For more than 250 years, Southerners have enjoyed the flavor of wild and domesticatedmuscadine grapes. Now, new research on muscadines is finding that they are one of nature’smost healthful foods.In the early 1990s, Betty Ector began analyzing muscadine grapes at Mississippi StateUniversity. She found they were richer in fiber, zinc, manganese, iron and calcium thanmost other fruits.May Fight Heart DiseaseIn later research, Ector found that they are one of the world’s richest sources ofellagic acid (thought to help prevent cancer) and the phenolic compound, resveratrol.High levels of resveratrol are found in both fresh muscadines and processed-muscadineproducts. It is thought to be an important part of the “French paradox,” inwhich French people with rich diets who drink red wine have much less heart disease thanexpected.May Fight Cancer, TooA new study by Minnie Holmes-McNary, at the University of North Carolina’s medicalschool in Chapel Hill, has determined that resveratrol is also a potent anticancercompound.The substance switches off a protective mechanism in cells and, as a result, makesinvading cancer cells vulnerable to the body’s natural defenses.The study, funded in part by the National Institute of Health, also found thatmuscadine wines can contain up to seven times more resveratrol than regular wines.Fresh Muscadines AvailableFresh muscadines are available from Aug. 1 to mid-October, depending on the location inthe state. Since the University of Georgia grape breeders developed large-fruited typessuch as “Fry” and “Summit,” muscadines have become available ingrocery stores and many farm markets. Nearly all Southeastern wineries also producemuscadine wine.If you haven’t tried muscadine grapes, buy a package and see if you like them. Theirrich flavor and chewy skins are an old Southern favorite with outstanding health benefits.