When it comes to healthy choices, alcohol is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. But in moderation, red wine has actually been linked to a host of benefits that can make it a smart addition to your diet, from aiding digestion and weight loss to staving off certain diseases.
Red vs. White Wine
"The color of wine is determined by the color of the grapes used to make it, and whether the crushed grapes are pressed before or after fermentation," Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
With red wine, the grapes are crushed and stored in vats to ferment with their skins on, while white wine is fermented without the grape skins. Because many beneficial compounds are found in grape skins, red wine is slightly higher in nutrients.
While all wines contain polyphenol antioxidants — or natural compounds that help protect our cells from damage — red wine has the most. Most of the health benefits offered by red wine are linked to an antioxidant known as resveratrol, which is found in the skin of grapes as well as other berries.
The Health Benefits of Red Wine
Research has linked the antioxidants in red wine to a surprising number of health benefits.
But before you stock your wine rack, keep in mind that the key with any alcoholic beverage in moderation. What exactly does that mean? Adult women should stick to no more than one drink (for wine, that's 5 ounces) per day, and men should have no more than two drinks daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The CDC notes that some people should not drink alcohol at all, including:
- Anyone younger than 21
- Women who are or may be pregnant
- Those with certain medical conditions, or who may be taking medications that interact with alcohol
- Recovering alcoholics
An occasional glass of red wine, though, may offer the following perks.
1. It's Linked to Weight Loss
Several studies have concluded that the resveratrol in red wine can help you drop pounds. One of the more recent, a June 2015 study conducted at Washington State University and published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that the compound helps convert "white fat," which the body stores, to "beige fat," which it can more easily convert into energy (aka burn off). In this way, the researchers concluded, resveratrol helps fight obesity and metabolic dysfunction.
2. It's Tied to Lower Blood Pressure
Red wine doesn't only help you feel more relaxed; it can actually help lower your blood pressure. One small September 2012 study published in Circulation Research found that two glasses of red wine per day can slightly lower blood pressure. Two glasses of non-alcoholic red wine, however, significantly lowered it by an average of six points — enough to reduce heart disease risk by 14 percent and stroke risk by as much as 20 percent.
3. What About Dementia?
Drinking too much vino might make you start forgetting things. But in moderation, red wine is linked to improving your memory in the long run.
An August 2011 review of 143 studies conducted by researchers from Loyola University Medical Center and published in the medical journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that regular, moderate red wine drinkers had a significantly lower chance of developing dementia. While the researchers found a link between drinking wine and a lowered risk of dementia, this doesn't necessarily mean that red wine prevents the cognitive disease.
4. Heart Health Benefits
Red wine could be good for your ticker. According to a research article published April 2016 in American Society for Microbiology, it has the ability to help reduce the risk of heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States — due to the way that resveratrol changes the gut microbiome.
However, keep in mind that the American Heart Association discourages those who do not currently drink to start, given the potential risks associated with alcohol, including stroke, alcoholism and accidents.
5. It's Good for Gut Health
Folks who drank red wine were observed to have a more diverse gut microbiota — which points to good gut health, according to an August 2019 study in Gastroenterology. The researchers also found an association between wine drinkers and lower levels of obesity and harmful LDL cholesterol compared to those who didn't imbibe.
Plus, polyphenols like resveratrol may help promote digestion because they feed the good bacteria in your gut. Indeed, one small study out of Spain, published in June 2012 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that moderate consumption of red wine had serious prebiotic benefits.
6. It's Linked to Breast Cancer Protection
Red wine (or more specifically, the grapes used in red wine) contains aromatase inhibitors (AIs) that work to decrease estrogen levels and increase testosterone in women who are nearing menopause. While alcohol usually increases estrogen levels, which encourages cancer cell growth, a March 2012 study published in the Journal of Women's Health found that an occasional glass of red wine may have the opposite effect.
7. It's Tied to Improving Fertility
While drinking alcohol is a no-no during pregnancy, some research has found that red wine may boost a woman's chances of conceiving. One such study, published September 2017 in Fertility and Sterility and conducted at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, found that high amounts of resveratrol preserves cells and resulted in an increase in the number of eggs in the ovarian reserve.
However, it should be noted that the CDC recommends that sexually active women who are trying to conceive (read: have stopped using birth control) should stop drinking alcohol to prevent the possibility of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Which Red Wine Is Best?
While any type of red wine will contain antioxidants, some contain more than others. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, has the highest level of flavonoids than any other wine, followed by pinot noir and Syrah.
When it comes to taste and aroma, quality certainly matters, too, according to Taub-Dix. However, as far as health benefits are concerned, a bottle of cheap red wine is going to reap you the same benefits as a pricier cab.
- Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: "Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Resveratrol induces brown-like adipocyte formation in white fat through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) α1"
- Circulation Research: "Dealcoholized Red Wine Decreases Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure and Increases Plasma Nitric Oxide"
- American Society for Microbiology: "Resveratrol Attenuates Trimethylamine-N-Oxide (TMAO)-Induced Atherosclerosis by Regulating TMAO Synthesis and Bile Acid Metabolism via Remodeling of the Gut Microbiota"
- Journal of Women's Health: "Red versus white wine as a nutritional aromatase inhibitor in premenopausal women: a pilot study"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol on the gut microbiota ecology and biochemical biomarkers"
- Fertility and Sterility: "Does alcohol intake impact ovarian reserve?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "More than 3 million US women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy"
- American Heart Association: "Alcohol and Heart Health"
- Gastroenterology: "Red Wine Consumption Associated With Increased Gut Microbiota α-diversity in 3 Independent Cohorts"