You've probably read reports that heart disease rates are lower in France than in the United States due to the greater consumption of red wine in France. It seems that a natural antioxidant chemical in the wine, resveratrol, helps increase "good" cholesterol and minimize "bad" cholesterol.
Now I've learned that muscadine grapes (Vitus rotundifolia), which are native to the southeastern United States, contain even more resveratrol than the European grapes used for fine wines, and that you don't need to drink muscadine wines to benefit from them.
A recent study conducted by David Ohashi, a pharmaceutical sciences researcher at North Carolina's Campbell University, showed that wines made from muscadine grapes have a cholesterol-reducing edge over wines made from the highly esteemed European Vitus vinifera grapes. Muscadine wines-white and red-contain up to seven times more resveratrol.
Also, if you're a teetotaler like me, you can still get the muscadine's benefits from food products. Betty Ector, researcher at Mississippi State University, has shown that resveratrol levels are highest in the skins and seeds. Products such as jams, breads, and muffins made from grape puree using the skins have been shown to have high levels, too. Even eating fresh muscadines provides resveratrol, if you can tolerate the tough skins.
Researchers believe the high concentration of resveratrol in muscadines is related to their ability to withstand hot and humid summers. All varieties tested had about the same resveratrol levels.
For information about growing muscadines, recipes, and the health benefits, write to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27611, or see their Web site at: www.agr.state.nc.us/markets/commodit/horticul/grape.