Juggling the physical, social and emotional needs of a family member, friend or patient with dementia leaves little time for busy caregivers to take care of their own well-being. And finding the energy to prepare healthy foods and eat right can be a major challenge.
Luckily, finding a sweet, healthy, inexpensive snack that needs no refrigeration is as easy as a walk through the produce aisle: A recent study is adding to the growing evidence that consuming a small bunch of grapes can reap big health benefits.
Using a mouse model, researchers investigated the potential of grapes to counteract adverse effects of a high-fat, Western diet, which is typically rich in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and salt.
That high-fat diet contributes to the development of chronic conditions such as metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
The study showed mice fed a high-fat diet plus a grape supplement were healthier than the control group, who ate only the high-fat diet.
Among the findings, mice who received the grape supplements had:
- Reduced lipid accumulation in the liver, a hallmark of fatty liver disease
- Significant improvement in longevity
- Fewer adverse effects from the high-fat diet
- Improved metabolism, transportation, hydrolysis and sequestration of fatty acids
- Increased antioxidant response among others
Taken together, these factors indicate grape consumption can contribute to an improvement in metabolism.
The amount of grape powder supplement the mice received is equivalent to a daily consumption of 1¼ cups of fresh grapes by a person weighing about 155 pounds.
However, because the study was conducted in mice, Megan Wong, a registered dietitian at AlgaeCal, cautioned about making too quick of a correlation.
“More research needs to be done before we can confidently say grape consumption reduces the risk of fatty liver disease and increases lifespan,” she said.
However, there’s no reason to wait for further studies to take advantage of other, well-documented health benefits of grapes, she said.
“They’re a low-calorie snack, rich in antioxidants and a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B6.”
These nutrients keep the heart, digestive system and bones healthy; may protect against certain types of cancer; and help the body effectively absorb magnesium, which improves sleep, muscle relaxation, heart health and bone strength.
Beware of swallowing challenges with grapes
If the older adult you’re caring for has occasional difficulty with swallowing, take extra steps when consuming grapes.
“Even if grapes are cut into small pieces, they may be a choking hazard for older adults with swallowing difficulties,” cautions Wong. “Because they are a mixed consistency (both solid and liquid), grapes are more challenging to swallow—especially for older adults with dysphagia.”
While grapes pack a nutritional punch on their own, you can rev up their benefits exponentially by combining them with other healthful foods in easy recipes:
Frozen yogurt-dipped grapes
Reprinted with Permission from Grapes From California
60 California grapes, rinsed and patted dry
3/4 cup 2% vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup graham cracker flour or almond flour
- Insert a toothpick into each grape.
- Place yogurt in a small bowl.
- Pour the graham cracker or almond flour onto a plate.
- Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
- Dip each grape into the yogurt, coating two-thirds of the grape. Then dip the yogurt-covered grape into the crumbs or flour to coat the bottom.
- Place each dipped grape on the baking dish; repeat until all grapes are yogurt-covered and dipped in the crumbs or flour.
- Freeze for at least two hours or until the grapes are solid.
Serves 6 (10 grapes per serving)
Nutritional analysis per serving with graham cracker crumbs: 100 calories; protein 3g; carbohydrate 20g; fat 1.5g (14% calories from fat); saturated fat 0g (0% calories from saturated fat); cholesterol 5mg; sodium 55mg; fiber 0g.
Nutritional analysis per serving with almond flour: 110 calories; protein 4g; carbohydrate 14g; fat 4.5g (37% calories from fat); saturated fat 0.5g (4% calories from saturated fat); cholesterol 5mg; sodium 15mg; fiber 1g.
Quinoa salad with grapes, almonds & spinach
Reprinted with permission from Grapes From California
1 cup multi-colored quinoa*
1/3 cup orange mustard dressing (recipe follows)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cups washed and dried baby spinach
4 scallions, finely chopped
3 cups green seedless California grapes, halved
Freshly ground black pepper
Orange mustard dressing:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey mustard
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and add the quinoa and season with salt. Simmer 9 minutes and drain well. Cool 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool.
- Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and stir in the dressing. Mix well and stir in the remaining ingredients. Season well with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Serves 6 with one-cup servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 311 calories; protein 8.5g; carbohydrate 46g; fat 12g (35% calories from fat); saturated fat 1g (30% calories from saturated fat); cholesterol 0mg; sodium 193mg; potassium 491mg; fiber 6g.
*You can cut your cooking time by buying pre-cooked quinoa, which is usually found in ready-to-eat pouches the rice aisle of your local grocery. If using pre-cooked quinoa, follow the directions beginning with the second paragraph.