Lower blood pressure and cholesterol with everyday fruit

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Grapes are a handy, lip-smacking snack you can buy pretty much year-round. And you’ll want to do just that, not only for their mouth appeal, but because adding them to your diet can help you lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Bring down high blood pressure

When your blood pressure is up, it’s like you’ve put your fingers over the end of a garden hose. Your blood moves with more force, making your heart work harder. That can lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or other problems.

But grape juice can relieve that pressure. Research in Korea found that men with high blood pressure who drank Concord grape juice every day for eight weeks improved their conditions. Both blood pressure numbers — systolic and diastolic — were lower.

Experts credit grape juice flavonoids. These natural antioxidants cause cells to produce more nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessel walls. That means lower blood pressure and less danger of other heart problems.

 

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Cancel out excess cholesterol

Nutrients in grapes also may improve your cholesterol levels, another marker for possible heart problems. One study found flavonoids in grape juice lowered LDL, sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, while raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol. These improvements remained for weeks after people in the test stopped drinking grape juice.

Keep your memories strong

Drinking grape juice may also help you avoid Alzheimer’s disease (AD), thanks to polyphenols — powerful antioxidants abundant in grape skins.

Researchers in King County, Wash., tracked the diets of older Japanese-American adults over the course of 10 years, noting how many developed dementia. The scientists were interested in finding out why people in Japan rarely develop AD, but Japanese immigrants to the United States develop it at a higher rate.

The study found that people who drank fruit or vegetable juices more than three times a week were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people who drank it less than once a week. The benefit was greatest among people who carry a certain gene that puts them at a higher risk of AD.

Defend against diabetes

Food is on your mind a lot when you’re battling diabetes and you can benefit from eating grapes a-plenty. They have resveratrol, a natural plant chemical that does great things to help control diabetes.

  • People with diabetes have to watch what they eat and perhaps use insulin to keep their blood sugar balanced. Resveratrol can help in part by stimulating your cells to take sugar out of the blood while lessening the effects of oxidation, thus helping to maintain balance.
  • Trouble keeping your blood sugar stable can lead to nerve damage. You’ll know it because of the pain and numbness in your legs and feet. It’s called diabetic neuropathy, and there’s not too much doctors can do for this pain, short of suggesting medications. But resveratrol comes to the rescue, cutting the pain by blocking the pain receptors that transmit it.
  • Whether or not you have diabetes, excess weight may be an issue. Several studies show resveratrol can help in this battle of the bulge. Researchers in Germany found that pre-fat cells — targeted to turn into fat-storage cells in your body — don’t develop when resveratrol is in the mix. Resveratrol may also function in the same way a low-calorie diet works to keep your body from aging too fast. Yet you don’t have to give up eating what you love.

Red wine has lots of resveratrol, but it may not be right for you if you have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association cautions people with diabetes to drink alcohol in moderation and be careful of how it may affect your blood sugar. Grape juice may be a better choice.

Protect yourself from pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a lethal enemy. Although it doesn’t strike too many people, it strikes them hard, with a five-year survival rate of only 4 to 5 percent. With no early symptoms, it often goes undetected until it has progressed to a late stage.

While modern science searches for a breakthrough, you can turn to one of nature’s remedies.

Remember that red grape skins contain resveratrol  — and that may be just the weapon you need against pancreatic cancer. In lab tests, resveratrol triggers apoptosis, or cell death, in pancreatic cancer cells. It seems to work by disrupting the function of the cancer cells’ mitochondria, or energy centers.


 

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  • FC&A Staff Writer