Red wine splashed into a heart shape
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Wine and Heart Health: What You Need to Know

Does drinking wine make your heart healthier? It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? While a glass of wine isn’t a magic bullet, studies have long suggested that moderate consumption of red wine might offer some heart-health benefits. 

But hold the wine! Recent research suggests the “best” wine for your heart might be none at all (sad news, I know). As a dietitian who enjoys a glass of red wine now and then, this piqued my curiosity. So, let’s explore the latest research on wine and heart health together!

Uncorking the Heart Health Benefits of Red Wine (in Moderation)

Some studies show that red wine, in moderation, may offer potential heart health benefits when enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle. 

Remember, moderation is key. Excessive alcohol consumption can have negative health effects, including increased risk of liver disease, certain cancers, addiction, and accidents. What is moderation exactly?

The American Heart Association defines moderation as up to one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men (1). 

Here’s how moderate amounts of red wine may help your heart:

Red wine contains powerful antioxidants like resveratrol, quercetin, and proanthocyanidins. These neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce inflammation, both key risk factors for cardiovascular disease (2, 3).

Moderate wine consumption is linked to favorable changes in cholesterol. It may increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation. This can lower the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease (4).

Drinking a small to moderate amount of alcohol, mainly red wine, may lead to better insulin resistance. This can lower your risk of getting diabetes (4). 

Because there is a strong link between diabetes and heart disease, decreasing your risk of diabetes helps prevent heart disease.

As mentioned above, wine contains anti-inflammatory compounds, potentially reducing inflammation in arteries and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular events (3).

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can be great not only for your heart, but to protect you against other chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimers too. Find out more in our article and get your Free Printable Food List for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Cells lining blood vessels help control blood flow and clotting. Wine’s polyphenols may improve how these cells work (5).

Did you know that blood clots can increase the risk of heart attacks? Red wine reduces the formation of blood clots (3). 

It’s important to note that while many studies have suggested these possible benefits, more rigorous clinical trials are needed to establish a cause-and-effect relationship and better understand the mechanisms behind these outcomes.

Some recent research has made strides.

people clinking wine glasses

Recent Research on Wine and Heart Health

A new study found that people who drink a little or moderately (1-2 drinks per day) tend to have healthier habits than those who don’t drink at all. They reported feeling better overall, smoking less, having a healthy weight (BMI), exercising more, and eating more vegetables (6).

The study also found a connection between drinking any amount of alcohol and an increased risk of high blood pressure and clogged arteries. This risk increases the more someone drinks, even if they only drink a little.

This is important because it suggests that drinking any alcohol might actually be bad for your heart.

People who drink a lot are at a much higher risk of heart problems than people who drink a little.

Even a small increase in how much someone drinks can significantly increase their risk of heart problems.

Based on this new research, it’s likely that health and safety recommendations about drinking should be re-evaluated. 

While this study doesn’t tell us exactly how much is safe, it does suggest that the current recommendation of 1-2 drinks per day for men and 1 for women is probably too high.

Most importantly, the study emphasizes the need to help people who drink heavily to cut back, as the more you drink the greater your risk of heart disease.

However, keep in mind that this is just one study, and more research is needed. What we can say for sure is that making informed choices about alcohol consumption for the sake of your heart health is of the utmost importance.

So now you may be asking, if I do choose to drink wine, which are the healthiest red wines? 

Best Types of Red Wine for Heart Health

There isn’t specific research suggesting that one type of red wine is “best” for health. However, studies have found that red wine in general has a high polyphenol content, powerful antioxidant properties, and some positive effects on cardiovascular health as mentioned above.

Some wines that have high levels of antioxidants include varieties like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot (7, 8).

But what if you prefer white wine?

Two people clinking glasses of white wine

Can White Wine Also Contribute to Heart Health?

Maybe you prefer Sauvignon Blanc? Or an oaky Chardonnay? White wine, like red wine, contains antioxidants and polyphenols, although generally in lower amounts than red wine. 

While white wine may offer some health benefits, they may be less than those from red wine. This is due to differences in grape varieties and winemaking processes. However, more research is needed in this area.

Red wine has more resveratrol, which is found in grape skins. Since white wine is processed without the skins, it has much less resveratrol. 

However, white wine does contain other compounds like cysteine, glutathione, and methanethiol that have antioxidant-like effects (9). 

How the wine is made can affect the amount of antioxidants too. If it is produced in a way more similar to red wine, white wine will contain higher levels of antioxidants (5).

What are the main antioxidants in wine? So glad you asked!

Key Antioxidants for Heart Health

Resveratrol is not the only heart hero in wine. Wine contains many types of antioxidants, with levels varying based on grape type, winemaking process, and region.

Here are some of the top antioxidants found in wine:

This special ingredient in red wine grapes is good for your heart because it fights inflammation.

Found in both red and white wines, quercetin helps combat cell damage. It is also present in various fruits, vegetables, and tea. Two top sources of quercetin are cherries and blueberries. 

Learn more about these two fabulous fruits in our article: Cherries vs Blueberries: Nutrition and Health Benefits.

Ellagic acid comes from grape seeds and the wood barrels used to make wine. It is an antioxidant that can also be found in nuts, berries, and some fruits, like apples and pomegranates.

These compounds, found in grape seeds and skins, are also called condensed tannins. They contribute to wine’s astringency and possess antioxidant properties.

Beyond quercetin, other flavonoids like catechins and epicatechins contribute to wine’s antioxidant content. These are also found in tea and certain fruits.

Remember, while wine offers antioxidants, overall health benefits depend on moderate consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can harm your health. 

You can also get antioxidants from a diverse diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. So let’s talk about which foods are key for your heart!

Healthy salad and veggies on a white tablecloth

Foods for Heart Health

While wine may contain lots of antioxidants, so do many foods that are also important for heart health. 

Eating a heart-healthy diet promotes healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and overall heart function. 

In addition, the beneficial effects of wine may be due to its place in a Mediterranean-style diet. This may be because so many of the foods are bursting with health-promoting antioxidants. Or possibly because of the social aspect of the Mediterranean diet.

If you want to learn more about the Mediterranean diet, see our article DASH Diet vs Mediterranean Diet: Which is Better Long-Term?

To get the health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet, check out the following points.

Fruits and veggies are essential components of a healthy diet, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. 

Whole grains like oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat are a better choice than refined grains. That’s because they contain heart-healthy fiber.

Aim to include fatty fish in your diet at least twice a week. 

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce inflammation, lower triglyceride levels, and decrease the risk of heart disease. 

Salmon, nuts, avocado, and olive oil on a table

Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Regular consumption of nuts and seeds has been associated with improved heart health and reduced risk of heart disease.

Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and avocado oil are rich in monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to improve heart health when used in moderation.

Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. They can help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and promote heart health when included in a balanced diet.

Choosing low-fat dairy like milk, yogurt, and cheese can help you reduce saturated fat intake. And you’ll still be getting essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

Use herbs and spices like garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger to add flavor to your meals. They can replace salt or unhealthy fats and make your food taste amazing!

Did you know that herbs are great for gut health too? Check out The 10 Best Herbs for Gut Health to learn more.

Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (at least 70%) is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids are associated with lower blood pressure, improved blood flow, and reduced risk of heart disease. Just watch your portions!

Woman drinking tea

Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins. Catechins are linked to improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels.

To find out more about the health benefits of green tea, see our article: Green Tea vs Herbal Tea: Which is Best for You?

In addition to adding heart-healthy foods to your diet, it’s important to eat a variety of foods. You should also limit your intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, and foods high in saturated and trans fats. 

As always, talk to your doctor or a Registered Dietitian for personalized dietary advice. They can help you tailor your choices to your individual needs and health goals.

The Importance of a Balanced Approach to Alcohol Consumption

A balanced approach to alcohol consumption is crucial for both your physical and mental well-being. 

While moderate wine consumption may offer potential benefits, individual responses to alcohol can vary. Not everyone should consume alcohol. For personalized advice about alcohol consumption and its potential health effects, please consult a healthcare professional.

Women absorb alcohol faster and metabolize it slower than men. This means women often have higher blood alcohol levels than men after drinking the same amount. The effects of alcoholic drinks also hit women quicker and last longer than in men. 

These factors make women more prone to long-term health issues from alcohol. These include heart damage, cancer, cognitive decline, and liver disease (10).

In summary, adopting a balanced approach to alcohol consumption helps minimize health risks. 

Women having a picnic with food and wine

Beyond the Cheers: Understanding the Role of Wine in a Healthy Lifestyle

Wine, particularly red wine, may provide potential heart health benefits thanks to its antioxidant compounds like resveratrol. However, the new research we discussed casts some doubt. Perhaps it’s more the healthy lifestyle than the wine itself.

In addition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are no studies that show that the possible benefits of light to moderate drinking on heart disease and type 2 diabetes are greater than the risk of cancer that comes with the same amount of drinking (11).

If you do choose to drink wine on occasion, make it part of a healthy lifestyle. Adopt heart-healthy habits. These include eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical activity, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and avoiding tobacco use.

If you do choose to drink wine, think of it as part of your overall eating habits. While moderate intake might offer some health perks, it can’t undo the harms of a diet packed with processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats. 

Prioritize a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats for optimal health.

Regular physical activity is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise benefits your heart, mental well-being, weight management, and even how long you live. 

While an occasional glass of wine might fit into an active lifestyle, it can’t replace the positive effects of regular exercise.

Two women riding bikes

Your health is influenced by more than just diet and exercise. Sleep quality, stress management, tobacco use, and social connections all play a role. 

Make healthy choices across these areas to boost your overall well-being and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.

While some health benefits might come with moderate wine consumption, excessive alcohol intake has serious downsides. These include cancer, liver disease, addiction, accidents, and mental health problems. 

Practice moderation and follow recommended guidelines to minimize risks.

How wine affects your health varies greatly from person to person. Genetics, age, sex, metabolism, and overall health status all play a role. What works for one person might not be right for another. 

Consider your individual needs and consult healthcare professionals for personalized guidance.

Focus on overall diet quality, regular physical activity, stress management, adequate sleep, and other positive lifestyle choices. These habits will truly promote optimal health and well-being.

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