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 covered by a protective, whitish bloom. Grapes that are eaten as is or used in a recipe are called table grapes as opposed to wine grapes (used in viniculture) or raisin grapes (used to make dried fruit).
Flavonoids are phytonutrients that give the vibrant purple color to grapes, grape juice and red wine; the stronger the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoids. These flavonoid compounds include quercitin, as well as a second flavonoid-type compound (falling into the chemical category of stilbenes) called resveratrol. Both compounds appear to decrease the risk of heart disease by:
- Reducing platelet clumping and harmful blood clots
- Protecting LDL cholesterol from the free radical damage that initiates LDL’s artery-damaging actions
Grapes and products made from grapes, such as wine and grape juice, may protect the French 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, French people with 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 red wines.