation of free radicals can result in delayed cell death, a process that occurs over the next few days. Resveratrol can absorb the free radicals and stop them from doing any further damage to the brain or individual cells.

Grape seed extract is a naturally occurring plant substance that contains a concentrated source of antioxidant nutrients known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins more commonly known as OPCs. These antioxidants can help protect against the effects of internal and external stresses. Scientists have demonstrated that OPCs, are more powerful antioxidants than vitamins C, E and beta-carotene.

More than 90 research presentations, publications and abstracts have been reported the health benefits regarding grape seed extract focusing on areas related to antioxidant activity, cardiovascular health, gastric health and anti-inflammatory properties.

You would reportedly have to eat large amounts of grape seeds to get the same benefit of manufactured grape seed extract

Grape seed extracts could be tainted with chemicals that result from the antioxidant extraction technique. Some brands use chemical solvents for extraction, which can alter the integrity of proanthocyanidins or leave residues.

Grape seed oil

As early as in the Middle Ages, it was known that high-value edible oil can be obtained from grape seeds by cold-pressing. This oil, which is a by-product of wine, was further employed as an effective agent in cosmetics and as a remedy for treating small wounds, such as burns and skin lesions, and for the treatment of chapped skin. The traditional method of grape seed cold-pressing has completely fallen into oblivion and was replaced by modern extraction methods.

Extracting grape seed oil is more difficult than other oils because the grape itself is small, has a hard shell, and contains only a small amount of oil, only 16-21 percent of the grape seed is oil. This actually contributes to the nutritional value of the oil since the seeds are well protected against, agricultural sprays such as pesticides.

Grape seed oil has a high concentration of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E. It is also a highly concentrated source of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid also known as omega-6 acid. This fatty acid is important for normal cell metabolism and maintenance. Furthermore, the oil is naturally cholesterol free and among cooking oils, it contains one of the lowest levels of saturated fat, only fiver percent.

In all products grape seed oil is a preferred cosmetic ingredient for damaged tissues because it possesses regenerative and restructuring qualities which allow a better control of skin moisturization.

Threatened future of grapes in Yemen

Forty years ago, Yemen was rich in natural resources. The country was practically self-sufficient in cereal and other crop supplies. Today that is not the case.

Among Yemen's top two most valued food assets, alongside with coffee, the production of grapes is under threat from climate change and urbanization.

Discouraged by a looming poverty, Yemeni farmers have progressively traded their vulnerable food crops for qat, considered a much more profitable commodity.

Rawdha, just 7 km north of Sana'a, being so close to Sana'a, is suffering the results of rapid urbanization, in terms of the survival of its famed grapes Large government infrastructure projects, military and civilian, are consuming large tracts of rich agriculture land, where there are existing farms, that provide the livelihood for hundreds of families, and where these grapes are grown.

Tips for consumption

If you are not going to consume the whole bunch at one time, use scissors to separate small clusters of grapes from the stem instead of removing individual grapes.

This will help keep the remaining grapes fresher by preventing the stem from drying out.

If you are drinking grape juice for health benefits, avoid products labeled as grape “drinks.” This is often an imitation high-sugar product with little real grape juice.

Research conducted at the in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase hence their health value.

Since grapes tend to spoil and ferment at room temperature, they should always be stored in the refrigerator.

Loosely wrap unwashed grapes in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag.

This way, they'll keep fresh in the refrigerator for several days.