Grape Phytonutrients: The Powerful Polyphenols
What Are Phytonutrients?
“Phyto” comes from the ancient Greek word for plant. Phytonutrients are components that give a plant its color, taste, and even odor. Phytonutrients are also part of the plant’s self-defense system, protecting it from pests, viruses, bacteria and excessive sunlight. All plants – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs and spices - contain a variety of phytonutrients. Grapes contain over 1,600 phytonutrients, and that’s only what’s been identified so far.*
Besides keeping plants healthy, phytonutrients may also help maintain our health. Scientific research suggests that these components accomplish this feat in a variety of ways, including serving as antioxidants, enhancing immune response, enhancing cell-to-cell communications, causing cancer cells to die and more. This is a complex and fascinating area of research that is ongoing.
Grape Polyphenols: The Basic Essentials
The most significant among the grape phytonutrients is a “family” of compounds called polyphenols. All grapes – red, green and black – contain polyphenols.
What do they do for us? Well, it doesn’t get more basic than this: polyphenols appear to protect the health and function of our cells. Beyond that, numerous studies suggest that polyphenols contribute to heart health, with emerging evidence suggesting that they may also play a role in the prevention of age-related and degenerative diseases.
Resveratrol: The Polyphenol “ Phenom”
Resveratrol is something of a celebrity in the polyphenol family, because it has garnered much scientific and media attention. Resveratrol is being studied throughout the world for a vast array of promising potential health benefits, including heart health and protection from certain cancers.
Grapes are one of the main natural dietary sources of resveratrol. All colors of grapes contain resveratrol, which is found in the grape skin.
Anytime a phytonutrient gains attention, a supplement is sure to follow, and that is the case with resveratrol. There are no official recommendations as to an optimal “dose” of resveratrol, but food sources, such as grapes, are recommended over supplements.** Additionally, grapes offer hundreds more natural plant compounds – including many other polyphenols – that may work together with resveratrol for an even greater benefit.
* Pezzuto, JM. Grapes and human health: a perspective. J Agric. Food Chem. 2008 Aug. 27; 56(16):6777-84. Epub 2008, July 29.
** Vang O, Ahmad N, Baile CA, Baur JA, Brown K, et. al. (2011) What is new for an old molecule? Systematic review and recommendations on the use of resveratrol, PLoS ONE 6(6):e 19881. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019881