The Brain Benefits of Concord Grapes
Like berries, grapes contain beneficial phytochemicals, plant substances that work as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents to protect body cells from damage and fight age-related diseases. The phytochemicals in grapes, known collectively as polyphenol compounds, have been associated with improved brain function in aging men and women. The notable polyphenols in Concord grapes include anthocyanins and flavanols. These phytochemicals have also been shown to reduce blood pressure and the development of diseases of the arteries, as well as fight off dementia.
A small study of older adults with mild memory decline, published in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that those who drank a cup of Concord grape juice every day for 16 weeks made fewer errors in memory tests than before they drank the juice. The study participants also underwent MRI scans that showed increased activity, suggesting increased blood flow, in areas of the brain associated with cognition. Previous studies performed on both laboratory animals and humans with early memory decline had similar results.
Antioxidants like polyphenols work by neutralizing substances called free radicals, which contribute to the overall aging process because they damage and destroy normal, healthy cells in the body. Free radicals form during normal, necessary body processes, including energy metabolism, exercise, and simple breathing. Although antioxidants are sold in supplement form, there is no evidence that they actually help fight disease. At the same time, there is evidence that eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other foods rich in naturally occurring antioxidants, helps protect against age-related disease and decline.
Along with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, cranberry juice, and red wine, grape juice is among the top 12 foods and beverages commonly consumed in the United States that have the highest antioxidant count per standard serving. To get more grapes and grape juice into your diet, try these ideas:
- Combine equal amounts of grape juice and seltzer to make a juice spritzer, or fruit "soda."
- Blend grape juice, vanilla yogurt, and milk to make a smoothie similar to the old fashioned drink known as a "purple cow."
- Simmer apple or pear slices in grape juice to soften the fruit; refrigerate and serve cold with juice as a "sauce" poured over the fruit.
- Add halved grapes to fruit salads, green salads, and chicken salads.
- Bake a grape pie.
- Freeze individual grapes for an icy treat on hot days.
Halvorsen, B. et al; "Content of Redox-Active Compounds (ie, Antioxidants) in Foods Consumed in the United States." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition July 2006:84(1):95-135 Web 23 May 2012
Krikorian, R. et al; "Concord Grape Juice Supplementation and Neurocognitive Function in Human Aging." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2 Apr 2012 DOI: 10.1021/jf300277g Web 23 May 2012 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf300277g
Krikorian, R. et al; "Concord Grape Juice Supplementation Improves Memory Function in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment." British Journal of Nutrition 2010:103:730-734 Web 23 May 2012
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