Concord grapes: a natural for grape expectations

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 Concord grapes: a natural for grape expectations

Grape’s purple power – particularly of Concord grapes – is becoming more well-known for the positive impact they can have on our health.  The dark purple variety of grape juice bought at the grocery store is from Concord grapes and this robust, aromatic grape can help increase our daily intake of fruits and vegetables many of us are lacking.  Concord grape juice is available year round but this is the perfect time of year to be looking for Concord grapes in your grocery store or farmers’ market as they come into season from late summer into fall.

Even though commercial grape production dates back to the year 1000 B.C., the Concord grape made its debut in 1849 when Boston-born Ephraim Wales Bull developed the Concord variety named after the Massachusetts village of Concord.  Ever since, the Concord grape has been a perennial favorite from drinking the juice, to enjoying jams and jellies made from it and of course, eating the whole grape by itself.

Concord grapes health benefits

Scientists have been studying for years the benefits associated with Concord grapes and grape juice.  Research shows that consuming both the fruit and the juice of Concord grapes can make an important contribution both in nutrition and benefits to our health.  Here is what Concord grapes have to offer:

·      Promotes cardiovascular health

A substance called polyphenols are found in plant-based foods which act as antioxidants to help minimize the damaging effects of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and help support healthy, clear arteries.  Concord grapes are loaded with polyphenols that can contribute to heart health.

If you love grape juice you’re in luck as the juice of Concord grapes has been shown to provide many of the same heart health benefits of red wine, but without the concerns of alcohol.  Both wine and Concord grape juice are made from rich, dark, whole grapes containing polyphenols found naturally in the fruit.  It appears that grape juice can help keep arteries flexible supporting healthy blood circulation throughout the body. 

·      Promotes cognitive health

An emerging area looking to be promising for promoting cognitive functioning is the effect Concord grapes have on reducing memory decline in older adults.  Research conducted so far shows that drinking Concord grape juice may help slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline but more research is needed to verify this finding. 

·      Promotes a healthy immune system

Concord grapes are a rich source of vitamin C and polyphenols, both which may play a role in supporting a healthy immune system.  One study found that when 100% Concord grape juice was fortified with vitamin C, it increased a type of immune cell – the gamma delta T cell – which sends signals to the immune system to respond.  At this time, there have been very few studies looking into the role of grapes and immunity in humans so until further research is conducted, the findings are preliminary. 

·      Other benefits of Concord grapes

Preliminary research suggests that the antioxidants found in Concord grapes may protect against cancer.  A 2010 study found that Concord grapes inhibit angiogenesis which can promote the growth of new blood vessels to feed and metastasize a cancerous tumor.  Another study found that participants who regularly consumed Concord grape juice had more white blood cells in their bloodstream which can help fight off viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders threatening your health such as cancer cells. 

Including Concord grapes into a nutritious diet

Getting in enough fruits into our daily diet can be challenging for many of us.  One way is to drink 100% Concord grape juice in moderation (about 4-8 ounces daily) to help reach the recommended daily amount of at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.  Many people have concerns with added sugar to juice but there is no added sugar to 100% Concord grape juice.  The amount of grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts Label refers to the naturally occurring fruits sugars found in grapes. 

Note: Read the label carefully to make sure you are buying 100% Concord grape juice and not Concord grape juice cocktail.  The latter does contain added sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. 

There is now a variety of 100% Concord grape juices to choose from – 100% Concord grape juice with calcium (100 milligrams) and 100% Concord grape juice with fiber (3 grams) both found in one cup or 8 ounces.

Then, of course, you can consume the whole grape by itself enjoying its full-bodied, delicious sweetness tantalizing your taste buds.  One cup of Concord grapes contains about 62 calories, 0 grams of fat or cholesterol, a mere 2 milligrams of sodium, about 16 grams of total carbohydrates and 175 milligrams of potassium.

For more information on Concord grape nutrition and recipes, visit Concord Grape Association.