Most days, after a long hard day of work, I find myself wanting to win(e)d down. But that little voice in the back of my mind keeps asking me if I should really be having a glass of wine after being so healthy all day and already having treated myself to that chocolate bar when it hit 3pm?! Usually a debate ensues in my head and, well, the wine wins more often that not. Turns out, the wine can keep on winning (in moderation, that is) because it has a myriad of health benefits!
You've probably heard of one of the many studies over the years which talk about how wine, particularly red wine, can be good for your heart and your health. And it can be, thanks to our little friend resveratrol - the not so secret wonder ingredient found in grapes which are used to make wine (in case you didn't know ...)
So, what exactly is resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a polyphenol (a naturally occurring compound in fruits, vegetables and cereals) which is found in foods such as grapes (in the skin and seeds), blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, peanuts and pistachios. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (aka all the good stuff) which confers many health benefits - I'll get to those soon. Some plants make resveratrol to fight off bacteria and fungi or to withstand a lack of nutrients. Yes please reserve me some of that!
You might be wondering why you often hear about the health benefits of red wine and not so much about white wine?
Even though resveratrol is found in the skin and seeds of all grapes, red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine because it is fermented with the skins (white wine isn't).
However, just because resveratrol is good for you, it doesn't mean you should consume wine like there's no tomorrow. There can be too much of a good thing (especially when alcohol has joined the party). Studies looking at the health benefits of wine have found that, in order to fully reap the benefits, moderate consumption is key. Most studies suggest that a moderate amount consists of glass of wine a day for women, and up to two glasses for men.
With moderate consumption in mind, some of the many health benefits of wine include:
Anti-aging - Harvard Medical School researchers found that resveratrol increases activity of a protein known as sirtuin, which protects the body from diseases as we age.
Reducing the risk of depression - researchers in Spain have found that men and women who drink two to seven glasses of wine per well are less likely to be diagnosed with depression.
Preventing dementia - Professor Edward Neafsey and his team from Loyola University Medical Centre found that moderate red wine intake can reduce the risk of developing dementia. This is because resveratrol reduces the stickiness of blood platelets, which helps keep blood vessels open and flexible and helps maintain a good blood supply to the brain - thanks, Ed and team ... Too much wine in one evening will lead to immediate onset of temporary dementia and by the next morning you will have forgotten almost everything from the previous night of debauchery ...so there's that to consider too.
Preventing breast cancer - while regular consumption of most alcoholic drinks has been found to increase the risk of breast cancer, red wine has been found to have the opposite effect. Turns out the chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes reduce estrogen levels and raise testosterone in premenopausal women which leads to a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Dr Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, notes that "if you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red wine. Switching may shift your risk." You don't have to tell me twice Doc!
Raising levels of omega-3 fatty acids - scientists in Europe found that regular to moderate wine drinkers have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which are commonly derived from eating fish). The good thing about omega-3 fatty acids? Other than having a cool name, omega-3 fatty acids are known to protect against coronary heart disease.
In addition to the research backed health benefits, I find that a glass of wine at night helps me to relax which for me means a better night's sleep and a more productive day the next day! But remember, moderation is the theme here (alongside wine). We've all had those nights where we have one (or five) too many wines, which lead to adverse health consequences. So take it easy when you have that wine ...
I understand it's easy to forget about moderation sometimes. More life, more everything right? We'll, just don't drunk text J-Lo.