I have been known, on occasion, to get out of the lab, off the stage, out of the conference room and actually enjoy the outdoors with my family and friends. It’s rare, but it does happen. One of my favorite “happy places” is the beach. I lived a portion of my life near the ocean and it never ceases to put a smile on my face and give a lift to my spirits. Even when I am getting salt water up my nose after being thrown into a wave by my teenage son.
As I sat lounging, one eye open of course, on a recent vacation, I noticed my sister-in-law was sipping a glass of chardonnay. And what do I do? My mind drifts off to seed land. I know, I know, I’m a bit of a nerd, but at least I’m a nerd who’s at the beach! I began to think, not about the salt air and the warm sun, but instead about the chardonnay grape seed.
Chardonnay is one of the most important grapes used in making things like champagne and dessert wine. And grapes are one of the most popular fruits in the United States. There is clearly a lot of love for the grape! But most of us tend to forget about the really healthy part of that grape — the mighty seed.
Who hasn’t very willingly spit out a grape seed or chosen the seedless variety for a snack? But what’s inside that grape, and in particular the chardonnay grape, is really where the good stuff is.
Here’s what I mean. The chardonnay grape seed is rich in a natural plant compound called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, or OPC. OPCs are probably best know for their antioxidant activity and how they can help destroy free radicals in your body. That’s important for things like avoiding chronic diseases or helping prevent premature aging.
But the Alternative Medicine Review has reported that OPCs are also antibacterial and antiviral, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic. All amazing qualities that start to uncover their potential for many different facets of health —- and should be enough to keep them out of the spittoon.
In fact, The National Center for Complementary and Integrative health (part of NIH) says that the extract of grape seed may be particularly valuable. It’s being used as a traditional remedy for the heart and blood vessels ——for things like hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poor circulation. It’s a heart health wonder seed.
Some studies have suggested that grape seed oil may help to fight against prostate and breast cancer in particular. It may also reduce oxidative stress on major nerves, the brain and the eyes, which helps to prevent neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Those are some pretty impressive findings for something that often winds up in the kitchen trash can or the waste bin at the fruit juice plant.
But the question that comes to many people’s minds is can I get all these great benefits by just eating grapes?
Well the problem is you’d have to eat a huge amount of them — too much to be very fun. You can buy whole grape seeds, but they tend to be extremely bitter. Believe it or not, that bitter taste is a good thing because beneficial plant compounds almost always taste bitter.
If the taste is a little too much for your palette, you can get both grape seed and grape seed extract in supplement form. You can also find grape seed oil at many health conscious grocery stores.
I think of the chardonnay grape seed as one of those hidden, but powerful, gems that most people don’t think about. Especially while they are supposed to be relaxing, feet up at the beach.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Grape Seed Extract
Altern Med Rev. 2000 Apr;5(2): 144-51