60% of Americans indulge in a glass of wine at least occasionally, with about a third drinking it once a month. Science has gone back and forth on how good this is for us, but the good news is that, whether you cook with it or enjoy it as a drink, a glass of wine in moderation can deliver some surprising benefits.
‘Blue zone’ areas are regions where people live longer and are healthier than anywhere else in the world. Ikarios, Sardinia and Crete are considered to be blue zone areas, and in all these places, daily wine consumption is standard. All three regions consume fewer animal-based foods, eat a wide variety of plants and natural oils, and consume moderate amounts of red wine. A study conducted in 2007 found that procyanidins promote good cardiovascular health, and these are found in the tannins in red wine. Wines produced in Sardinia have particularly high concentrations of procyanidins.
Further research by the Harvard Medical school found that resveratrol (found in grapes) can activate a protein that encourages longevity and good health, protecting the body from aging. Modern packaging methods, engineered with sustainability in mind, ensure that grapes are protected in transit and more fruit can be transported at one time. This means that grapes reach producers sooner and in better condition. Studies have shown that the longer grapes are stored, the quicker their quality diminishes, so the improvements in packaging means that more of the grape’s original nutritional value makes it into the bottle.
Healthy teeth, eyes and skin
Longevity has been discussed as a potential benefit of wine quite publicly, but there are also lesser-known benefits of indulging in the occasional glass. Wine can help to protect your teeth from bacteria: scientists found that applying red wine to biofilms of the bacteria most commonly associated with plaque resulted in almost total destruction of the bacteria. Resveratrol has also been shown to prevent the growth of the bacteria that causes acne, promoting clear, glowing skin.
Your eyes also stand to benefit from moderate wine consumption. Again, resveratrol is the star player, preventing too much blood vessel growth in the eyes. This can help with age-related macular degeneration, and it may help in treating diabetic retinopathy. However, research is still in its infancy, and studies have so far been limited to mice. It looks hopeful for wine drinkers though!
Lower cholesterol and stable blood sugar
Scientists believe that resveratrol can reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. This essentially means that the blood vessels are less at risk of plaque. The American Heart Association agrees that moderate alcohol consumption can increase HDL cholesterol by approximately 12%. Polyphenols, meanwhile, can help regulate your blood sugar. Red wine is a rich source of polyphenols, and a small glass can equal the effectiveness of some diabetes medications in regulating the blood sugar. This is because polyphenols interact with the cells that store fat and regulate blood sugar, creating a more stable environment.
Of course, all alcohol should be consumed in moderation, and over-indulging can counteract the positive effects of wine consumption. Red wine has a higher concentration of resveratrol and polyphenols, so opt for this for the best results. Consume in moderation, and enjoy as part of a healthy, Mediterranean-inspired diet for the most benefits.