It’s well known that when consumed in moderation, wine can have an incredibly good effect on our bodies. It can prevent many heart diseases and helps keep your cholesterol levels low. But what happens if you simply don’t like wine? Luckily for non-drinkers, there’s a simple and non-alcoholic way to replace wine in your diet: grape juice.
Grapes are super tasty, and they’re a great source of nutrients that are essential for our bodies, and so is grape juice. Here, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the nutritional value of fresh-squeezed grape juice, and how it compares to whole fruit, wine, and store-bought grape juice.
Nutrients in Grape Juice
Like most fruit juices, grape juice has plenty of various nutrients – some in huge quantities, and some in trace amounts. Here, I’ll tell you about the nutrients that set grapes apart from other fruit, which really makes it special and beneficial for your health.
When talking about amounts, I’ll base the calculations on 1 cup of fresh-squeezed grape juice, which equals to about 250 grams of juice. In total, a cup-like that contains about 150 calories.
1. Vitamin B6
You’ve probably heard of the various advantages of vitamin B6, otherwise known as Pyridoxine. This nutrient can also be nicknamed “happy vitamin” since it plays a vital role in the production of the happiness neurotransmitter serotonin and norepinephrine. It also helps your nervous system and brain work well by participating in the formation of myelin, which makes neural activity smoother and easier.
Apart from its huge influence over your mood and neural activity, vitamin B6 also participates in the metabolism of proteins and glucose. It also helps create hemoglobin, the component of your blood cells that makes the transfer of oxygen throughout your body possible. This vitamin is also involved in the healthy functioning of your lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus.
As you can see, this versatile vitamin helps regulate a lot of bodily processes that keep you healthy, energetic, and in a good mood. However, the issue with B6 is that it’s water-soluble, so instead of being stored in our bodies, it runs out together with urine. That’s why you should consume some foods containing vitamin B6 on a daily basis.
A single cup of grape juice contains about 5% of the recommended daily intake of B6, and other foods you can eat to boost the amount of this healthful nutrient are fish, eggs, peanuts, milk, oatmeal, brown rice, and chicken and pork meat.
Magnesium is one of those minerals that plays many important functions in our bodies. It helps your bones grow, regenerate, and stay strong. It does a similar thing for your muscles too, and it helps them recover quicker and better after a good work out session. It’s necessary for the good functioning of our nervous system, and it helps regular blood pressure and sugar levels. Finally, magnesium is also important for smooth stool passing, and it helps your stomach work well by neutralizing stomach acid. People with low magnesium levels are at a higher risk of diseases like high blood pressure, clogged blood vessels, diabetes, osteoporosis, and stroke.
When it comes to grape juice, it contains a moderate amount of magnesium. In a single cup of fresh grape juice, you can get as much as 6% of the recommended daily intake of this important mineral.
Potassium is another mineral that plays an important role in maintaining normal bodily functions. This mineral is an electrolyte, which means that it can conduct electricity – in the case of potassium, its ions are positively charged. This electricity is very beneficial for your body since it manages a lot of processes. It regulates nerve signals and muscle contractions, and it plays a role in the regulation of fluid in your body. People who eat diets rich in potassium are under a lower risk of stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.
A 250-gram cup of fresh juiced grapes contains about 260 mg of potassium, which is approximately 7% of the dose recommended for daily intake.
If you’ve ever wondered what gives plants the incredibly vivid colors that they come in, that’s the doing of flavonoids. This is a name for a group of chemicals that are a part of a larger group of phytonutrients – nutrients from plants. Virtually no other food source contains flavonoids, and that’s why it’s so important to get your 5-a-day!
The flavonoid group is incredibly diverse, and there are more than 6000 different types of them. They’re all important for our bodies – they’re great antioxidants, they work to fight off inflammatory processes, and make your immune system stronger. In fact, people who eat plenty of fruits and veggies have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s, for example).
Flavonoids are exactly what makes wine so good for you, and the non-alcoholic version of grape juice is no exception either. The flavonoids present in grape juice can reduce the risk of blood clotting and prevent damage to blood vessels, help your body maintain good blood pressure, and reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL).
In the past, I believed all sugar is bad for you, but over time, I learned that that’s not really the case. In fact, sugars are an important source of energy for our bodies. If you’re feeling low, take something sweet – sugar is the source of energy that our bodies can process the quickest, making a banana smoothie (if you have a blender food processor combo) or a bit of grape juice (if you prefer a juicer) an ideal pre-workout snack.
But that’s not to say that sugar is completely innocent – the truth is that it really depends on the type of sugar and the amount you consume.
When it comes to the amount of sugar, you should always try to match it to your energy expenditure. Whenever you eat more than you use, the excess sugar is transformed into glycogen, which is stored in our cells for future use. The more this process repeats, the more fat you accumulate – so eating (or drinking) too much sugar is a sure way to get fatter.
Type Of Sugar
The type of sugar you eat or drink makes quite a bit of difference too. The sugars in fruits and the sugars found in sodas are different, and your body processes them differently too. Here are the four basic types of sugar:
- Glucose – the sugar found in the blood. It’s simple and metabolized quickly. Fruits and veggies often contain glucose along with the following type of sugar…
- Fructose – along with glucose, found in fruits, vegetables, and honey. Since it’s usually found together with natural fibers, this type of sugar is usually not an issue. Our livers transform fructose into blood sugar – glucose.
- Sucrose – This type of sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Your body needs to separate these two and process them on their own. While sucrose does appear naturally in fruits like bananas, it’s most often consumed in the form of table sugar. This sugar is very caloric, so it’s important to consume it in moderation.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – This type of sugar is the number one cause of obesity across the globe. It’s often found in sodas, morning cereals, and candy. It’s also a combination of fructose and glucose, and it contains either 42% or 55% of fructose.
Natural, unprocessed sugars found in natural sources like fruit are not a problem for our bodies (except for people with diabetes or a similar disease). When it comes to grape juice, a 250-gram cup contains about 37 grams of sugar, which is about 12% of the recommended daily value. Though they are particularly sweet among fruits, grapes contain primarily fructose and glucose. Ripe grapes have more fructose, while the more sour, unripe fruits contain a higher amount of glucose.
Fruit vs. Grape Juice
With most types of fruit, eating the whole fruit has a clear advantage over juicing, and that is the fact that most fibers get destroyed during juicing or blending. While juices are an amazing source of nutrients, you should still consume some fruits and veggies whole to make sure your GI tract stays nice and healthy.
So, in general, eating a whole fruit is better since you get all the nutrients + the fiber. However, grapes are unique in this regard. In fact, there are some nutrients that you can only get if you drink grape juice or wine. That’s because juicing grapes require the seeds to be crushed alongside the skin and flesh. When you simply eat the fruit, the seeds just pass through, but crushing them releases a beautiful storm of beneficial flavonoids.
What Kind of Grape Should I Juice?
In general – the darker, the better. White and red grapes simply don’t contain the high amount of flavonoids that the purple ones do. That’s not to say that white and red grapes aren’t good for you – but if you’re in the juicing game for the health benefits, you’ll get the most out of the purple ones.
The particular sorts of grape don’t really matter – any sort that you like the most will do. The most common grape sort used for juice in America is Concord grapes or Niagara grapes for white grape juice. If you like white grapes better and live in California, you might have seen a white grape sort called Sultana or Thompson Seedless, which is used both for raisins and juice. But remember what I said about seeds and flavonoids – naturally the seedless sorts have a smaller amount of these beneficial nutrients.
Wine vs. Grape Juice
It’s a well-known thing that a glass of red wine per day has an amazing effect on your health. Well, you can get most of these benefits if you drink grape juice, plus you don’t have to worry about driving home.
Here are the benefits that both wine and grape juice have in common:
- Reduce blood clotting, which in turn reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke
- Prevents damage to your blood vessels and helps keep your blood pressure healthy and stable
- Reduces the bad cholesterol – Low-density lipoprotein, shorter LDL
You can get all of these benefits from both wine and grape juice. Both drinks are so heart-friendly because of the flavonoids present in the flesh and seeds of the fruit.
However, there’s one benefit of wine that you can’t get from drinking grape juice. Namely, wine can actually raise the levels of HDL, the good cholesterol in your blood – but that’s the effect of alcohol, not wine or grapes in particular.
Store-Bought vs. Fresh Juiced Grape Juice
It can be quite difficult to commit yourself to make fresh juice every day, especially with the generally short shelf life of juices. Because of that, you might feel tempted to get a box of grape juice in the store. Sometimes, this is okay, but it’s not good to drink store-bought grape juice daily.
The most important issue with store-bought juices is that they often have added sugar. This sugar is usually sucrose or HFCS, and a lot of it. The best thing to do if you do choose to pick up a juice box from the store is to find one that has no sugar added. Since grapes are naturally rich with sugar, chances are that you won’t feel much of a difference, yet you’ll do your body a huge favor!
The reason why juice manufacturers add so much sugar to juices is that a lot of the nutrients and flavor of the juice is destroyed in the process of pasteurization. When you make fresh juice, it can last about three days in the fridge, but a box of juice can stand on a shelf for months with no issues at all. Well, pasteurization makes that possible – but it comes at a price. Pasteurization is a process of controlled heating of the juice that destroys bacteria that make it go bad at the price of some vitamins and flavor. To make up for the lost aroma, manufacturers add sugar and often add extra vitamin C to make up for the losses.
Overall, grape juice is just amazing. Freshly made grape juice is one of the best snacks you can have. It helps your heart and blood vessels live a long, happy, LDL-free life, and it gives you almost all the benefits of wine without getting you intoxicated. Grape juice is even slightly better to drink than eating whole fruit, provided that you get your daily dose of fibers from other sources. Of course, it’s much better to have a cup of fresh juice than a store-bought box, but if you pick up a “no sugar added” juice, you’ll get most of the benefits from it too.