Grapes have been treasured since the Bronze Age and especially once the ancient Egyptians and Romans realised they could produce excellent wines from fermented grape juice.

It has been said that wine can only be as good as the grape from which it is made but have you ever wondered why it is traditional to buy grapes for people recovering in hospital?

Grapes are not only tasty and easy to eat, they also have important health benefits.

The skin and seeds of red and purple grapes contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, a member of the flavonoid family. Flavonoids are plant pigments responsible for the vibrant red, blue and purple colours in fruit and vegetables and many times more potent than vitamin C. Resveratrol is both water and fat-soluble and therefore even more versatile than vitamins at protecting body tissues.

It improves circulation, protects the skin from wrinkles and lack of elasticity, promotes healing and may reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Antioxidant compounds in purple grape juice appear to have a similar effect as those in red wine, neutralising the free radicals responsible for cellular damage that cause disease and premature aging. The grape juice does so without the intoxicating and potentially dangerous effects of alcohol.

Apart from resveratrol, scientists have found another important flavonoid in grapes called quercetin and it is likely they will go on to discover further beneficial plant compounds.

Apart from the essential nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals), it appears we require these minute antioxidant plant chemicals to achieve an optimum level of health. Regular intake of phytochemicals from a wide variety of plants helps to thin the blood, decrease cholesterol, strengthen blood vessels, boost immunity, inhibit allergies and fight the onset of cancer.

White grape juice contains fewer flavonoids but has been found to be helpful for babies suffering from colic.

Apple juice contains sorbitol, a sugar which infants find more difficult to digest.

White grape juice does not contain sorbitol.

Researchers have concluded that babies with a history of colic are more likely to suffer with crying and abdominal discomfort after drinking apple juice.

Grapes are a great source of potassium and have unique cleansing properties.

As they contain almost 80 per cent water, grapes are also a useful low-calorie snack. For those who wish to lose weight gently and detox at the same time, a day-long grape-fast every ten days is recommended.

Dried grapes, or raisins, are more concentrated in calories as they contain only 15 per cent water but are a useful source of iron and fibre. Raisins are also high in glucose and fructose, providing an instant energy boost for active people.

Before popping those luscious juicy grapes into your mouth, make sure you wash them well as most grapes have been heavily sprayed. Submerge them in water with a little added vinegar and rinse well. For a delicious snack, enjoy some chilled grapes served with a few small cubes of cheese.

Martina is a qualified nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary
Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: martina@