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Guilt Free at Last, Health Benefits of Red Wine

• by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier and Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits

From yoga to bicycle rides to yachting excursions to days at the beach, summertime on Nantucket offers us an abundance of activities. Surely you need to be fit to keep up with this endless summer schedule. A pinnacle event that marks the height of our summer season is the annual Boston Pops on Nantucket concert, which will be held this year on Saturday, August 9. The event benefits Nantucket Cottage Hospital and is a great reminder of the importance of our health.

Did you know an integral part of our summer celebrating here on-island actually has several health benefits? Drinking one glass of wine each night is good for the heart (and the soul). The health benefits of red wine may be greater than you might think. Red wine possesses qualities that can help protect your body when it is consumed in moderation.

Antioxidants are the main reason wine is considered “heart healthy.” They are beneficial because they slow signs of aging, reduce the risk of some heart disease issues, and can also help patients with some forms of cancer. The most frequently credited antioxidant found in wine is called resveratrol. It helps to decrease the amount of bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol in your system. Resveratrol prevents the buildup of plaque, which clogs the arteries and can thin your blood, which is what causes blood clots to form. In effect, resveratrol can play a role in helping to prevent many heart-related risks such as heart disease, and also aid in stroke prevention.

In addition, resveratrol discourages the growth of cancer in new blood cells. It also helps to prevent DNA mutations that can lead to cancer. Based on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (which measures the trapping of cancer-causing free radicals in our bodies), a glass of red wine actually has more antioxidants than a cup of raw blueberries! (Please note that I am not suggesting you add wine to your smoothie drink in the morning.)

Which wines have the most antioxidants? Resveratrol can be found in fairly potent form in the skins and seeds of all red grapes. Full-bodied red wines that come from thick skinned grapes (such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) have more polyphenols that work as antioxidants than lighter style red wines that come from thin skinned grape varieties (like Pinot Noir and Grenache). The best way to see how much polyphenols your wine contains is to pour yourself a glass and examine the color. If the color of the wine is so opaque that you can’t see through it, then the wine has high antioxidant content. Score is one for Napa Valley Cabernets (not so great for the Red Burgundy lovers)!

Fermented beverages have proven that their health benefits are associated with good digestion. These probiotic powerhouses boost your digestive tract’s good bacteria, which is what helps to improve digestion and also offers many health-boosting nutrients. Kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt are just a few options that have all been fermented. So you may now add to this list beer, cider, wine, and sake, all of which are fermented from different base products. Malolactic fermentation is a process used in winemaking as a secondary fermentation to create lactic acid, the same thing that is touted as a health benefit in other fermented beverages. The probiotics found in fermented beverages such as wine can unlock more energy.

Who wouldn’t want to live longer? While you share a glass of wine with your friends, family or neighbors, you are also adding to the health benefits of consuming wine. Wine accompanies socialization, human interaction, memory recall of telling stories and laughing along the way. Wine drinkers tend to have a lower early mortality rate than beer or spirits consumers.

How much is too much? Scientists have found that men should have two glasses of red wine and women should have one glass of red wine per day in order to obtain the health benefits associated with wine consumption. By all means, don’t start drinking if you aren’t already a drinker just to take advantage of these benefits. Keep in mind that overconsumption can easily botch all the benefits of wine. But if you are someone who enjoys a glass of wine frequently, these findings certainly help make it feel less like a guilty pleasure. By the way, the health benefits of a glass of wine a day are not retroactive!

While your health-conscience friends are sampling the newest pressed fruit juices, you can sit back and relax knowing that your time-proven red wine habit might just be the key to a longer, healthier life.

Articles by Date from 2012