The Health Benefits of Drinking Red Wine

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According to studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the health benefits of red wine are numerous when enjoyed in moderation. One 5-ounce glass of red wine a day for women, or two glasses for men, can improve heart health, lower cholesterol and even help maintain healthy blood pressure.

“A glass of blueberry or purple grape juice have the same healthy nutrients as wine,” says Cathy Garvey, a registered dietitian at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. “If you don’t drink red wine, don’t start.”

It’s all about the grapes

Red grapes contain polyphenols, an antioxidant thought to prevent cellular and organ damage caused by aging, says Garvey. Cell damage and inflammation is a primary cause of chronic illness such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Red wine and dark grape juice contain four types of polyphenols:

  • Flavonoids are an antioxidant in grapes that may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. You can also find high amounts of flavonoids in green tea, cocoa and apples.
  • Resveratrol is a type of flavonoid found primarily in grape skins, blueberries and cranberries. In lab studies, resveratrol appears to help prevent blood clots in mice. In humans, it appears to reduce “bad" LDL cholesterol and may help prevent damage to blood vessels.
  • Tannins give wine its astringent taste. Recent studies show that tannins may also help prevent hardening of arteries. Full-bodied wines, such as cabernets, have a higher tannin count than lighter wines, such as Beaujolais Nouveau.
  • Anthocyanins give fruits like grapes, berries and cherries their dark pigment. Anthocyanins may help lower LDL cholesterol and keep blood pressure under control. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that drinking concord grape juice can help maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Further studies are needed in order to confirm the health benefits of red wine, but “preliminary evidence is suggesting that there is a strong correlation between polyphenols and improved health,” says Garvey.

What about white?

Sorry, chardonnay lovers. White wine does not contain as many beneficial compounds as its red counterpart.

Half of the valuable antioxidants of the grape are in the seed, and much of the rest are in the skin, explains Garvey.

“Higher concentrations of polyphenols and other beneficial nutrients are found in the dark skin of red and purple grapes,” says Garvey. “If you are making a choice between white and red wine, choose red.”

Have questions about nutrition and health?

For a referral to a registered dietitian, call 1-800-SCRIPPS 800-727-4777).

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