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If you want to protect the health of your skin, heart, digestive system, muscles, brain and immune system, you need to take good care of your gut microbiota.
The trillions of “friendly” bacteria and other microbes living inside our digestive system are central to keeping our bodies in peak physical shape.
So, what’s the best way to nourish this microbiome? There’s no doubt that probiotic-rich fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are key to maintaining a healthy gut. So is a diet rich in foods like legumes, bread, fish, nuts and wine — for example, the Mediterranean diet.
It also helps to avoid foods that are bad for your gut. One of the foods that can wreck your gut health is sugar. A diet filled with soda, cookies, candy and other sweet treats can upset the delicate balance of our gut microbiome, resulting in poor health and disease.
Still, a lot of us have an incurable sweet tooth. So the best thing we can do is swap out sugar-laden foods for nature’s candy: fruit. And there’s one fruit in particular that a growing body of research is finding has surprising health-boosting powers for your gut….
Grapes make your gut happy
Grapes are one of my favorite fruit snacks. They’re sweet, juicy and crunchy, satisfying several cravings at once. And if you pop them in the freezer for a few minutes, they make the perfect substitute for those sugary summer popsicles.
So imagine my joy when I saw the results of a human study investigating whether grapes can influence health by modulating the human microbiome.
During the eight-week study, healthy participants underwent two weeks of a restricted diet followed by two weeks of the same diet supplemented by 2 ¼ cups of grapes per day. For the remaining weeks, they followed their normal diet.
When the participants’ microbiome composition and urinary and plasma metabolites were analyzed, the researchers found changes in terms of bacteria, enzyme levels and biological pathways. An analysis of a subgroup of subjects showed unique patterns of microbe distribution as well.
Specifically, the study suggests that the consumption of grapes provides subtle gut changes that translate to health benefits, including:
- An increase in a type of bacteria considered a probiotic.
- An increase in a type of enzyme which causes metabolic detoxification.
- An overall increase in diversity of the microbiome.
“Our study showed that grapes actively impact the gut microbiome causing shifts in the intricate interactive networks and thus subtly changing the gut microbiome and the resulting chemicals it produces,” says Dr. John Pezzuto, lead author of the study and professor and dean at Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
More evidence of grapes’ impact
This isn’t the first study to showcase the gut health benefits of grapes. Previous studies have found that grapes can team up with your gut microbiome to lower cholesterol and deliver the perfect dose of heart-healthy antioxidants. Another showed grapes can influence the gut-skin axis in a way that helps protect the skin from UV damage.
“Over the years, we have learned that consumption of grapes has the potential to mediate an amazing cadre of health benefits,” Pezzuto says. “Data suggest health improvements in heart, colon, brain, skin, and more.
More than 1,600 phytochemical compounds have been identified in grapes, including catechins, anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonols, all of which alone or in combination, affect different processes in the body. One of the most well-known chemical constituents of grapes is resveratrol.
Be sure to wash your grapes in cold water before consumption to get rid of any dirt or unfriendly bacteria that might be hanging around. Also, try to buy organic so you don’t have to worry about pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
Once you’ve washed your grapes, pat them dry and pick off a cluster of grapes from the stem rather than removing them individually. Then you can eat them however you like — in salads, on a fruit or cheese plate or simply by themselves.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Influence of grape consumption on the human microbiome — Scientific Reports
Health Benefits of Grapes — Nourish by WebMD
Grape expectations: Dietary grapes promote subtle shifts in human microbiome with potential health implications — News Medical Life Sciences