You must have heard the criticisms surrounding fruit juice by now, including options like grapefruit juice and orange juice. While the juices offer some of the nutrients and antioxidants that are found in fresh fruit, they’re also very high in sugar and often lack fiber. Grape juice is no exception to those patterns. Why ask is grape juice good for you, then?
One reason is that red wine is often linked to health benefits. Some of those benefits come from the alcohol content, while others are linked to the compounds that you get from grapes instead.
This is where things get interesting, as purple grape juice contains many of the same compounds as red wine – just without the alcohol. Such patterns could mean that grape juice is even better for you than red wine. Or not. Perhaps grape juice is vastly inferior instead.
To work out which is true, let’s take a close look at what grape juice has to offer, including where it shines and the main problems.
Is Grape Juice Good For You?
- Types Of Grape Juice
- Benefits Of Grape Juice
- The Problems With Grape Juice
- Grape Juice Versus Red Wine
- Final Thoughts
Types Of Grape Juice
Grape juice is exactly what the name suggests – juice from grapes. While there are many grape varieties, only a few regularly feature in grape juice.
For purple grape juice, concord grapes are generally used, giving the juice a bold and delicious flavor. White grape juice tends to use Niagara grapes instead, which typically have green skin and a milder flavor.
The best types of grape juice rely on grape juice itself and little else. Such grape juice may be relatively expensive, but the rich and tangy flavor makes the juice well worth the price. Low quality brands, on the other hand, often use water to dilute the juice and perhaps other fruit juices to balance out the flavors.
Watch out for products with added sugar too. The extra sugar is never a good thing. Besides, concord grapes are sweet enough on their own. The extra sugar isn’t needed at all.
Benefits Of Grape Juice
Packed Full Of Antioxidants
Let’s start with the antioxidants, as they’re the most obvious reason for drinking grape juice. Antioxidants work by inhibiting excessive oxidation in the body. By doing so, they can help to decrease oxidative stress and may confer a host of health benefits.
Grape juice is indeed a rich source of many antioxidants, including anthocyanins, catechin, epicatechin, and quercetin. Research shows that these compounds can reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which could lower heart disease risk.
To be clear though, we’re mostly talking about purple grape juice here. White grape juice tends to have fewer antioxidants, so it won’t confer the same benefits.
There Are Some Nutrients Too
Grape juice isn’t packed with vitamins and minerals, but there are a few notable ones, including vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium.
The vitamin C might be a key reason for drinking the juice, as this is often thought to help with your immune system. But, let’s be clear here, vitamin C is most powerful when your body needs it. If you’re already getting a decent amount of vitamin C through your diet, more isn’t likely to help.
May Promote Heart Health
There are even some studies that suggest that grape juice itself has the same heart health benefits as red wine. This includes decreasing the risk of blood clots, lowing LDL cholesterol levels, and promoting healthy blood pressure.
The blood pressure effect isn’t just from the antioxidants. The potassium in grape juice helps too, especially as grape juice is also naturally low in sodium.
It Tastes Good
The flavor of grape juice shouldn’t be underestimated either. As some researchers have mentioned, the appealing flavor makes grape juice a very easy way for people to increase their antioxidant intake.
After all, it’s much faster and easier to drink a glass of grape juice than it is to eat a bunch of grapes or some other type of fruit. This feature could be useful for people who don’t eat much fresh fruit and need more antioxidants.
The Problems With Grape Juice
High Sugar Content
Grape juice shares the same issue as other types of fruit juice – it’s high in sugar. For example, a half cup serving of unsweetened purple grape juice can contain around 18 grams of sugar.
That’s a decent amount. Plus, most of us don’t just drink half a cup of juice at a time. It’s easy to drink much more than this in a serving – and your sugar intake adds up quickly.
Watch out for brands with added sugar as well, as the sugar content here is often considerably higher.
The issues with sugar are substantial. For example, too much sugar has been linked to increased inflammation and a higher risk of various health conditions, particularly type 2 obesity and diabetes.
Sugar also tends to be almost everywhere in our modern diets. Many processed foods even rely on a combination of sugar and salt to make the food taste amazing and to keep people coming back for more.
Not Much Fiber
When you eat grapes themselves, you get antioxidants, nutrients, water, and plenty of fiber. This fiber helps to reduce the blood sugar impact of the grapes, while providing a host of other benefits as well.
Grape juice, however, misses out that fiber entirely. And, unlike orange juice and even grapefruit juice, you’re not going to find grape juice with pulp.
The combination of high sugar and low fiber means that grape juice will quickly spike your blood sugar levels. This is a concerning issue, especially for anyone with diabetes or prediabetes.
Unless you make it yourself, grape juice isn’t simply juice squeezed from grapes. Instead, it’s often been through a few processing steps. Part of the process generally involves some type of heat treatment to protect against bacterial contamination.
There may be additives too, to give the grape juice the exact flavor that the producers are looking for.
These processes can all affect the beneficial compounds present in your grape juice, making the juice less useful. Often, you just end up with a highly sugary processed mess that doesn’t resemble real grapes much at all.
Also, grape juice often sits on the shelf for quite some time. This is another issue if you’re looking for the most possible benefits from the grapes.
These patterns mean that if you do want grape juice, it’s much better to make it at home yourself. Doing so isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
Many recipes just involve mashing the grapes, then heating them in a stockpot for a while. That approach helps to bring out the flavor from the grape skins, giving you a truly delicious homemade drink.
Might Promote Weight Gain
Fruit juices can easily lead to weight gain, as they’re high in calories and aren’t filling at all. It’s easy to drink much more than you intend at a time. You might even find yourself reaching for a second glass of juice without meaning to.
Juice is problematic in another way too, as it provides you with liquid calories. Calories from liquids simply aren’t as satisfying as ones from foods. They don’t fill us up in the same way, which isn’t useful if you’re trying to lose weight.
Keeping an eye on your serving sizes can help. Try to not have more than half a cup of fruit juice per day. This way there’s no risk of overdoing it.
Grape Juice Versus Red Wine
Concord grape juice and red wine contain many of the same antioxidants. This should mean that grape juice offers some of the benefits linked to red wine, including improved heart health.
There are a few differences though.
One is that grape juice tends to be higher in sugar. Even unsweetened grape juice contains much more sugar than red wine and is higher in calories too. Sweetened grape juice contains yet more sugar.
Then there’s the alcohol to think about, which is present just in red wine. While alcohol may offer some benefits in small quantities, it also presents serious risks. Grape juice could be a safer choice for some people, especially as it doesn’t have addictive quantities.
How Powerful Is Resveratrol Anyway?
While we’re on the topic of red wine, here’s an interesting thought – is resveratrol even that powerful? This antioxidant is the reason that red wine has made headlines as a potentially healthy drink.
Yet, if you check out the research, you’ll notice an interesting pattern – most studies have looked at resveratrol itself. Not red wine. Not grape juice.
This matters because the resveratrol quantities were high, much higher than you get from drinking wine. You’d need to drink bottles upon bottles of wine or grape juice to get those levels of resveratrol. Doing so isn’t a good idea at all, as you’d consume far too much alcohol and/or sugar.
The small amounts of resveratrol found in wine and grape juice might offer some benefits. Or, they might not. We don’t really know.
Because grape juice is made from grapes, it’s always going to offer some useful compounds, ones that could promote your health in a variety of ways.
The question is whether the benefits of those compounds outweigh the high sugar content of the grape juice.
Honestly, we don’t know. Research hasn’t really focused on the health impacts of grape juice. Some studies have focused on wine instead, while most have looked at the individual chemicals.
Even if grape juice does have benefits, it’s still inferior to simply eating fresh grapes. Grapes are much fresher and provide you with plenty of fiber too.