Is red wine good for your heart, fertility? We asked experts if it has a flipside
A long day at work, celebrating a birthday, catching up with your best buddies… the reasons to savour a glass of wine are endless. The drink is popular across cultures for its rich, layered taste and classiness. In fact, wine has been long loved – the oldest evidence of wine production dates back to 4100 BC in Armenia.
In recent decades, wine has been peddled as healthier than other alcohol. Not just that, the idea that it’s actually good for the heart has also been pushed into mass consciousness.
There are, however, many questions. The last few years have seen the world grow fitness conscious. We’re now eating organic, scrutinising labels before buying packaged food, and wearing fitness trackers instead of watches. This cautiousness has also led to the health quotient of wine being questioned.
Before jumping into the debate, let’s get the basics out of the way. “Red wine is made from the fermentation of red and black grapes with their skins on,” explains Dr Siddhant Bhargava, Co-founder, Food Darzee, a Mumbai-based food and nutrition company. Some of the most common and popular varieties of red wine include Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Now, let’s tackle the tough questions.
Is it good for you?
One of the major reasons why red wine is placed on a pedestal is because it’s loaded with anti-oxidants. “The skin of the grapes is rich in antioxidants, and especially one specific antioxidant called resveratrol. It reduces risks of breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases,” Bhargava says. A study last year also found that resveratrol helps offset the effects of a high fat diet.
Countless studies have been conducted to identify the link between red wine and heart health. While talking about the subject, one cannot miss mentioning the phenomenon known as The French Paradox: French people have a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, while having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats. It is their consumption of wine, and in particular, red wine, that is said to be the key factor here. “Red wine prevents the clogging of arteries (atherosclerosis) by lowering bad cholesterol and reducing plaque build-up,” says Bhargava.
A study conducted at the Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, found that five or more glasses of red wine a month had a positive effect on women’s fertility. This could be due to resveratrol. However, other experts have warned against over exposing the developing foetus to alcohol by heavy drinking.
Okay, but what about sugar?
A food component that has been getting a lot of flak of late is sugar. In the wellness space, it’s the number one enemy today. When it comes to wine, the sugar content depends on the residual sugar level in the wine. Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO, Grover Zampa Vineyards, says, “All wines, whether red, white or rose, can be produced in a range of residual sugar that may vary from very dry to very sweet. This is usually represented on a wine label in French terms as Brut, Sec, Demi-Sec, Demi-doux or Doux. Typically, a Doux style wine will have more sugar than other alcohol.”
If you’re trying to cut down on sugar, sipping on red wine might not be the best idea. “Red wine actually has more sugar than other liquors,” Bhargava states. “But a very dry, highly fermented wine does not have much sugar content.”
Is red wine better than white?
If you compare red and white wine, red comes out on top. The antioxidant compounds are found primarily in the skin of red grapes. The darker the skin, the more the antioxidants. “Although white wine does contain antioxidants that are present in the flesh of grapes that make up the pulp, the levels are higher in red wines,” Mandla says.
How much should I drink?
At the end of the day, red wine is still harmful if you go overboard. Like any other alcohol, moderation is key. “Despite the benefits of red wine, the alcohol itself is a neurotoxin, meaning it can poison your brain and tax your liver, among other bodily systems,” warns Mandla. The recommended limit is five glasses per week and maximum two glasses on any day.
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