The double-edged sword of red wine’s health benefits

A lot of research has been conducted on the health benefits and health risks of wine, in particular red wine. The challenge with associating health benefits to alcohol is that there is always a risk of overconsumption, which brings with it significant health risks. Like anything, used in moderation, red wine can be good for you, but how good is still under debate.

Red wine, like any plant-based food or drink, contains flavonoids — an antioxidant. Flavonoids can protect against heart disease by improving blood flow and reducing the oxidation of LDL (or bad) cholesterol. However, red wine’s big newsmaker in the antioxidant category is resveratrol, which is a phytochemical (not a nutrient like vitamins or minerals, but still helps ensure good health). Resveratrol is found in red wine and cocoa, which is probably why you’ve heard that dark chocolate and red wine are good for you.

The reason this research began was that people wondered how the French, who eat such rich foods (with very high saturated fat levels) as cheeses and meats, yet have a lower incidence of obesity and heart disease than other countries. The research pointed to the regular consumption of red wine (which is rich in resveratrol) by the French. Another study showed that out of 80,000 men, those who drank a glass or two of red wine daily had a 60 percent lower likelihood of developing lung cancer. This was backed up in animal research, which showed that resveratrol improved insulin sensitivity and blood cholesterol levels. Resveratrol has also been shown to protect against several forms of cancer as well as against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Additionally, researchers have discovered that Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, and Merlot contain melatonin, which helps regulate the body clock and helps you sleep. However, the key is to keep consumption moderate. One glass a day will deliver your daily dose of melatonin, flavonoids, and resveratrol. Much more than that, and you run into a host of alcohol-related health issues, such as liver and kidney problems, memory loss, and addiction.

So enjoy a glass of red wine with some tasty and healthy food — such as my Italian Herb Spinach Artichoke Spaghetti Frittata or my Buffalo Blue Burger.