Is Red Wine Good for the Heart?

Back in the 1980’s, studies found that red wine contains antioxidants that may protect the heart and arteries. Many were delighted to hear the news. Since that time, additional research supports the health effects drinking of red wine – in moderation.

Dark red and purple grapes contain high amounts of antioxidants with the additional benefit of dietary fiber. Much of the antioxidants in grapes is in the skin, so eating grapes would have more benefits than drinking grape juice. Red wine reportedly has 10 times the amount of antioxidants than white wine, which is made from green grapes.

Red wine has two powerful antioxidants – quercetin and resveratrol – that can help regulate blood pressure and protect heart function. Research shows that they protect the inner layer of arteries and prevent bad cholesterol from building up, which leads to blockages and serious complications like a heart attack.

When drinking wine, keep in mind that one serving of wine is 5 ounces—much smaller than most wine glasses!

Recommendations:

  • Aim for:
    • Maximum of 1 drink a day for women
    • Maximum of 2 drinks a day for men
    • Maximum of 1 drink per day for those over 65 (our ability to metabolize alcohol decreases as we age)
  • Measure out a serving size of wine (5 ounces) using a measuring cup at home – to visually get an idea of how much your wine glass holds
  • Drink wine early in the evening with a meal or on a full stomach
    • Drinking late at night can cause poor sleep
  • Make a plan; set a limit in advance
    • Drinking alcohol tends to lower your inhibitions. Set a limit with yourself before you start drinking and think about what non-alcoholic beverages you will have once you reach your limit
  • Choose smaller portions
    • At a restaurant or bar:
      • Share a glass of wine with a loved one
      • Ask the server if a half-glass of wine is an option
    • Don’t make wine or alcohol a daily habit – this tends to lead to more drinking over time

Heavy drinking increases inflammation in the body, which contributes to a variety of health issues. Heavy drinking is having 4-5 drinks or more in an evening. It can damage the liver and cause irregular heartbeat, low blood sugar, TIAs (mini-strokes) or sudden cardiac death. Chronic excessive drinking can cause fatty liver, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and increase body fat.

Excessive drinking has many serious effects on the body. Be honest with yourself about your drinking habits, in particular, how much you actually drink and how often.

While there are promising health benefits from drinking red wine, there are also serious risks to consider with alcohol use. A glass of wine should not replace other heart-healthy behaviors like proper diet and exercise. Be smart about enjoying red wine and remember that moderation is key!

 


Author: Lisa Henderson, MS, RDN

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