The Heart-Healthy Benefits of Grapes

If you want lower blood pressure and better heart function, try eating grapes and drinking grape juice, especially dark red and purple grapes and grape juice. New studies are showing a link between grapes and reduced heart risks-and it's believed to be the result of phytochemicals, naturally occurring antioxidants found in plants. The studies suggest that the phytochemicals in grapes and grape juice, especially the antioxidant resveratrol and flavonoids, may turn on a protective process in the genes that allow better blood flow through the blood vessels. This may help prevent blood clots, while improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

In a University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study, laboratory rats given a variety of grapes along with either a high- or low-salt diet, had lower blood pressure, better heart function and fewer signs of heart muscle damage than the rats given the same salty diet, plus a common high blood pressure drug but not the grapes.

It's believed that antioxidant-rich grapes may turn on glutathione, a protein made in every cell in the body, including heart cells, which protects cells from damaging oxidative stress. High blood pressure causes oxidative stress in the heart, reducing the amount of glutathione. The University of Michigan study suggests that eating grapes may boost levels of glutathione.

Earlier grape studies also showed a similar heart-healthy benefit to that of drinking moderate amounts of red wine by lowering the risk of atherosclerosis caused by clogged arteries. And while eating a handful of whole grapes may not provide you with much of a buzz, it will give you the benefit of additional fiber in your diet.