Grapes are an amazing fruit. They are delicious, but even the skin and seeds of grapes are packed with nutritional benefits. The seeds of grapes—which most of us would toss away without a second thought—offer oligomeric proanthocyanids (OPCs), resveratrol and vitamin E, powerful antioxidants that support a healthy body.
Extracting benefits from grape seeds can also enhance your kitchen! Grape seed oil is a healthy oil for cooking—it contains a high percentage of monounsaturated fats. Further refinement to grape seeds yields OPCs, resveratrol and vitamin E.
Grape seeds are particularly known for containing oligomeric pronanthocyanids (OPCs). OPCs are polyphenols (plant-based extracts) that were discovered in the late 1940s. OPCs are present in many plants, but are particularly associated with the seeds of red grapes, pine tree bark and green tea.
OPCs behave like other antioxidants, circulating in the bloodstream to bond to free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that seek stability by bonding with cells in their path. Antioxidants are able to join with and contain the free radicals, allowing cells to escape damage. Free radical damage can weaken cell walls, leading to both visible wrinkles on the skin and less flexible blood vessels on the inside!
In research labs, OPCs have been strongly associated with actually strengthening cell walls. Stronger cell walls will help them keep their shape and allow them to continue functioning as they should. Healthy, strong skin cells will show fewer wrinkles; firm blood vessels allow proper amounts of blood flow to all areas of the body.
Resveratrol, as we know, is useful antioxidant. Resveratrol also prevents the genes from overexerting themselves, due to its regulation of the SIRT1 protein. The SIRT1 protein turns genes on and off in response to factors inside or outside the body, such as bacteria or UV radiation from sunlight.
Vitamin E is another compound recognized as a powerful antioxidant. Although vitamin E is readily available in foods, many of them (like almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds) have the downside of being high in fat. Grape seed extract boosts the level of this useful compound without adding unneeded fat and calories to your diet.
Take advantage of all that grapes have to offer, right down to the seeds! In a future post, we’ll explore the strong connection between this fabulous fruit and the Holy Land.