Tags Posts tagged with "Grapes"


Photo from Unsplash

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

As Halloween approaches, we usually worry about chocolate toxicity, but let’s not forget about grape and raisin toxicity. Grapes and their dehydrated form, raisins, have been implicated in kidney damage (sometimes severe irreversible damage). There is also still debate as to how many grapes or raisins are toxic to pets. Let’s take a closer look at grape and raisin toxicity to see if we can shed some light on what we do know about this nebulous topic.   

Unfortunately, the exact toxic substance to dogs in grapes and raisins is still not completely known and neither the color of the grape, nor seeded versus seedless makes a difference. However, although this has not been completely verified, there has been somewhat of a breakthrough recently. 

A compound in grapes called tartaric acid has been speculated as the toxic culprit. Previously, experts felt that high concentration of a type of sugar component called monosaccharides was to blame, whereas others blamed a compound called tannins. Additional theories do not implicate anything in the grape itself, but rather the growth of certain fungi on the grape and toxins produced called aflatoxins, or pesticides sprayed on grapes.  

The toxic dose or quantity of grapes and raisins is also up for debate. There does seem to be a genetic component associated with which individual dogs are more sensitive grapes or raisins. An article published in 2009 reviewed the charts of almost 200 dogs over a 13-year period. The study found some dogs ate over two pounds of raisins without developing any signs of poisoning, whereas others developed irreversible kidney failure with as little as three grams of grapes or raisins. 

Just to give you some perspective as to what three grams is: your average grape weighs 5 grams, and a raisin weighs about 0.5 grams. As little as one grape or six raisins could be toxic to your dog. However, some dogs will not get sick, or require large amounts of grapes/raisins before any damage is done. A good rule of thumb is 1 grape/raisin per 10 pounds should be a concern.

There is no antidote once the patient starts showing symptoms so this is truly an example of, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Symptoms of toxicity include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and increase in thirst/urination. These patients were less likely to make a full recovery. Some were euthanized before discharge. The patients that did better in the same 2009 study were those in which the owners witnessed the ingestion and brought to a veterinary clinic immediately where veterinarians were able to induce emesis (force vomiting) and give activated charcoal ASAP. 

In conclusion, although veterinarians are closer to determining the toxic component (tartaric acid), we are not sure why some dogs are more sensitive than others and what is a toxic dose. Therefore, keep grapes and raisins away from your dog when possible and, if you witness your dog eating grapes or raisins, bring him or her immediately to your veterinarian’s office or an emergency clinic for treatment.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

rapes have been found to reduce glucose levels. Pexels photo
Whole berries may reduce glucose levels the most

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Type 2 diabetes is pervasive throughout the population, affecting adults, but also children and adolescents. Yet, even with its prevalence, many myths persist about managing diabetes.

Among these are: Fruit should be limited or avoided; Soy has detrimental effects with diabetes; Plant fiber provides too many carbohydrates; and Bariatric surgery is an alternative to lifestyle changes.

All of these statements are false. My goal is to help debunk these type 2 diabetes myths. Let’s look at the evidence.


Fruit, whether whole fruit, fruit juice or dried fruit, has been long considered taboo for those with diabetes. This is only partially true. Yes, fruit juice and dried fruit should be avoided, because they do raise or spike glucose (sugar) levels. The same does not hold true for whole fresh or frozen fruit. Studies have demonstrated that patients with diabetes don’t experience a spike in sugar levels whether they limit the number of fruits consumed or have an abundance of fruit (1). In another study, whole fruit actually was shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (2).

In yet another study, researchers looked at the impacts of different types of whole fruits on glucose levels. They found that berries reduced glucose levels the most, but even bananas and grapes reduced these levels (3). That’s right, bananas and grapes, two fruits people associate with spiking sugar levels and increasing carbohydrate load. The only fruit that seemed to have a mildly negative impact on sugars was cantaloupe.

Whole fruit is not synonymous with sugar. One of the reasons for the beneficial effect is the fruits’ flavonoids, or plant micronutrients, but another is the fiber.


We know fiber is important for reducing risk for a host of diseases and for managing their outcomes, and it is not any different for diabetes. 

In the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHS II, two very large prospective observational studies, plant fiber was shown to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (4). Researchers looked at lignans, a type of plant fiber, specifically examining the metabolites enterodiol and enterolactone. They found that patients with type 2 diabetes have substantially lower levels of these metabolites in their urine, compared to the control group without diabetes. There was a linear, or direct, relationship between the amount of metabolites and the reduction in risk for diabetes. The authors encourage patients to eat more of a plant-based diet to get this benefit.

Foods with lignans include flaxseed; sesame seeds; cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower; and an assortment of fruits and whole grains (5). The researchers could not determine which plants contributed the greatest benefit. The researchers believe the effect results from antioxidant activity.

Soy and kidney function

In diabetes patients with nephropathy (kidney damage or disease), soy consumption showed improvements in kidney function (6). There were significant reductions in urinary creatinine levels and reductions of proteinuria (protein in the urine), both signs that the kidneys are beginning to function better.

This was a small randomized control trial over a four-year period with 41 participants. The control group’s diet consisted of 70 percent animal protein and 30 percent vegetable protein, while the treatment group’s diet consisted of 35 percent animal protein, 35 percent textured soy protein and 30 percent vegetable protein.

This is very important since diabetes patients are 20 to 40 times more likely to develop nephropathy than those without diabetes (7). It appears that soy protein may put substantially less stress on the kidneys than animal protein. However, those who have hypothyroidism should be cautious or avoid soy since it may suppress thyroid functioning.

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery has grown in prevalence for treating severely obese (BMI>35 kg/m²) and obese (BMI >30 kg/m²) diabetes patients. In a meta-analysis of bariatric surgery involving 16 randomized control trials and observational studies, the procedure illustrated better results than conventional medicines over a 17-month follow-up period in treating HbA1C (three-month blood glucose measure), fasting blood glucose and weight loss (8). During this time period, 72 percent of those patients treated with bariatric surgery went into diabetes remission and had significant weight loss.

However, after 10 years without proper management involving lifestyle changes, only 36 percent remained in remission with diabetes, and a significant number regained weight. Thus, whether one chooses bariatric surgery or not, altering diet and exercise are critical to maintaining long-term benefits.

There is still a lot to be learned with diabetes, but our understanding of how to manage lifestyle modifications, specifically diet, is becoming clearer. The take-home message is: focus on a plant-based diet focused on fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. And if you choose a medical approach, bariatric surgery is a viable option, but don’t forget that you need to make significant lifestyle changes to accompany the surgery in order to sustain its benefits.


(1) Nutr J. 2013 Mar. 5;12:29. (2) Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr.;95:925-933. (3) BMJ online 2013 Aug. 29. (4) Diabetes Care. online 2014 Feb. 18. (5) Br J Nutr. 2005;93:393–402. (6) Diabetes Care. 2008;31:648-654. (7) N Engl J Med. 1993;328:1676–1685. (8) Obes Surg. 2014;24:437-455.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com. 

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Uruguay, a tiny country on South America’s east coast, is bordered by Argentina and Brazil. This is a country with the highest per-capital beef consumption in the world, where cattle outnumber people four to one.

The chivito (translates as “little goat”) is the national sandwich of Uruguay, which is jam-packed with flavor and ingredients. Thin, grilled slices of beef are covered with mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and a fried egg. Many optional toppings including onions, olives, peppers, pickles, mayonnaise and ketchup have also found their way into the sandwich.

Uruguay is South America’s fourth biggest wine producer (after Argentina, Chile and Brazil), but currently less than 5 percent of its bottles are exported. There are about 190 wineries with 22,500 acres of vineyards planted to sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, albariño, merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.

But the grape Uruguay is most famous for is tannat, a thick-skinned, dark grape capable of producing incredible dark, rich and full-bodied red wines. Tannat, originally from the Madiran district near Bordeaux, France, has 6,500 acres planted, making Uruguay the world’s largest producer.

Beginning in 2018, every bottle of wine from Uruguay will carry a QR code on the label, which can be scanned to reveal everything you need to know about the wine, including soil and vineyard parcel number.

I had an opportunity to taste some of the wines and here are my notes. (Note: Serve all recommended cheeses at room temperature for optimum enjoyment.)

2011 Viña Progreso “Elisa’s Dreams” Tannat. Very dark fruit with plenty of structure, fruit flavor and balance. Pair this wine with some Gouda.

2011 Alto de la Ballena “Tannat 85 percent; Viognier 15 percent.” Bouquet of blackberries, black tea and cocoa. Full-bodied and perfumed with flavors of black cherries. Pairs well with Applewood, a smoked cheddar cheese from England.

2011 Alto de la Ballena “Cabernet Franc.” Deep, garnet colored with a full bouquet and taste of berries, black currants and cherries. Full-bodied and loaded with tannin. Serve with a piece of Cantal cheese from France.

2011 Alto de la Ballena “Merlot.” Bright ruby color with a luscious bouquet of spicy cherries and cinnamon. Medium bodied with flavors of plums and spices. Try with some fontina cheese from Italy.

2015 Bodega Garzón “Sauvignon Blanc.” Perfumed bouquet of citrus, grapefruit and pineapple. Dry with flavors of green apple, melon and mint. Pairs well with feta cheese from Greece.

2015 Bodega Garzón “Albariño.” Tropical overtones with pineapple and papaya in abundance. Flavors of white peach, kiwi, apricot and citrus. Hints of jasmine and litchi. Serve with Bel Paese cheese from Italy and plain crackers.

2014 Bodega Garzón “Tannat.” A full bouquet and taste of black raspberries, black currants, cocoa, dried plums, spices, raisins and coffee. The aftertaste is long and quite pleasing. Don’t miss it! A wedge of your favorite blue cheese would work quite well.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirit and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

by -
0 4626
Grape vines on the North Fork heavy with fruit. Photo from Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Many years ago, Long Islanders were surprised to see a growing wine industry developing here. Now, it’s taken for granted that the East End is a wine producing region. Who knew that our climate (with 200 to 220 frost-free days) was ideal for growing grapes and therefore making wine? Obviously, some very astute growers who began replacing the farms on the East End with vineyards did, the first vines being planted in 1993.

If you decide that you want to plant some grapes on your property, you first need to determine what you want to do with these grapes. You may just like the appearance of an arbor with grapes growing on it. Maybe you enjoy eating grapes right off the vine. Or perhaps you wish to make grape jelly or maybe, like the growers on the East End, you may want to make wine.

The decision is a first step and important because it determines what type of grapes you are going to be planting. For example, suppose you want grapes to munch on. Then you’re going to be looking for seedless varieties.

There are three general types of plants, American (Vitis labarusca, native to the northeastern part of the United States, with many improved cultivars including Concord grapes and other varieties of table grapes), European (V. viniferia, used extensively in wine production) and North American native muscadine (V. rotundifolia, native to the southeastern part of the United States).

Another factor to consider is the climate zones where the vines will thrive. We are located in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 7 and we receive between three and four inches of rain a month. But, as we’ve seen last summer, that rainfall is an average. We were at near drought conditions this past summer. You may need to supplement the rain.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk notes that grape vines do well in a variety of soil types, but, need a well-drained soil. If you have clay soil, they won’t do well. Your soil’s acidity or alkalinity is also a factor. Native grapes do well in a soil pH as low as 5.5 (very acidic) while V. vinifera need a pH of 6.5 to 7 (near neutral). So, you may find that you need to add lime to your soil. It can take more than one growing season for lime to affect your soil’s pH.  Read the package directions carefully and remember that once you begin to change the soil’s chemistry, you need to continue year after year or your soil will revert to its original pH.

In considering the location for planting your grapes, note that they need a very sunny location, but a well-placed grape arbor in a sunny location can produce a shady spot for sitting and enjoying a cool beverage on a hot summer’s day or a shady walkway.

Since grapes are vines, you need to prepare the location with a trellis, arbor or other type of support. Be prepared to put some netting over the ripened grapes since the birds will love them. So will deer, squirrels and rabbits. Regarding animals, in the same way that dogs should not have chocolate, they shouldn’t have grapes either, so make sure Fido doesn’t help himself.

Most grape varieties are self-fertile. When you look through the gardening catalogues or tags on plants, make sure to check. If you need other plants to pollinate, the description should tell you. Look for plants that are disease resistant, as well. You may notice roses growing at the end of some vineyards on the North Fork. Roses are seen by some as the “canary in the mine,” showing problems before the grape vines do. This gives the grower a chance to save the vines.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, most grape vines will produce for 30 or more years, so this is a “plant once, enjoy for many years” type of plant — I just love those!

Growing grapes is a multiyear project since it is recommended that the vines not be allowed to fruit the first year and, as you can see, growing grapes requires quite a bit of research. Winter is an ideal time to begin doing that research so that come spring, you can select and plant the correct varieties and locations to produce what you want.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions and/or comments to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.