• Grapes: The Good-News Fruit

    When it comes to grapes and wellness, it's all good news. Grapes aren't just tasty and colorful additions to the plate: they offer

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    nutritional and health benefits, too. In fact, many consider grapes to be the original "superfruit."

    For centuries, grapes have been a staple of healthful diets around the world — most notably as part of the Mediterranean diet — and historically grapes were used to "correct" an array of maladies. Today we have greater insight as to just how and why grapes are good for us. There is no question that fresh grapes offer plenty of reasons to include them as a regular part of our diet.

    Take a look at some basic "good news" grape nutrition facts:

    • Grapes are low in calories: a 3/4 cup serving of grapes contains just 90 calories.
    • Grapes contain no fat or cholesterol and virtually no sodium.
    • Grapes provide potassium and vitamin K. Potassium is critical to heart health and healthy blood pressure. Vitamin K is an important nutrient for bone health.
    • Grapes also contain fiber and other vitamins and minerals.

    Additionally, grapes are rich in plant compounds known as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients appear to play a key role in maintaining health and may offer protection against certain diseases. Many of them act as beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants, as the name suggests, help the body to defend itself against damaging free radicals that can harm cells and cause oxidative stress. 

    To date, scientists have identified more than 1,600 natural compounds in grapes. Perhaps the best known of these grape components is a specific family of phytochemicals known as polyphenols. A large body of research suggests that polyphenols may support a healthy heart. 

    Grapes are also the main food source of resveratrol, a very specific type of polyphenol that has garnered a great deal of attention. Found in the skin of grapes of all colors, resveratrol has been — and continues to be — extensively researched. Resveratrol is recognized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that scientists believe can help contribute to health in myriad ways. 

    Grapes of all colors — red, green and blue-black — contain a vast array of antioxidants, and more importantly, these compounds are "bioavailable," meaning that our bodies can readily use them once we consume them. That's not true of all antioxidants. In fact, some foods contain antioxidants that the body can't use at all. 

    "Grapes give us a really good dose of antioxidants," says Dr. Ronald L. Prior, a nutritionist and research chemist with the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, a division of the USDA. "You may actually have to eat more of other foods high in anthocyanins (the pigments responsible for red, blue and purple color in grapes and other fruits and vegetables) to show a similar response in antioxidant levels." 

    Research is ongoing in the area of grapes and health. Good science takes time, but a solid body of scientific evidence already exists to support the benefits of eating grapes, the original "superfruit." 

    For more detail on the possible health benefits of grape consumption, see http://www.grapesfromcalifornia.com/researchgrants.php

    Featured Recipe: Asian Spinach and Grape Salad

    Stealthy, Healthy and Wise

    Most people would make better dietary choices if the smart selections were as tempting as the unwise ones. As culinarians, you can help your customers stay on the path to good nutrition by enhancing the craveability of your most healthy selections. Grapes can assist you in these "stealth health" techniques. They boost plate appeal and can often replace less wholesome ingredients, so you can offer your guests dishes they feel good about ordering. 

    Note that the stealth-health approach doesn't call attention to itself. That's the stealth part. You don't need to signal that you've slashed the calories or reduced the sodium. To customers, that reads like a sacrifice. 

    Instead, consider some of these under-the-radar techniques: 

    Use grapes in place of foods with less desirable nutritional attributes. Serve pork chops with a colorful couscous and grape salad in lieu of mashed potatoes. Make a chicken salad with grapes, toasted walnuts, and vinaigrette instead of with eggs, sugary relish, and mayonnaise. Serve a grape salsa with fried fish instead of tartar sauce. Offer grapes as an alternative to fries or chips. 

    Add grapes to an entrée and reduce the meat portion. That's a nutrition-wise tradeoff for diners, and good for your bottom line, too. Two pounds of pork can make kebabs for eight if you add grapes to the skewers and pair the kebabs with a warm spinach or frisée salad. The grapes add juiciness so there's no need for a sauce. And the grilled kebabs suit the “street cart” way of dining that consumers are embracing today. 

    Use grapes to make whole-grain dishes fashion-forward and inviting. Recipes made with whole grains can sometimes seem stodgy and depressingly good-for-you. Grapes—red, black, and green types—can remake that image. Whole-wheat pancakes with warm grape compote. Bulgur pilaf with grapes and pecans. Whole-wheat spaghetti with grapes, walnuts, and feta. Nothing stodgy about that. 

    Featured Recipe: Chef Samuel's Grilled Spiced Pork and Grape Kebabs start with a highly seasoned marinade and are served with a Spinach and Grilled Red Onion Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette. 

    Featured Recipe: Chef Samuel's Grape and Brie Quesadillas with Green Grape and Arugula Salad are a flavorful and healthful appetizer or lunch. The arugula salad alone could accompany a petite steak, duck breast, or roast chicken. 

    Featured Recipe: By adding roasted grapes to his Chicken Tagine, Chef Samuel stretches two pounds of thighs to serve eight.

    Few American youngsters consume as many fruits and vegetables as their parents might wish. But battling and bargaining over food can backfire. A better strategy: Slip the good stuff—like grapes—into dishes that kids already like. Pizza comes to mind. Quesadillas and grilled-cheese sandwiches. Smoothies and fruit drinks. 

    Adding grapes to these popular choices can make it easier for children to get the daily fruit servings they need for optimum health. 

    Chefs can help parents out — and help combat childhood obesity — by making more healthful child-friendly options available on menus. Consider these ideas: 

    At breakfast:

    • Make a warm pancake or waffle topping with reduced grape juice and fresh grapes.
    • Design a breakfast pizza with ricotta cheese, grapes, and honey.
    • Top whole-grain French toast with warm roasted grapes.
    • Whip up a breakfast smoothie with frozen grapes, bananas, low-fat milk, and honey.
    • Create a breakfast parfait with vanilla yogurt, grapes, and granola.
    • Add grapes to granola.

    At lunch:

    • Accompany sandwiches with a cluster of fresh grapes, or offer as an alternative to French fries or chips.
    • Make sandwich roll-ups with lavash, lean turkey, cream cheese, and grapes.
    • Sprinkle halved grapes on a peanut-butter sandwich.
    • Make an open-faced toasted Cheddar sandwich with fresh red grapes.
    • Concoct a healthy soda with fresh grape juice and sparkling water.

    At dinner:

    • Toss fusilli with chicken and grapes.
    • Stir-fry chicken with grapes and cashews.
    • Prepare a cheesy quesadilla stuffed with grapes.
    • Make a dessert dipping sauce for grapes with low-fat sour cream, yogurt, honey, and vanilla.
    • Offer low-fat frozen yogurt with a warm grape sauce.

    Featured Recipe: Chef Samuel's Red Grape and BBQ Chicken Pizza with Mozzarella and Fresh Basil has flavors that appeal to youngsters in a format they love. 

    Featured Recipe: Chef Samuel makes a thirst-quenching Red Grape Lavender Soda. Omit the lavender for kids. Add a splash of gin for the grownups.

  • Grape Success as a Healthy Side


    When Stanford University's campus dining service began offering fresh California grapes as a side-dish option at the grill station, students chose fresh grapes about one-third of the time instead of the other two choices, French fries and chips. At the panini station, grapes competed as a side option with pasta salad and Caesar salad. Here, too, students chose grapes nearly one-third of the time. These results are strong signals that when fresh grapes are offered, many people will opt for the healthful choice of the original "superfruit."

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  • Fun Facts


    Excluding Canada, nearly a third of California's table grapes are exported to over 60 overseas markets.
     
    Grapes are considered berries with an average of 100 berries on a bunch.