When you think of health food, you are likely to conjure up visions of rice cakes, tofu and carrot sticks. These not so appetizing and often less appealing choices keep most Americans thinking Arby’s instead of Asparagus. Luckily, eating healthier just got a whole lot easier thanks to the mounds of research piling up in favor of red wine! Just a glass a day can significantly improve your cardiovascular health and decrease your chances of having a heart attack. This is exciting news for the thousands of Americans on their way to happy hour.
The Benefits of Wine
For centuries, man has enjoyed the taste of wine. Rich merchants sold it along Mediterranean Sea ports, Roman Caesars hoisted goblets of it and even the ancient Greeks toasted its many benefits. While all wine is good for you, red wine, in particular, has the most health benefits thanks to the antioxidants found in the skin and seeds of red and dark purple Concord grapes. These antioxidants, called flavanoids, significantly reduce the risk of heart disease in 4 very important ways.
- They reduce the LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) or “Bad Cholesterol” in your blood
- Boost the HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) or “Good Cholesterol” in your blood
- They also reduce the clotting factors which in turn decreases heart attacks
- Helps maintain a healthy blood pressure
High levels of antioxidants are the main reason a moderate consumption of wine is such a great addition to a healthy diet. Antioxidants are the body’s security system. They prevent dangerous molecules known as “free radicals” from damaging the cells in your body. Many of the foods we eat also contain important antioxidants and when combined with a daily glass of wine, the health benefits are incredible. By increasing the good cholesterol and decreasing the bad cholesterol in our bodies, these flavanoids prevent atherosclerosis or clogged arteries from forming. At the same time they also keep the blood pressure low and prevent dangerous clots from forming and causing damage to your heart. This is amazing news considering that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in this country. So amazing in fact that Harvard researchers included moderate to light consumption of alcohol as one of their 8 proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease.
But red wine can do more than protect your heart. Research has shown that a particular flavanoid known as resveratrol may prevent tumor development in cancers and that it may also be useful in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Which Wine is the Best?
Even if you prefer white wine, you are still getting some of the antioxidants and health benefits, but the best choice is still red. The longer the skin is left on a grape, the more resveratrol is in the wine. When white wine is produced, the skin is removed prior to fermentation, which is why red wines contain more flavanoids per glass.
Walk down any grocery aisle in the country and you will see a variety of red wines from Pinot Noir to Merlot. So which red is the antioxidant powerhouse? Researchers at the University of California wanted to know. In a comparison study of the various types of red wines, results showed that Cabernet Sauvignon was the clear winner, followed by Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah. These 3 red wines were slightly more potent than their Merlot and Zinfandel counterparts. Don’t know where your favorite wine stands? A good rule of thumb is that sweet wines yield fewer antioxidants, while dry wines boast your best antioxidant punch!
How much Wine to drink?
If you want to reap the health benefits of wine, without risking a terrible hangover, watch how much wine you consume. Studies show that men should drink one to two (4-5 ounce) servings of wine a day, while their female companions should only consume one. There is wisdom in moderation. Drinkers who consumed more than 3 drinks a day were actually at greater risk for damaged nerve cells, heart disease, and other health complications. In addition, too much wine could put on the pounds and being overweight also increases your risk of heart disease.
Don’t want to drink? Alternatives to Wine:
If drinking alcohol isn’t for you, studies show that you can get the same heart and health benefits from grape juice. Purple grape juice, in particular, contains the same wonderful antioxidants found in red wine. In fact, according to the journal Circulation, patients who already had signs of cardiovascular disease showed significant reduction in LDL oxidation in just 14 days consuming grape juice. Unlike wine, grape juice can be consumed in larger quantities, thereby increasing their benefits. What is even more astonishing is that grape juice may, in fact, offer longer lasting protection! Studies continue to show that antioxidants found in grape juice linger in the body longer than those in wine.
If grape juice has got you feeling, well, like a kid again, you may prefer a nonalcoholic version of your favorite bottle. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that catechin, a powerful antioxidant found in wine, actually remained in the blood system longer when participants consumed nonalcoholic wine. Alcohol actually breaks down the antioxidant faster, riding it from the body quickly, unlike its nonalcoholic version. Just make sure you are drinking nonalcoholic wine or grape juice made from purple grapes, if you are looking for the health benefits. Purple grapes have a far greater concentration of flavanoids, making them the best choice, hands down.
Including Wine into a Healthy Lifestyle:
If you want to reap the health benefits of wine, you should consume 1-2 glasses of wine a day. Red wines, in particular, go best when pared with roasted meats and soft cheeses. Uncork a bottle of red wine to sip on as you are cooking dinner or as an evening treat while you are discussing the events of the day. For a great antioxidant meal, serve a glass of Cabernet Savignon alongside a fresh spinach salad, 6oz steak and grilled asparagus.
To reap the benefits of wine in the morning, sip a small glass of grape juice with your morning bagel instead of orange juice. Try energizing an ordinary glass of water with a few ounces of grape juice after an intense workout. Incorporating wine into a healthy lifestyle is easy and incredibly tasty.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is challenging, especially today when fast food dinners are part of the routine instead of a break from it. Luckily, some of our favorite foods are also good for us. As science continues to shed light on the benefits of nuts, chocolate and now wine, health conscious consumers everywhere have reason to celebrate. So this weekend, raise a toast to good health with a glass of red wine and for once, enjoy being a health nut!