Red Wine: Healthy or Guilty Pleasure?
Today is National Drink Wine Day, but is wine actually good for you?
During these long winter months a lot of us wine drinkers turn to the bottles of red tucked away on our wine racks. There’s something magical about a glass of red wine in front of a fire. But after a glass or two, it’s natural to wonder if that glass of wine is actually healthy for you, as some may claim, or just a guilty pleasure. Luckily, Dr. Namitha, with First Opinion, is on hand to educate us all. Keep reading and she’ll help us debunk a few wine myths.
First of all, why red wine and not white wine?
For all of you white wine drinkers out there, Dr. Namitha will tell you that “since red ferments longer compared to white wine, the antioxidant content is higher in red wine. Red wine also has fewer sugars, more phosphorous and carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin that are great for eye health when compared to white wine.” See? It’s science. Come to the dark side, white wine drinkers.
Are there health benefits to red wine?
In a perfect world, wine and cake would cure the world of all its problems. While that’s unfortunately not the case, red wine has been shown to have measurable health benefits.
“Recent studies have shown many positive effects of red wine in reducing the risk of heart disease when consumed in moderation.” Dr. Namitha states, “The effects are more noticeable in people who are at high risk for heart disease, when compared to younger adults. Remarkable results such as reduction in levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) and a rise in HDL (the good cholesterol), were observed in men over 40 years and in women in their menopausal phase.”
This is due mostly to the high levels of antioxidants found specifically in red wine. Antioxidants are great at combating many health problems from bronchitis to heart disease. The powerful antioxidant found in red wine is called resveratrol. resveratrol is found in red grape skins, making it occur naturally in red wine.
What makes resveratrol special?
This antioxidant has been said to aid in the treatment and prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. The Copenhagen City Heart Study determined that those who drank red wine regularly cut their risk of heart disease in half. These antioxidants also aid in boosting brain health by reducing the risk of cognitive deterioration by 23%.
As with most good things, however, there is a catch. Though “the main action of this powerful antioxidant is to prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL cholesterol, and also prevent blood clots,” Dr. Namitha tells us, “the effects of this antioxidant are short lived.”
Is resveratrol the only healthy part of red wine?
Actually, no— lady’s night just got better! “Red wine also has another important antioxidant called flavonoids.” Dr. Namitha tells us, “The beneficial effects of these antioxidants and saponins help in improving the levels of good cholesterol that is HDL.” (It’s also said that the taste of a good red wine can make you happier, but that has not yet been medically proven.)
Does this mean we can skip the gym?
While researchers at Canada’s University of Alberta actually found that “Resveratrol showed results similar to what you would see from extensive endurance exercise training” Dr. Namitha cautions that you “would need a much higher quantity to actually see the benefits. It would mean consumption of excess alcohol to raise the levels of resveratrol, which in turn can be potentially harmful for the body.” So, don’t give up your gym membership just yet! While red wine has been shown to have some healthy benefits, nothing replaces a good sweat session.
So that means I should drink a lot of it, right?
Actually, First Opinion doctors caution you against overdoing it. Dr. Namitha warns us that “while the definition of moderate consumption of red wine for good health would vary, doctors usually recommend no more than 1-2 glasses of wine a couple of times a week, with at least 1-2 days per without any alcohol.” Just as you can hurt yourself by working out too hard or eating too much, you can also overdo it with red wine. Since red wine has been shown to increase appetite, try the occasional glass or two with dinner.
What if I don’t even like red wine but still want the healthy stuff?
If red wine isn’t your favorite thing, that’s okay. Did you know you could cook with it? As Dr. Namitha says, “red wine helps enhance the flavors of different foods and also reduces the amount of oil needed during the process of cooking.”
The issue here she says, is that “the process of cooking usually breaks down the concentration of alcohol content in the red wine. The good news is resveratrol is heat stable and does not get destroyed with cooking. However, this antioxidant is very sensitive to light and oxygen, red wine is best consumed soon after opening it from a bottle.”
However, if you’re still interested in what you can cook with red wine, consider using it in a vinaigrette or check out a few online recipes to inspire you. Cheers.
Still have questions or want to learn more? Click here to connect with a First Opinion doctor.