For most persons around the world, grapes are a delicious and highly nutritious snack. In fact, grapes are generally considered to be the most important food crop cultivated on planet earth. We pop them into our mouth, spit out the slightly bitter seeds and savor the plump flesh and sweet juices. And some of us even manage to avoid the annoyance of removing the seeds altogether by simply purchasing seedless grapes. Whatever our personal approach might be though, recent scientific studies suggest that perhaps we have been going about our grape snacking all wrong. As the facts show, by getting rid of the seeds, we have effectively discarded the bulk of the healthy nutrients on offer.
While resveratrol is an effective antioxidant that is found in grape skins, other powerful health promoting antioxidant compounds such as linoleic acid, flavonoids, vitamin E and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC’s) are concentrated in the grape seeds. As mentioned in previous articles, these compounds have been shown to have anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammation, anti-aging, immune boosting, neuroprotective and cardioprotective activities. Common ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes have been effectively treated with grape seed extract. With so many health benefits to be gained by regularly eating grape seeds, it is almost mind boggling that most of us persist in spitting them out. It is clear that if we really want to make the most of the nutrition available to us in these juicy little packets, then we need to make a simple adjustment in our eating habits.
Plants do a fantastic job in packing each of their seeds with a high concentration of proteins, minerals, vitamins, dormant enzymes and essential oils. Yes, seeds are living food. Seeds are essentially embryonic plants themselves and are tough to beat in terms of the nutrients they offer and the ability to “fill up” the consumer. Grape seeds are regarded by many nutritionists as one of the top ten healthiest seeds on earth. But even if we make the conscious decision to increase our intake, there are a few helpful reminders that we need to be aware of, which will ensure that the seeds maintain their high nutritional value.
Firstly, seeds are best eaten raw as heat exposure quickly leads to the denaturation of any stored proteins, minerals, vitamins and essential oils. Heat can also trigger the release of harmful toxins. So while roasting can undoubtedly increase the flavour of seeds, the nutritional components are significantly broken down by the process. For individuals looking to gain the maximum nutritional benefit, seeds should be eaten raw, unsalted and uncoated (by honey, sugar or other glazes). How can a health conscious person make raw seeds more palatable then? By simply soaking, grinding and/or mashing them. There are many healthy pastes (such as tahini) that can be made from raw seeds. In the case of grape seeds, it is best to crunch and swallow them as the rest of the grape is eaten, because swallowing grape seeds whole may not unlock their full health potential.
With medical science continuing to uncover more and more health benefits of grape seeds, it should come as no surprise that major pharmaceutical companies have taken to producing grape seed extract in capsule or liquid form. However parents will need to show caution as grape seed extracts are not recommended for children. Whole organic grapes (seeds included) though, are perfectly fine for children to consume. Another healthy all-natural alternative for children is to brew a tasty tea from your grape seeds. It is recommended that the tea be brewed at 80 degrees Celsius and allowed sufficient heating time for the grape seeds to release their powerful antioxidants. By eating grape seeds or brewing grape seed tea we avoid all unnecessary and unwanted chemicals.
Improved physical health and mental clarity (even for persons who are advanced in years) are no longer mere dreams. Scientific research shows that significant steps can be taken by making very small but very crucial adjustments in our eating habits. By simply eating grape seeds or drinking homemade grape seed tea, we can add many long and happy years to our life.
Image courtesy of Michael Bentley