Grapes of Wrath? How Red Wine Does a Body Good

You know the drill. A diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains is vital for good health. Blah...blah...blah. But did you know that drinking wine regularly is healthy? Hold the wine train, you mean drinking is Cheers! A growing number of studies show that this fermented grape goodness may be more than just a fabulous dinner complement--in moderation, a glass or two can help your heart, prevent cancer and more. So raise your glass and take a look at all the vino buzz, and exactly why wine loves you.

A Glass (or Two) a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Like apples, there are antioxidants present in the skin and seeds of grapes that do a body good. Antioxidants are naturally occurring enzymes and chemicals found in plant-based foods that work together to help counteract free radical damage to cell and biochemicals from oxidation.Studies show that destroying these free radicals and reducing cellular damage can significantly slow down, prevent, or even reverse heart disease (as well as Alzheimer's, stomach ulcers, cancer, macular degeneration, diabetes, hypertension, and others).

Scientists believe that the rich polyphenol and flavonoids antioxidants levels in red wine is might explain this "French Paradox"-the incredible phenomenon where despite having fatty diets and high smoking rates, the French have significantly lower cardiovascular disease and vascular mortality rates than the U.S. The term became famous in 1991 when CBS's 60 Minutes reported an inconsistency in the lifestyles and rates of heart disease among the French, based on Dr. Serge Renaud's groundbreaking study of 34,000 middle-aged men living in Eastern France. While the men studied ate more artery-clogging saturated fats, smoked more cigarettes, and didn't exercise, they did drink a healthy amount of red wine. A typical Frenchman consumes three times as much red wine as his American counterpart-mix this fact with all the paradoxical research, and well, looks like wine might very well be more of a fountain of youth than a toxic drug. "I've always suspected this," said Dr. Serge Renaud, whose findings appeared in The Journal of Epidemiology. "Wine protects not only against heart disease but also most cancers."

Bring on the Cab!

So if moderate red wine consumption can do your body more good than harm, does it matter what kind of wine you drink? Recent studies in the United States found that red wine has an exceptional high polyphenol content, up to two to three grams per liter, and the dryer the wine, the better the flavnoid boost. Researchers at the University of California at Davis tested a variety of wines and found that Cabernet Sauvignon followed closely by Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir have the highest concentration polyphenols. White wine does contain flavonoids as well, but in significantly lower doses, about 1/10 of that in its red counterpart. But despite all the wine health buzz, winemakers are still sticking with the tried and true. "You can control how much polyphenol end up in the wine by controlling how the grapes are handled and pressed," says Dr. Andrew Waterhouse from the University of California at Davis, "but in general winemakers aren't concerned with making healthy wine as much as good tasting wine." For great oenologic goodies that are body and wallet-friendly, check out Behind the Burner Deals.

Be Modest

With all the hype and support for red wine drinking, one has to wonder, is there a catch? Well, the classic saying sums it up best: good things come in small packages. Medical experts agree. "More is definitely not better for the process," says Dr. Sumpio. Bottom line, drink in moderation. A four-ounce glass wine equals one serving, and men will benefits from one to two glasses a day while women should stick to one to reap maximum benefits. While studies suggests that red wine does a heart good, too much will do the exact opposite. Heavy drinking can damage nerve cells, the liver, pancreas, and other organs, increase blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer.

If you don't drink or dislike red wine, don't despair. Grape juice, tea, chocolate, apples, and fresh berries provide similar benefits, in smaller doses. As for red wine supplements such as Revatrol, the jury is still out. While these supplements do contain the same antioxidants as vino de table, you'd have to take several, several pills a day to equal the same potency of a regular glass.

Here's to vino and vigor, and enjoying the finer things in life! For more reasons to fall in love with the red stuff, visit Behind the Burner.

- Written by Mona Buehler