Let’s be clear, avoiding alcohol altogether is the healthiest approach. That being said, if you do choose to indulge (and no one is judging you amidst this global pandemic and economic free fall) wine is your best choice. Wine contains various phytonutrients that can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body, which is why it has been linked to many health benefits. Moderate red wine consumption is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular events, reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, reduced risk of cognitive decline, and improved cholesterol levels.
But before you go pouring another glass, it’s important to note that the relationship between drinking wine and the risk of disease/overall mortality has a J-shaped curve, meaning that while a little is good for you, more than a couple glasses can negatively impact your health. For women in particular, too much wine can be taxing on our livers, which then makes it harder to properly metabolize estrogen. This leads to a build up of estrogen in the body which can increase the risk of breast cancer. So when it comes to wine, remember it’s all about moderation!
Phytonutrients and their Health Benefits
While wine shouldn’t be your first choice to up your antioxidant game (it should be a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies!) it does contain powerful phytochemicals like quercetin, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and resveratrol. Here are some ways these compounds contribute to human health.
Quercetin – can lower oxidative stress which provides protective effects against neurodegenerative disorders.
Anthocyanins - associated with reduced blood pressure and can inhibit cancer cell proliferation.
Resveratrol – shown to activate longevity genes called sirtuins that can slow the aging process, protects endothelial cells from damage, and inhibits platelet aggregation.
Proanthocyanidins – support heart and cardiovascular system by improving function of the lining of the arteries and reducing blood pressure.
Which type of wine is best?
Wine's phytonutrients primarily come from the skin of grapes, and because the process of making red wine involves longer contact with the skins, these wines contain significantly more beneficial compounds than white wines do. Of the different varietals, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir have been shown to have the highest antioxidant activity. Salud!