Wine has been an important part of cultural, social, and religious traditions for thousands of years. It’s made from grapes that are crushed and left to ferment over time. This process forms yeast, which transforms the fruit sugars into alcohol.
Wine has a long history of medicinal uses. It’s been prescribed as a tonic for longevity. Even medieval monasteries claimed that the monks’ long lifespans were partly due to drinking wine.
Modern research has looked further into wine’s health-boosting potential. Scientists noticed that people in France showed a lower risk of dying from heart disease than those in other countries — despite a diet high in saturated fat. Researchers believed this might be due to the population’s average wine intake.
A 150-milliliter serving of red wine contains:
- Calories: 125
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 4 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
Wine is a source of:
It also contains magnesium. This mineral can help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
The nutritional value of red and white wines is very similar. White wine contains fewer calories at 121 per 150-milliliter serving, while red wine has a slightly higher vitamin and mineral content. Red wine contains almost 10 times the amount of polyphenols (plant compounds that have antioxidant properties) as white wine.
White wine is made mostly with white grapes, and the skin is removed before the fermentation process. Red wine is made from red or black grapes, and the skin is not removed before fermentation.
Potential Health Benefits of Wine
Wine is a rich source of antioxidants that can help promote better health. However, drinking high amounts of any alcohol can contribute to health problems.
Studies associate these health benefits with low to moderate wine drinking:
Potentially Lowered Cancer Risk
The antioxidants in wine fight cell damage in our bodies caused by aging, environmental factors like pollution, and lifestyle. By preventing and reversing this cell damage, a diet high in antioxidants can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, including cancer.
Studies show a link between moderate wine consumption and reduced rates of most cancers. Scientists think this is because our bodies may better absorb wine’s antioxidants than those found in many foods.
Wine contains flavonoids, anthocyanins, and other plant-based antioxidants shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism the body uses to heal. But too much inflammation for extended periods of time is linked to chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.
Healthy Blood Vessels
Red wine’s antioxidant content also includes resveratrol. This nutrient can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol that damages arteries and causes plaque build-up. Resveratrol also raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol that helps improve blood flow.
While white wine has no resveratrol content, it contains other antioxidants, like tyrosol, that have similar cholesterol effects. Research suggests that while these antioxidants are available in some fruits, our bodies absorb them better when consumed in wine.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Resveratrol's cholesterol-lowering properties can reduce strain on your cardiovascular system, helping to avoid heart disease. The antioxidant also helps widen your blood vessels. This effect supports good circulation, increases blood flow, and reduces the risk of clots that cause strokes and heart attacks.
Research looking at wine drinkers’ health over time supports these findings. Studies show that compared to non-drinkers, people who consume moderate amounts of wine had a significantly lower risk of premature death from heart attacks and other heart diseases.
Potential Risks of Wine
Wine’s potent antioxidant activity may offer great health benefits, but drinking too much of any alcohol can cause health risks. Talk to your doctor to make sure alcohol is safe to include in your diet and consume it in moderation.
Health risks associated with drinking wine include:
Unwanted Weight Gain
Wine contains a lot of calories per serving. Even moderate drinking affects your daily caloric intake, which at high levels can cause weight gain.
Increased Risk of Some Cancers
Alcohol can cause physical and psychological dependence. Scientists believe that some people are more genetically prone to alcohol abuse and addiction. Long-term alcohol dependence can weaken your immune system and affect your body’s stress response, which increases your risk for many chronic diseases.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects, premature birth, fetal alcohol syndrome, and miscarriage. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, doctors recommend you avoid alcohol.
Wine is loaded with powerful antioxidants, but you can get these natural health boosters from other sources like fresh fruits and vegetables.
A healthy lifestyle, diet, and exercise routine will also offer you many of the health benefits associated with drinking wine.