It might often be touted as the healthiest beverage at the bar, but is red wine good for you? Yes and no. As the many intricate flavors of red wine can be complex, so too can the nutritional properties, leading to years of headline-making studies that would have you flip flopping between stocking up and swearing off the stuff. The bottom line: “Red wine has been shown to be beneficial in moderate amounts due to the resveratrol, which is an antioxidant that is protective of the heart,” says Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN, founder of Maya Feller Nutrition in Brooklyn.
Red wine is produced from dark-skinned grape varieties, which are expertly harvested, pressed, and fermented with grape skins and juice inside a tank or vat. Consider fermentation to be the secret sauce—it transforms humble grapes into full-bodied, flavourful wines. Ah, to be the first, curious soul to realize the endless potential of fermented grape juice! While France and Italy are the countries most commonly associated with wine, the beverage has ancient origins in China, with archaeological records dating back to 7,000 years ago. Over the centuries wine has gradually (and fascinatingly) evolved with the cultures it originated in and become a culture of its own. These days, every occasion, meal, and gathering calls for a different variety of red—will you play it safe with a crowd-pleasing merlot? Or risk it all with a peppery shiraz?
Adding to the allure of a good glass of red is that red wine is often touted as a “healthy” type of alcohol because of the resveratrol content. Antioxidants = good for you, but at the end of the day, red wine is still alcohol, which should always be factored into the amount you enjoy. “One doesn’t need to start drinking red wine just because of these benefits—similar benefits are found in other foods such as pomegranates and grapes,” says Feller.
We asked Feller to help settle this once and for all: Is red wine good for you? Here’s everything you need to know about red wine benefits—and what experts mean by “moderation.”
Red wine benefits
Red wine has what Feller refers to as a health halo—meaning it has a reputation as being healthier than it really is. There are many many reasons for this. One of the most well-known is the French paradox, an 1980s term which references a scientific study that explored France’s low incidence of coronary heart disease. It incorrectly linked this lower incidence with their consumption of red wine, and its healthy reputation has continued to linger.
Still, small amounts of red wine have been said offering more health benefits than any other boozy beverage. Let’s take a look at a few.
Do the antioxidants in red wine make an impact?
Red wine contains polyphenolic substances, compounds responsible for the vino’s bitter flavor and deep color, as well as its antioxidant properties. According to a study reported in the International Journal of Angiology, the average glass of red contains 200 milligrams of total polyphenols—in comparison with 30 milligrams in a glass of white.
The polyphenol most commonly linked to red wine is resveratrol. “Resveratrol is the superstar of wine. It is a powerful antioxidant that also has anticarcinogenic properties and the potential to inhibit tumor formation and growth. It acts as a free radical scavenger and helps to slow the oxidation of LDL, or the ‘bad’ cholesterol responsible for cardiovascular disease,” says Feller.
However, there is only a small amount of polyphenols in red wine. If you are looking to increase your polyphenol intake, rather than topping up your wine glass, you might like to layer your cereal with berries or reach for a delicious plum, according to research, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, since these fruits contain far more polyphenols than your vino of choice.
Is red wine good for your heart?
There is research to suggest that resveratrol is linked to a decreased risk of inflammation and blood clotting, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. But in other studies, this link has been disproven. “While there are potential benefits to drinking red wine in moderation, I would not put it at the top of a list of heart-healthy beverages,” says Feller.