Grapes called Angoor in Urdu are one of the favourite Pakistani fruits grown in huge areas of Sindh, Punjab and parts of KP and Baluchistan. The combination of unique texture and sweet, tart flavor has made grapes an ever popular between-meal snack as well as a refreshing addition to both fruit and vegetable salads.
Grapes are small round or oval berries that feature semi-translucent flesh encased by a smooth skin. Some contain edible seeds while others are seedless. Like blueberries, grapes are often covered by a protective, whitish bloom. Grapes that are eaten as is or used in a recipe are called table grapes and as opposed to wine grapes (used in viniculture) or raisin grapes (used to make dried fruit).
Several grape phytonutrients are now believed to play a role in longevity. At the top of the list in this area of research is resveratrol (a stilbene phytonutrient present mostly in grape skins, but also in grape seeds and grape flesh). Resveratrol has recently been shown to increase expression of three genes all related to longevity. (These three genes are SirT1s, Fox0s, and PBEFs.) Interestingly, some researchers have shown a parallel between activation of these longevity genes by resveratrol and activation by calorie-restricted diets. In aging and longevity research, our ability to get optimal nutrition for the fewest possible amount of calories is related to our longevity, and the more we can decrease our calories while staying optimally nourished, the better our chances of healthy aging and longevity.
Grapes have long been classified as a low glycemic index (GI) food, with GI values ranging between 43-53. But having a low GI value is not necessarily the same as having blood sugar benefits. In the case of grapes, recent studies have shown that the low GI value of grapes is also a good indicator of this fruit’s blood sugar benefits. Better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity have now been connected with intake of grape juices, grape extracts, and individual phytonutrients found in grapes.
The 2014 edition of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides by the Environmental Working Group has once again identified conventionally grown grapes as one of most problematic fruits and vegetables in terms of pesticide residues. There’s new evidence that pesticide residues can be successfully avoided by purchase of certified organic grapes. In a recent study of 99 vineyards in the Aegean Sea area of the Mediterranean, pesticide residues were found on conventionally grown table grapes, but were determined to be undetectable on grapes that had been organically grown. This new evidence adds to our confidence about the added health benefits of selecting organically grown grapes.
With respect to berries (and remembering that grapes are included among the berry fruits), we recommend that you include berries at least 3-4 times per week within your fruit servings. In several of our sample meal plans, we include berries on a daily basis! It would definitely not be a mistake for you to include a serving of either grapes, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries or other berries in your daily meal plan! When you’re including grapes among your daily fruit servings, you should treat one cup as the equivalent of approximately 15-20 grapes. In practice, what this means is that on any given day, if you decide that you would like to consume all 3 of your fruit servings from this delicious food, you can feel confident enjoying up to 45-60 grapes! On another day, if you are primarily in the mood for other kinds of fresh fruit, there is still plenty of room within this 3-serving range to include some fresh grapes on a salad, or enjoy a small cluster along with a snack.