Red wine is wine made from the whole grape, and pressed with the peels intact. The health benefits of red wine include reduced cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes the use of olive oil in place of other fats, includes a moderate amount of red wine each day.
Grape peels are the part of the fruit that are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are believed have anti-aging effects by protecting the body from free radicals, which deteriorate cells. Antioxidants also help reduce damage to arteries by raising the blood's levels of HDL cholesterol, also known as the “good cholesterol” that contributes to cardiovascular health.
The antioxidant that gives the health benefits of red wine is called resveratrol. Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol that protects the blood vessels inside the heart. Resveratrol is also found in blueberries and peanuts, although the concentration of the compound is much higher in red wine. Most resveratrol is in the grape skins, but there is more resveratrol by volume in red wine than there is in raw grapes. Because white wine is made without grape skins, the resveratrol content is much lower.
Other health benefits of red wine come from a type of antioxidants called flavonoids Flavonoids are the compound in fruits and vegetables that give them their flavor. Flavonoids help prevent blood clots and support good circulation. These antioxidants are found in lesser amounts in beer and white wine, as well as oranges, tea, apples, and onions.
In the late 20th century, the notion of the so-called “French Paradox” led health researchers to investigate the benefits of red wine. The French Paradox refers to the lifestyle of Southern France, which involves little exercise, tobacco use, and a diet high in animal fats and carbohydrates. Nonetheless, the rate of obesity and heart disease in this region is among the lowest in the world. Some research suggests that the benefits of red wine in moderate amounts may contribute to this apparent anomaly.
The American Heart Association warns that alcohol consumption leads to other health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and liver disease. To get the health benefits of red wine while minimizing the risks, drink only a small amount daily. Men should drink no more than two 4-ounce (118 ml) glasses of red wine each day. Women should limit themselves to one glass daily.