When you pop into your local market for some grapes, you’re far more likely to head home with the green or red seedless variety than with a bunch of muscadines. Although muscadine grapes aren’t as widely available as other varieties, they’re worth seeking out -- muscadines are significantly more nutritious than the average table grape.
Muscadine grapes are an excellent source of dietary fiber -- you’ll get about 105 calories and 7 grams of fiber from a serving of 35 muscadines, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With their edible seeds and relatively thick skins, muscadine grapes are particularly high in insoluble fiber, the kind that promotes bowel regularity and helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. By comparison, a 104-calorie serving of seedless grapes -- about 30 grapes or 1 cup, according to the USDA -- provides 1.4 grams of fiber. This means that a single muscadine has as much fiber as five seedless grapes.
Like many low-calorie foods, muscadine grapes can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Muscadines are satiating because they’re rich in fiber and mostly water by weight -- both fiber and water help fill your stomach without contributing calories. The soluble fiber in muscadine grapes delays gastric emptying, which helps you feel fuller longer. Eating muscadines -- or any other fresh fruit -- when you crave something sweet can also help you avoid high-calorie treats laden with added sugars. Consuming too many added sugars is associated with an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association.
Muscadine grapes contain substantial amounts of antioxidants, the beneficial phytochemicals that help protect cells from free-radical damage. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating a diet based on whole, antioxidant-rich foods has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. A study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” found that muscadines are a particularly good source of ellagic acid. Ellagic acid appears to inhibit cancer cell reproduction, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Muscadine grapes also contain twice as much vitamin C as seedless grapes. You’ll get about 14 milligrams of this antioxidant, or 23 percent of the recommended daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet, from a serving of 35 grapes.
Muscadine grapes are one of the so-called “slip-skin” varieties, meaning their skins and flesh are easily separated. While fresh muscadines are sometimes peeled and deseeded before they’re eaten, most of the fruit’s health benefits come from its skin and seeds. Enjoy them whole as you would other grapes, or serve them with cheese and nuts for dessert. Quarter them and toss them -- seeds and all -- into your favorite green salad, or remove the seeds to make a grape salsa suitable for fish, poultry or meat. You can also add chopped muscadines to rice, quinoa and other whole-grain dishes.
- NC State University Cooperative Extension: It’s Muscadine Time
- North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services: The Muscadine Grape
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Phenolic Content and Antioxidant Capacity of Muscadine Grapes
- American Institute for Cancer Research: Foods That Fight Cancer? Berries
- Harvard School of Public Health: Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype
- American Heart Association: Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Grapes, Muscadine, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Grapes, Red or Green (European Type, Such as Thompson Seedless), Raw
- Wellness Foods A to Z: An Indispensable Guide for Health-Conscious Food Lovers; Sheldon Margen, M.D.