Is there really such a thing as the best red wine for heart health? It is widely believed that drinking red wine is good for you and can improve your health in some cases. Let’s explore which are the best reds to drink for your heart health.
We will take a look at the following red wines that are the best for your heart: Pinot Noir, Malbec, Petite Sirah, St. Laurent, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine drinkers typically delight in studies that show a positive relationship between drinking a moderate consumption of red wine and good heart health. However, it’s a good idea to take a closer look to understand what that means before you write yourself a prescription for a glass or two a day.
The French Paradox
The cardiovascular and health benefits of red wine come from its flavonoids. These are natural substances found in red wine which are well known for their beneficial effects on health. They are highlighted in the study of the “French Paradox” phenomenon as well as in Mediterranean diet studies.
In the 1990s, the “French Paradox” became widely known as a concept to describe the apparently low rates of coronary heart disease observed in French people, despite having a typical diet relatively rich in saturated fats. Bring on the butter and brie!
Bordeaux University scientist Serge Renaud is the “father” of the phrase. His 1991 study with cardiologists in France touted that consuming a Mediterranean diet high in omega-3 oils and antioxidants which includes a “moderate consumption” of red wine resulted in lower cases of cancer and cardiovascular disease. This is partly through increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. And reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
Initially, the concept was attributed to French people’s consumption of red wine, which contains resveratrol. This compound has anti-hypertensive effects and potential protective properties because of the ways it relaxes blood vessels.
Some research suggests 1 gram per day of resveratrol provides good health benefits. It doesn’t sound like much, but a person would need to consume over 1000 glasses of red wine, 1760 pounds of red grapes, or 6393 pounds of dark chocolate for that one gram of resveratrol. These are obviously massive amounts that are not healthy, or even possible, to consume. So, supplements are now available if you prefer.
Cardiovascular disease is a known, life-threatening problem for the world since ancient times.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease can refer to a number of health problems involving the heart and blood vessels, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If enough blood clotting happens it restricts or blocks the blood flow. Blood clots can cause a heart attack or stroke and potentially lead to heart failure.
The cause of the majority of the estimated 32 million heart attacks and strokes that occur every year are due to one or more of the following cardiovascular risk factors: hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and physical inactivity. Lifestyle changes and medication can improve your health and reduce the risk of a cardiovascular disease event taking place.
Epidemiological studies are the study of patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in a specific population. There are many that reveals that the consumption of foods and beverages rich in natural polyphenols, including those in red wine, grapefruit, vegetables, or tea, has an association with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. Especially, with ischemic heart disease also known as coronary artery disease.
So, is red wine really the best wine for the heart?
What Makes Red Wine Heart Healthy?
Red wine consumption with its high levels of polyphenols provides protection against coronary heart disease development, an oxidative stress-associated disease.
Oxidative stress is a component of many diseases, such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, myocardial infarction, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Red Wine Polyphenols
Red wine is especially high in phytochemicals which are chemical compounds from plants. Two powerful chemicals are the polyphenols resveratrol and quercetin.
Resveratrol and quercetin are antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals. They may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage free radicals cause.
These types of polyphenols have many positive health benefits including heart disease protection as they may help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart.
Resveratrol is a class of plant micronutrients known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are organic chemicals that plants make to survive drought or attack from disease.
The highest levels of resveratrol in plant-based foods consumed by humans are found in red wine.
The good news is polyphenols in red wine or red grapes like resveratrol are important as they work to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals form in the body naturally, but they are unstable and attack cells, causing damage to them.
Resveratrol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to protect you against diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, the anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol make it a good remedy for arthritis, and skin inflammation. Also, resveratrol has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help treat infections of the urinary and digestive tracts.
Studies on resveratrol do not completely agree. However, numerous studies show a positive connection in its role in preventing and managing cardiovascular disease and improving cardiovascular health. Research shows it can also help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and prevent blood clots.
Additionally, research does indicate resveratrol has links to a lower risk of inflammation and blood clotting, which can help with a lower risk of heart disease.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
The anti-inflammatory properties of resveratrol are effective in controlling inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.
Neuroinflammation is the inflammation of parts of the nervous system. This is one factor that contributes to the progression of brain-related problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies show resveratrol demonstrates health benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes experiencing the loss of insulin sensitivity. Researchers commonly see improvements in cholesterol and sugar levels after treating test subjects with resveratrol.
It appears resveratrol reverses insulin resistance, lowers blood sugar levels, and even lowers elevated blood pressure. These can also affect those having type 2 diabetes.
Quercetin belongs to a group of plant pigments called flavonoids that give many fruits, flowers, and vegetables their colors.
Flavonoids, such as quercetin, are antioxidants. They scavenge particles in the body known as free radicals. These can damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death.
Quercetin has strong antioxidant properties which may help protect against heart disease and cancer. It can also help stabilize the cells that release histamine in the body.
Histamine is a compound that is released by cells in response to injury and in allergic and inflammatory reactions. They are part of our immune system, but can also overreact when it comes to allergies. Quercetin naturally stabilizes the histamines thus reducing overreactions with an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effect.
Consuming too many drinks with alcohol content can cause liver damage. And in the case of excessive drinking can lead to liver disease. However, there is another type of polyphenol in red wine which is ellagic acid. This element has been shown to improve the health of the liver.
Additionally, you find ellagic acid in grapes, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, pomegranates, blackberries, and nuts. Many different foods. However, it exists in even higher concentrations in red wine than the high levels of resveratrol.
Studies show that ellagic acid is an antioxidant compound with preventive effects in several types of cancer. Especially lung cancer cells.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Consuming Red Wine
Consuming moderate amounts of red wine can have positive effects on your health. A lot of research has specifically highlighted the benefits of red wine. But white wine and other types of alcohol also have some health benefits.
Here are some of the main health benefits of consuming moderate or light amounts of alcohol and red wine. This information comes from studies found at the National Library of Medicine and the American Heart Association:
- Reduces atherosclerosis risk.
- Lowers the risk for coronary artery disease development: Over 100 studies reveal that moderate alcohol consumption is linked with a 20–30% reduction in the risk of heart disease.
- Lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke: Some studies reveal people who drink low-to-moderate amounts of wine are less likely to die from heart disease or stroke, compared to people who drink beer or other spirits.
- Increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol.
- Lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
- Helps lower blood pressure.
- Prevents blood clot formation which can mean fewer heart attacks or strokes.
- Reduces risk of neurodegenerative diseases: Light-to-moderate red wine drinkers have a lower risk of developing these diseases, such as Alzheimer’s compared to non-drinkers.
- Can lower the risk of osteoarthritis: At least one study found that wine drinkers had a lower risk of the disease, compared to beer drinkers.
- Helps reduce the risk of some cancers: Observational studies suggest that wine drinkers may have lower rates of lung cancer due to the properties of ellagic acid.
Red Wine v. White Wine Benefits
Many people question whether red wine or white wine is better for you. As a general rule, the dryer the wine, the healthier it is for you. A glass of dry wine will have fewer calories and less sugar than sweet wines which can be loaded with sugar and aren’t as healthy.
Keep in mind much of the resveratrol is in the skins of grapes. And dark red and purple grapes have a higher concentration of this polyphenol.
Red wine contains about 10 times more resveratrol than white. This is because in order to make red wine the grape juice must ferment with the grape skins.
The concentration of resveratrol in red wine depends on several factors. Including the region where it is grown as well as the wine-making process.
Traditional wine-making techniques produce the highest concentration of resveratrol in red wine. In order to achieve full extraction of pigments and antioxidants from the grape skins and seeds, the wine juice needs to be in contact with them throughout the fermentation process.
As the skins float to the top, stirring the wine pushes them back down. This increases the contact of the skin of grapes with the wine. When winemakers produce red wine using this method, they achieve the highest resveratrol concentration.
Red wine also gives us more potassium, manganese, iron, riboflavin, and niacin than white wine.
However, to make white wine like Pinot Grigio, the grape skins are removed before fermenting. So, white wine isn’t as healthy as red wine mostly due to lower levels of resveratrol.
Also, recent studies show white wine may cause skin inflammation issues like rosacea. As well as indicating a higher incidence of skin cancer issues when compared to people who drink red wine.
How Much Alcohol Can I Drink?
If you already enjoy red wine consumption, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, moderate alcohol consumption means:
- Up to one drink a day for women of all ages or men older than age 65.
- Two drinks a day for men under age 65. They generally weigh more than women and have the ability to metabolize any type of alcohol better.
Alcoholic drinks are defined by types of alcohol such as:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of 12% alcohol wine
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits
Consuming excessive alcoholic beverages can cause problems for your overall health and especially heart health. Enjoy a glass of red wine, but don’t drink too much red wine. Or any other alcoholic drinks for that matter. Everything in moderation is the general rule.
Women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant should avoid alcohol. Also, people under the age of 21 and those with certain health conditions should not drink alcohol. And people who do not already drink any amount of alcohol should not start, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As always, talk to your health care provider about specific recommendations for you.
Best Red Wine for Heart Health
If you are going to drink wine it appears red wine consumption is healthier than drinking white wine. But which is the healthiest red wine?
The grape varieties with the most resveratrol in the wine include Pinot Noir, Malbec, Petite Sirah, St. Laurent, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pinot Noir is a temperamental, thin-skinned grape that thrives in cool, moist climates. In the United States, Pinot Noir is commonly and successfully grown in Oregon. Besides having loads of resveratrol, Pinot Noir has a lower sugar content and fewer calories than other wines.
According to Cornell researcher Leroy Creasy, Pinot Noir grapes produce the highest amounts of the antioxidant resveratrol than other red wines.
This is a benefit byproduct as the grapes are frequently stressed by a combination of pathogenic organisms, temperature, and fungi. These typically attack in the cooler climates where they are grown. This results in the Pinot Noir grape producing higher levels of resveratrol to defend itself against such attacks.
Thus, Pinot Noir has a very high antioxidant content. It is thought of as the healthiest wine in the red wine family.
Malbec grapes are dark grapes that produce a wine with inky dark color and robust tannins. The skin of the grape is thick so it contains a significant amount of resveratrol.
These vine grapes are growing all over the world. However, when they reside in cooler climates, they produce higher resveratrol levels than those from warmer climates. Such as those you can find in the wine-growing areas of California and Spain.
The majority of Malbec is predominantly growing in the higher climate areas of Argentina. The Mendoza Province is Argentina’s most important wine region. Its location in the eastern foothills of the Andes makes these vineyards some of the highest-planted vines in the world. And this high-altitude region accounts for almost two-thirds of the entire wine production of Argentina.
Petite Sirahs are some of the best wines you can drink! These wines are dark, jammy, complex, and bold with some spice notes. They will pair with all sorts of roasted meats, barbecue, and a wide range of foods. There is nothing petite about this varietal!
Originally from northeastern France, this grape is growing in the cooler climate of Washington State and California’s central coast as well as Australia. The higher level of polyphenol and resveratrol makes it a heart-healthy wine to enjoy with rich meaty dishes.
St. Laurent or Saint Laurent in French is a highly aromatic dark-skinned grape varietal. Its origins are really a mystery. St. Laurent is believed to have resulted from a crossing of Pinot Noir with an unknown varietal. So, it makes the list of healthy red wines due to its lineage from Pinot Noir.
Many people worry about red wine staining their teeth. But did you know Cabernet Sauvignon has the ability to kill some cavity-causing bacteria?
Moreover, Cabernet Sauvignon contains some plant compounds that protect against the flu and other infections. Their catchy names are catechin and epicatechin. Yum!
You may consider this the smartest wine to drink as it has the ability to reduce levels of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain which may increase cognitive brain function.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are some of the most widely planted in the world. They have thick skins and tend to have higher concentrations of polyphenols than other red grapes with thin skin. Dark color, tannic red wines are naturally higher in polyphenols.
However, keep in mind that climate, ripeness levels, and wine-making techniques influence polyphenol levels in any type of wine. Additionally, the age of the wine can be a factor in polyphenol concentrations as they reduce as the wine ages.
The Best Wine for Heart Health is Red Wine
As a general rule, if you don’t drink wine or other alcohol, you don’t need to start in order to improve your health.
However, if you do enjoy a glass of wine, then a good thing to drink is red wine! It has polyphenols which are positive contributors to your health, especially your cardiovascular health!
Not sure where to start? Here is a recommendation: Opolo Grandioso.
Also, here are some great food pairings with red wine:
- Surf and Turf: The Best Steak and Lobster Wine Pairings
- Great Steak Fajitas Recipe
- How to Make a Candlelit Romantic Steak Dinner For Two
Consult your healthcare provider for what is right for you. Any potential benefits of drinking wine may not be the same for everyone. Especially older adults, whose bodies may take longer to metabolize alcohol. Or for people who have other medical conditions, or take certain medications.
Seek professional medical advice when making any diet or exercise changes.
If you do drink wine or any alcohol, it’s best to enjoy moderate wine consumption. Doctors recommend avoiding excessive alcohol consumption. Just drink responsibly. Remember that it won’t make up for a lack of a healthy diet and poor lifestyle choices.
But a glass or two of red wine can be a nice way to wind down and elevate a meal. Consider the added health benefits of the red varietals discussed above, as a very nice bonus!
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