I don’t consume alcohol regularly, but every so often I like to have a glass of wine with a special dinner. I think most of us have asked “is drinking red wine healthy?” at some point or other. I’d heard both that wine is good for us and not good for us. Then organic wine came on the scene. This article from the Wellness Mama talks about how to get the benefits from organic wine, and introduces a new terminology called natural wines.
Is Drinking Red Wine Healthy?
The short answer?
You’ve probably seen the headlines over the years about the heart health promoting benefits of red wine. These heart benefits have been well-studied. Recent research has uncovered many other benefits to this age-old fermented drink as well.
While red wine traditionally gets all the glory, a recent study showed that white wine may have the same benefits:
“Past studies indicated that the cardioprotective compounds in grapes polyphenolic antioxidants reside in the skin and seeds. Grape skins, which contain purple pigment, are crushed with the pulp to make red wines. But the skins are separated from the pulp to make most white wine. That situation led to the conventional belief that red wines and red grape juice are the most heart healthy…
“To the best of our knowledge, our study provides evidence for the first time that the flesh of grapes is equally cardioprotective with respect to the skins,” the researchers report.”
The Reality of Resveratrol
Red wine contains Resveratrol, which is not found in white wine, but recent research has called its benefits into question. The study looked at elderly residents in Tuscany and found no noticeable difference in the Resveratrol levels in the urine of those who lived longer vs. those who didn’t.
Studies about the benefits of Resveratrol have typically looked at how it affects cells in a lab setting. This isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of its role in the body. At the same time, just measuring urine levels may also not provide a clear picture of benefit.
From all of the research I’ve read, I’m not sold on the benefits of Resveratrol, as we’d essentially have to drink wine non-stop and swim in it constantly to reach the concentrations used in lab studies. At the same time, it isn’t the only beneficial compound in wine, and I think there are other benefits far beyond Resveratrol.
These studies also show that no compound, no matter how beneficial, can replace the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
3 Health Benefits of Wine
Please note that not all wines are created equal. Some have a host of additives that can negate the benefits and be downright harmful, but I’ll discuss that later.
1. Especially With Exercise
A more recent study found an even more noticeable benefit to those who drank regularly and exercised regularly. The benefit of the two combined exceeded the benefit of either on its own. In this study, called In Vino, Veritas, researchers actually introduced the fruit of the vine to non-drinkers to track the results.
The participants drank moderate amounts of wine five days per week. Moderate amount was defined as 2-3 glasses per day for men and 1-2 glasses per day for women.
Drinking wine did not seem to affect cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides, or levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. It also did not negatively affect people’s livers during the year.
The researchers then looked at the data of those who drank and exercised. Those who worked out twice per week and drank saw significant improvement in cholesterol levels. They increased HDL and decreased LDL after a year of regular moderate wine consumption.
In this study, the effects were the same with red or white wine.
2. Live Longer (or At Least Better)
According to a 2007 study out of Finland, wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers.
An abundance of anecdotal evidence supports longevity claims as well. In a blue zone (area with a high concentration of people who live longer than most places in the world) in Greece, residents consume wine daily. Researchers think this may be part of the reason for their longevity. Other reasons include consuming a lot of vegetables and good relationships with family and friends.
At the end of the day, many of us can agree that blue zones and studies aside, wine improves the quality of life!
3. A Happier Life
Those of us who appreciate a nice glass of wine don’t need studies to tell us this. It turns out that wine may have a clinical benefit for happiness and mental health as well.
A Spanish study (this one) found that those with a moderate consumption of 2-7 glasses a week were less likely to suffer from depression.
Problems with Drinking Wine
In a perfect world, wine drinking would have all of those benefits without any downsides. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world so of course there are also a few downsides to some types of wine.
Common Wines May Contain a Host of These Additives, Including:
Mega Purple & Ultra Red– You probably think the dark red/purple color is natural, right? Not so fast! Manufacturers can add these super-concentrated coloring agents to change the color. According to Abel James, manufacturers add 10,000 gallons of this stuff to an estimated 25 million bottles a year! And it isn’t just for color. These additives add sweetness (and sugar) as well. React to food dyes like many people? This could be the reason you don’t do well with wine.
Sawdust– Another flavor hack. Some manufacturers add sawdust or wood chips to the process. This provides tannins and the flavor of an oak barrel at a lower price.
Commercial Yeasts– These may be the real culprits of the wine headache, especially for those who have histamine issues. Many manufacturers add commercial yeasts to speed up the fermentation. Many of these commercial yeasts are GMO. The best wines use only natural wild yeasts.
How to Avoid Wine Additives
All of my research had me almost ready to give up wine forever until I met Todd White, founder of Dry Farms Wine at an event earlier this year.
Todd was well-versed on all the problems with most wines, but had figured out a solution. He founded Dry Farm Wines on the premise of using lab testing to find the highest quality wines that are free from additives.
These Natural Wines Are:
Lab tested to ensure quality and alcohol content of 12-12.5%
Sugar free– Their wines are lab tested for fructose and glucose, the two sugars found in wine. All contain less than 1g/L of total sugars, statistically sugar free. These low/no sugars are naturally occurring, nothing added or taken away. Carbs in wine come from the sugar content, since these are sugar free, they are also statistically carb free. Todd is on a strict keto diet and is able to drink these wines without a problem.
Mold/Mycotoxin Free– These are tested to be free of Ochratoxin A, a known carcinogen.
Natural, organic or bio-dynamic viticulture/farming
Dry farmed and don’t use irrigation
Old growth vines, generally 35-100 years
Hand harvested fruit from low yields
Made with minimal intervention
Fermented with wild native yeast (not commercial yeast)
Free of processed fining and clarifying agents
Not using sawdust or wood chips for a fake oak flavor
No chaptalization (adding sugar to the grape must in fermentation)
Free of all other additives and preservative
Dry Farmed Wines: A Better Option
When I found out that Todd’s wines met these strict criteria, I had to try them and I was amazed at the difference! I immediately noticed the smoothness and slight tang most of all. There was a definite difference between these and most other wines I’d tried that had a chalky feel that stayed on my teeth (probably Mega Purple).
I also noticed that I had no fogginess or headache the next day after drinking these wines. Todd claims that they are “hangover free.”
Do you consume red wine? What type do you like the best?