Grapes and Digestion: What You Need to Know

To get the most benefit from grapes in your diet, choose dark-red or purple varieties.
Image Credit: nkeskin/iStock/GettyImages

When it comes to digestion, a wide variety of foods can play a role in how you feel. For problems ranging from upset stomach to irritable bowel syndrome, what you eat each day can make a big difference. However, on your list of foods that may benefit digestive health, consider adding grapes.

Read more:Nutritional Value of Green Seedless Grapes

All About Grapes

Kellie Gragg, MPH, RDN, a dietitian and director of clinical services at Strata Integrated Wellness and Spa in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a big believer in the power of grapes. "There is evidence that grapes can be an important part of a balanced diet and can help with some general digestive disorders," she says.

"Grapes have long been considered a laxative food for some because of the type of insoluble fiber they contain, their antioxidant properties and their high water content. Grapes can act as a natural laxative for people with irregular bowel movements. Eating grapes on a daily basis can be beneficial for those with temporary and possibly chronic constipation."

The water content in grapes is not only helpful for constipation, notes Gragg, but also dehydration in general. "Grapes are comprised of almost 80 percent water," she notes.

As Gragg points out, the fiber and water found in abundance in grapes leads to a number of benefits for digestive health. And there's more on that note — a May 2016 chapter in the e-book Grapes and Health reviewed the research on grapes and noted that there may be more going on with the chemical composition of grapes that makes them so valuable.

Specifically, grapes have unique chemicals in them known as polyphenols, which have well-documented antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, the authors note that these polyphenols may specifically influence metabolism by impacting nutrient digestion and absorption.

And if the grapes are red, then they may have yet another benefit, notes Gragg, and that's a phytonutrient known as resveratrol. "Still more ongoing research is beginning to uncover another bit of research which seems to indicate that resveratrol, another phytonutrient found in the skin of red grapes, is responsible for potentially preventing the growth of harmful pathogens in the digestive system," she says.

But Are Grapes for Everyone?

Eating too many grapes may cause side effects in some people. While grapes do have their benefits, Gragg notes that they can cause digestive problems.

"For some people, eating grapes results in digestive health dysfunction because they contain high amounts of the sugar fructose," she says. "Types of fructose intolerance range from fructose malabsorption, which can cause abdominal pain, gas, bloating or diarrhea, to hereditary fructose intolerance — characterized by a variety of more serious symptoms, including vomiting."

Zachary T. Weik, MHS, PA-C, a physician assistant and assistant professor of medical science at Arcadia University, in Glenside, Pennsylvania, agrees with Gragg on this point. "Grapes, although a healthy fruit in general, are high in sugar and probably more of a culprit in GI issues than a solution," he says. "The digestion of dietary fiber and fructose can cause bloating, flatulence and possibly diarrhea."

Reds and Purples for the Best Boost

If your tummy seems to like grapes, being choosy can pay off. To get the most benefit from grapes in your diet, the National Women's Health Resource Center recommends choosing dark red or purple grapes, saying they have more healthful benefits than their green or white counterparts.

Also, though a lot of attention is given to the health benefits of grape juice and red wine, the Mayo Clinic notes that the greatest benefits may come from whole grapes. Research has indicated that whole grapes have all the antioxidant benefits of juice and wine, plus the added punch of dietary fiber.

"Grapes can be part of a healthy diet, as the current recommendation is to eat five fruits and vegetables daily," says Weik. "A serving size of grapes is a half-cup, or 16 grapes, and dried fruit like raisins is even less, so don't overdo it."

Read more:Black Grapes vs. Red Grapes

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