What’s the Real Deal With Red Wine?

We love our wine.  One of the things a lot of my clients do NOT want to give up is their wine.  Not that they’re huge drinkers.  They just treat themselves to a glass or two of wine after a long, busy, hectic week.  And, really, I don’t blame them!

It’s nice to have something to look forward to each week, right?  And, with the numerous health benefits of drinking a bit of wine, there aren’t many reasons NOT to continue to enjoy your weekly glass or two of wine.

Health Benefits of Red Wine

Health Benefits of Wine

Red wine has been widely publicized as being “healthful”.  This is because the skin of the red or purple grapes have a ton of antioxidants in it, which gets transferred into the wine.  One main antioxidant, resveratrol, is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound.

White wine also has some health benefits – we just don’t hear about them as often.  While there are more benefits to drinking red wine, white wine has been shown to help improve lung function (though scientists still don’t know why this is).  Likely due to its unique type of antioxidants, too.

Most disease is caused by chronic, low-grade inflammation throughout your body.  Plus, oxidation, from toxins, metabolism, and exercise, can boost the incidence of free radicals, another major factor behind diseases like cancer.

Eating foods and drinks high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds is one way to reduce your risk of getting sick.  This is why the Mediterranean Diet is so profound – the high consumption of red wine, extra virgin olive oil, fish and seafood, and fruits and vegetables is the main reason people who eat this way have such low incidence of disease.

 

Diseases Wine Can Help Prevent

Essentially, since most diseases ultimately stem from too much inflammation and oxidation (free radicals), red wine can help with pretty much anything.

Specifically, though, scientists have found that drinking a moderate amount of red wine regularly helps improve heart health.  It also reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes (see below), some cancers and even depression.

Some additional benefits to drinking both white and red wine include:

  • increased HDL cholesterol (the good, protective kind)
  • lowered LDL cholesterol (the bad, inflammatory kind)
  • lowered triglycerides (fat or lipids found in the blood)
  • improved blood pressure
  • more stable blood sugar levels

Do you NEED to drink wine for better health?

If you don’t like wine or prefer not to drink any type of alcohol, don’t worry – you don’t need wine to get these health benefits.  What I’m saying, though, is that, if you do enjoy alcohol on occasion, wine, especially red wine, is the best choice.

You can still gain immense antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits from whole foods.  Stick with a diet that’s about 80% fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, wild-caught fatty fish (i.e. salmon), moderate animal products, and lots of heart-healthy olive oil.

Exercise regularly, ideally every day, for 30-45 minutes, following a varied workout program.  Avoid too much high-intensity or long steady-state exercise because this will actually increase inflammation and oxidation.

And, of course, ditch the cigarettes, junk food, processed and refined grains and sugar!

How to Choose the Best Wine

Just like with many processed or packaged foods, wine quality can vary.  Cheaper, non-organic wines tend to come from grape crops that have been sprayed with chemicals.  And, some wine is processed in such a way that antioxidants are eliminated.

Your best choice for wine is organic brands.

And, as I noted earlier, red wine does have more antioxidants, so if you enjoy red wine, drink this often.

Is There A Limit?

We’ve all heard the advice, especially for women, to drink alcohol in moderate amounts.  Of course, this ‘moderate’ amount can range from 1-2 drinks per day to 1-2 per week, so it’s tough to know how much is too much, right?

A very good rule of thumb is to stick with 1 4-ounce glass of wine per day (for women).  If you’re saving up your weekly allotment of alcohol for a Saturday night, though, this doesn’t mean it’s okay to have 7 glasses of wine in a row.  Instead, try to limit the amount you drink in one sitting to 3-4 glasses of red wine.  And always drink tons of water between glasses of alcohol too.

Too much, and you’ll lose the benefits.

What’s Wrong With Too Much Wine?

As women, we should be a bit more careful with how much alcohol we drink.  Alcohol can impact our hormones and make certain health symptoms or problems a lot worse.

#1: Acne

Since your liver has to detoxify any alcohol you drink, this means certain resources (i.e. nutrients and bio-chemicals) are funneled into the processes specifically for alcohol detoxification.  Often these processes take precedence over others, which means other detoxification pathways are neglected temporarily.  When this happens, other detoxification organs have to take over, one being your skin.

#2: Imbalanced Hormones Symptoms

Long story short, your liver uses the exact same detox pathways to detoxify alcohol as it does to detoxify excess estrogen.  And, alcohol take precedence because it’s more harmful to the body.  This leaves extra estrogen floating around your body, which is the main factor behind most reproductive symptoms, breast fibroids (and eventually breast cancer) and other symptoms of estrogen dominance.  Included in this list of symptoms are PMS, cramping, hot flashes and night sweats.

#3: Belly Fat

Wine, like any alcohol, contains a lot of sugar.  It’s primarily sugar.  This boosts your blood sugar levels, which signals insulin to help move that sugar into your cells for energy.  The bad news is that the sugar in alcohol is not a great source of energy so the cells don’t really use it.  The rest is shunted to fat cells.  When you continue to drink a lot of alcohol (or sugary foods in general), eventually insulin becomes less effective at getting energy into your cells and insulin resistance happens.  This, then, directly leads to belly fat.  So, stick with low-sugar red wine where possible.  Specifically, choose wine with 5 grams of sugar (or less) per Liter (you can either find this on the wine’s label or online by looking up specs with your provincial liquor regulator).

#4: Inflammation

This may sound totally opposite to everything I’ve just said, but drinking too much alcohol, even red wine, can boost your overall inflammation.  This is because of the sugar content (sugar is a pro-inflammatory food) and because your liver is overburdened, leaving behind extra toxins that increase inflammation.

Conclusion

So, is wine really a healthy drink?  Yes, and no.

Of all the different types of alcohol out there, red wine takes the cake.  It’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help improve heart health and reduce risk for major disease.

But, drink too much and you’ll probably experience a few negative health effects (besides a hangover).  So, remember to drink wine in moderation, roughly 1 4-ounce glass per day on average.


Recipe: Skinny Sangria Spritzer

skinny sangria spritzer recipe

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle dry red wine (use your favourite but consider seeking out an organic variety = no sulphites or other congenors/additives)
  • 1 ½ cups seltzer (you can use a fruit flavoured variety, if desired – but no sugar added)
  • 2 cups assorted fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries, blackberries, orange slices, chopped apples, pears, or plums (have fun mix and matching your favourites!)
  • ice cubes

How to prepare:

  1. Place prepared fruit in bottom of a large pitcher and lightly muddle with a wooden spoon.
  2. Pour wine and seltzer into pitcher and stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 cup of ice to pitcher and stir to chill.
  4. To serve, pour Skinny Sangria over ice-filled glasses. Be sure each glass gets a spoonful of fruit!

References

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-wine-good-or-bad

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-vs-white-wine

Time.com – http://time.com/4070762/red-wine-resveratrol-diabetes/

HuffingtonPost.com – https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/06/04/the-health-benefits-of-white-wine-because-there-actually-are-so_a_22124435/

 

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Daina Gardiner
Daina Gardiner

Health & Wellness Contributor (C.H.N.), Owner at Mind Body Healthy Calgary