Table of Contents
Those of us that take an active interest in our health know that alcohol is not good for the body (no matter how good for the soul!) But, is there something the French know that we don’t? How is it possible they can be so overindulgent – good food, good wine – and yet have half the incidence of heart disease as compared to the US? French researcher, Serge Renaud, Ph.D., concluded through his research in the 1980s that it is because the French consume red wine. And in abundance – at the time about 16 gallons per person per year.
In comparison, the American figures for wine drinkers were around 2 gallons per year per person. The study found that the average French resident also lived 2.5 years longer than their American counterpart. So is there something we are missing regarding red wine, does it do more good than harm? Many scientists say yes, and call this phenomenon the French Paradox. The natural question to ask next is – which is the best red wine for health purposes?
In the following article, we present a selection of red wines and explain why they are considered good for your health. But first, we will explain exactly why red wine is considered by many to be good for your health in moderation.
Why is Red Wine Good for you?
While the evidence is not conclusive and the debate is ongoing, research does suggest that red wine could help in blocking the formation of fat cells.
The reason this may be true is because of the presence of compounds called Flavonoids in red wine, which inhibits the oxidation of LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) otherwise known as bad cholesterol. Flavonoids are plant compounds called polyphenolic antioxidants that come from the seeds and skin of grapes.
Resveratrol is another polyphenolic antioxidant that red wine also contains. The potential pro-health properties of these compounds include:
- Anti-inflammatory properties, which prevent LDL oxidation and make it difficult for blood platelets to stick together and lead to clotting and heart attacks.
- Protection of nerve cells from damage and plaque buildup, common causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Resveratrol is believed to prevent insulin resistance and protect against diabetes.
- Resveratrol may also prevent cancer cells from spreading.
All of these compounds are present in greater quantities in red wine than in white wine. This is why your doctor may recommend a daily dose of red wine over white.
The Best Red Wine for Health?
It is important to note that not all red wines are made in the same way. Some have higher concentrations of the polyphenolic antioxidants that are good for health.
Here is a look at the best red wines for your health:
- Pinot Noir
Pinot Noirs grown in cool, wet climates have been found to contain the highest concentrations of resveratrol. When sourcing your Pinot Noir, try to find traditional, old-fashioned wineries rather than large vineyards which tend to save aging time and mellow out the wines, reducing resveratrol concentrations.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Produced from Red Tannat grapes, these wines contain high concentrations of procyanidins. Procyanidins are polyphenols that benefit inflammation and blood clots, improving blood flow. Several studies have found these wines linked with higher longevity. One of these is a Spanish animal study published in the March 2005 issue of the “FASEB Journal”. Cabernets have dry flavor profiles, which is a quality common among procyanidin-rich wines.
Madiran wines are also made from Tannat grapes and contain high levels of procyanidins. Madirans sourced from Sardinia, southwestern France, and Italy are the most ideal, since traditional methods of aging keep the compounds intact.
This medium bodied wine made of black grapes with dark blue skins is also rich in procyanidins. A 2006 article found that wines from Sardinia and southwestern France had the highest concentrations of these compounds (and consequently these areas have better longevity).
- Syrahs (or Shiraz)
Also containing high levels of procyanidins is Syrahs wine (which may be called Shiraz depending on the method of production). These wines are grown in all regions and may be flavored with blackcurrants.
This versatile wine of Italian origin but now widely produced in California is not as popular as Merlot. But it contains very high levels of resveratrol and offers similar health benefits, according to this comparative study. These grapes also seem to contain very high quantities of another phenolic antioxidant called trans-piceatannol.
How much red wine can you drink per day?
There is a limit to how much red wine you should drink, however. This study suggests that the positive effects of red wine are evident in countries where the population tends to drink moderately and regularly. This, in turn, means you can enjoy your wine daily, but in moderation.
The recommended amount is a drink a day (5 ounces) for women and two drinks a day (10 ounces) for men. However, if you are into fitness drinking too much can be detrimental to muscle development as excess resveratrol can hinder the muscle repair cycle.
To sum up, the sweeter the wine, the lower the levels of flavonoids and other polyphenols present in it. This means wines like Zinfandel feature low on the list of healthy wines in comparison with others.
Dry red wines are more likely to contain all the beneficial antioxidants in higher levels. Among these, the wines made with traditional pressing and aging techniques are more likely to preserve the high levels of these antioxidants. Look for your red wine among smaller, boutique wineries since they tend to preserve old methods of production.
Anthocyanin, the polyphenol that gives wine its red color, is present in all wines. But the darker the wine, the more anthocyanin it contains. It is well-known that polyphenols in general multiply in the presence of sunlight and humid weather. This is why it is recommended that you choose wines which are produced in areas further from the equator – which have longer daylight hours. They will have higher levels of polyphenols.