Uncork the Secrets of Grape Juice

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By Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, Welch’s Health & Nutrition Advisory Panel Member.

Summer is coming, and that means it’s time to slow down a bit, enjoy the outdoors and maybe even share a bottle of wine with friends and family over an al fresco meal. What better time to do it than now, as May is National Wine Month! So if you pop open a cork to enjoy the beverage Galileo described as “sunlight held together by water,” then you can do so happily knowing that you could be raising a glass to your health.

You’ve probably heard that moderate consumption of red wine can be part of a heart-healthy diet. While some of the benefits may be tied to the alcohol, research suggests that the plant nutrients (grape polyphenols) in red wine may also be playing a role. So, if you don’t like wine or simply don’t drink alcohol, no worries! There are other nonalcoholic, “grape” ways to get many of those same benefits. 

In a Welch’s survey, only 29% of Americans were aware that they can get many of the same healthy polyphenols that are in red wine from 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes. But the Concord grape is a one-of-a-kind grape, distinct from most table grapes. The Concord grape has thick, dark purple skin and a crunchy seed, which is where most of the polyphenols (specifically flavonoids) are found. Discard the seeds or skin and you miss out on many of these beneficial plant nutrients. 100% grape juice is made with whole Concord grapes, which are pressed — skins, seeds and all — to release polyphenols straight from the grape into the juice. And that’s important because, not only do polyphenols give Concord grapes their vibrant purple color, they are also behind the grape’s health benefits. In fact, nearly 20 years’ worth of research shows that thanks to the Concord grape, 100% grape juice can help support a healthy heart. 

Although red wine and grape juice can be part of a heart-smart diet, it is always important to remember moderation. For women, a moderate serving of wine is up to one 5-ounce glass per day, while men can safely enjoy up to two 5-ounce glasses each day. Alternatively, you could have an 8-ounce serving of 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes to add healthy polyphenols to your day AND get two servings (1 cup) of fruit while you’re at it. Either way, raise your glass this summer to celebrate the amazing grape!