Grapes, one of the oldest cultivated fruits, are unique because they grow on vines. This bite-size fruit is popular with everyone, especially kids (but be sure to peel and slice them lengthwise for young children to avoid choking). Moreover, they're portable and neat, making them easy low-calorie substitutes for high-fat, calorie-filled snacks and desserts. Bursting with juice, they are a refreshing snack.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend most people eat 1 to 2 cups fruit each day. That's easy to do because 32 seedless grapes are considered equal to one cup of fruit.
Grapes may not be packed with traditional nutrients, but they do contain a collection of phytochemicals that researchers are just beginning to appreciate. Among them is ellagic acid, a natural substance also found in strawberries that is thought to possess cancer-preventing properties. Grapes also contain boron, a mineral believed to play a role in bone and joint health.
Selection and Storage
Some varieties of grapes are available year-round. When buying grapes, look for clusters with plump, well-colored fruit attached to pliable, green stems. Soft or wrinkled grapes or those with bleached areas around the stem are past their prime.
There are basically three categories of grapes: the greens, the reds, and the blue/blacks. Good color is the key to good flavor. The sweetest green grapes are yellow-green in color; red varieties that are predominantly crimson/red will have the best flavor; and blue/black varieties taste best if their color is deep and rich, almost black. If you object to seeds, look for seedless varieties. Store grapes unwashed in the refrigerator. They'll keep up to a week.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Just before eating, rinse grape clusters and drain or pat dry. Slight chilling enhances the flavor and texture of table grapes. Cold, sliced grapes taste great blended in with low-fat yogurt. Frozen grapes make a popular summer treat. For a change of pace, skewer grapes, banana slices (dipped in lemon), apple chunks, and pineapple cubes, or any favorite fruit. Brush with a combination of honey, lemon, and ground nutmeg. Broil until warm.
Grapes contain a phytonutrient called resveratrol, which is an antioxidant that helps fight cancer and heart disease. Resveratrol is being researched for a possible role in protecting and maintaining brain and nerve health. Grapes also contain additional phytonutrients such as catechchins, anthocyanins, and quercetin, which are also antioxidants.
It's true, grapes are healthy and one of Mother Nature's most convenient snack foods. Rich in compounds that protect against cancer and high in potassium, grapes are great foods while trying to lose weight.
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