wine-glass-1323719-640x960Sipping the Good stuff

As adult libations go, I reach immediately for the vino. I love a crisp, fruity Pinot Grigio on a hot day and crave the comfort of a dark velvety Cab when it’s cold. But, the question I often am asked is “how healthy is wine?” Let’s review what the body of literature tells us.

people-summer-garden-sittingGoodness Grapes!

Red wine contains something called resveratrol – a polyphenol compound found in certain plants that appears to have some antioxidant properties. Past research indicated resveratrol may be the key ingredient responsible for reducing inflammation and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” stuff) as well as preventing blood clots. A caveat – much of the research was on animals and animals have different reactions to different substances. A second caveat – resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes, which are the principal ingredient in most wines – including the whites. The difference is the grapes are fermented longer for red wines than white, so the levels of this polyphenol are greater in reds. This is not to say that white wines don’t have their benefits – they can and do! 

The Heart of the Matter

wine-glass-1323719-640x960 So, what does all this mean for our health? Is wine (or alcohol in general) beneficial? According to several studies, alcohol (not just wine) may have potential benefits. According to Mayo Clinic’s summary of research findings, alcohol may contribute to the following:

  • An increase in HDL cholesterol (the “good stuff”).
  • A reduction in blood clot formation
  • Prevention of artery damage caused by high levels of LDL cholesterol
  • Blood pressure changes

In short, research is promising, but not entirely conclusive. The take home – consuming alcohol in moderation may be beneficial for overall health.

The Cup Shouldn’t Runneth Over

This is not to say that one should begin drinking just to improve heart health! Remember – too much of a good thing can cause opposite affects and become a dependency. If you are someone that enjoys a cocktail every now and then, continue to do so in moderation. There’s that word again – moderation. What does that mean?

According to the recommended guidelines “moderation” for healthy adults includes up to one drink/day for women (21 and older) and men better than 65, and up to two drinks per day for men who are younger than 65 (but obviously over 21 :)).

or healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.

On to what a “drink” entails. A single drink meets any of the following criteria:

  • 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer
  • 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine
  • 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits.

The message I want to communicate is this – let’s not define alcohol (or any particular food) as “good” or “bad”; we don’t need to demonize. Instead let’s consider what the literature says and categorize substances such as alcohol as a “contributor” or a “detractor” as it relates to overall health and well-being. In other words, remember that it really is

All About That Balance – Cheers!


Sources of interest:

Mayo Clinic – Red Wine

Harvard Nutrition Source – Alcohol Benefits

WebMD – Alcohol FAQs

Categories: Nutrition

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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