Updated: Feb 25, 2021
Wine has been used since the dawn of human civilisation. From ceremonies to sacrifices, to celebrations and being used as a healing medicine, even being a staple in some modern cultural diets, it has been consumed around the globe for millennia, and there is some surprising research that might have you reaching for a glass! In today’s post I’m going to give you the lowdown on this delicious grape juice, the potential benefits, and how to safely incorporate it into your lifestyle to get the most out of it.
Firstly, a disclaimer: Nothing in this post is to be taken solely as medical advice, but just as my own personal opinion and a restatement of the science, studies & research, so consult with your GP before increasing alcohol consumption.
I’d never been much of a wine drinker myself, but after stumbling upon the research it seemed as though the widely-consumed juice o’ de grape suddenly got a lot more attractive. The evidence is surprising, suggesting that moderate consumption of red wine (1 standard glass per day for women and 1-2 standard glasses per day for men) may actually help people live longer, protect against certain cancers, improve mental health, and enhance heart health. A compound found in red wine was also recently found to further reduce the risk of heart disease by changing the gut microbiome (the population of bacteria that live in our gut), which is amazing seeing as coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. I’ll toast to that!
The research shows that these beneficial effects on our health are largely due to the red wines anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and their role in tissue repair processes. Because red wine is fermented with grapes that still have the skin on, they contain all of the beneficial compounds of the grape, unlike white wine which has been tagged as being nutritionally inferior to its red cousin, as it is produced with limited exposure to the skin, and so a lot of the focus has been around studying and isolating the properties found in red varieties.
Louisiana State University Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences Professor Tammy Dugas is even developing a new stent that releases red wine antioxidants slowly over time that promotes healing and prevents blood clotting and inflammation. With a focus on coronary disease prevention, Dr. Dugas explains that "By delivering red wine antioxidants during conventional angioplasty, it may be possible to prevent excess tissue from building up and the blood vessel from narrowing again as it heals”.
For all of these health reasons, along with the mouth-watering taste and relaxation effects, red wine has found a firm spot in my regular diet. Whether it’s already a part of your life, or you’re now thinking of becoming a red wine convert, try utilising my top five tactics below for ensuring you get the most from this marvellous grape.
Tactic #1- Drink red wine post-exercise
Any drink high in alcohol, fructose and other sugars (just like red wine) can cause unwarranted body fat storage if consumed excessively and especially in a fed state. Ben Greenfield, one of Americas top health and fitness guru’s, consumes his daily glass o’ red in a “fasted” state after exercise, as the sugars in the alcohol help replenish liver glycogen stores (carbohydrates that can be used for energy later), and the sugars themselves are far less likely to spend a lot of time floating around in the blood stream. I suggest following his advice by consuming your glass of red shortly after exercising in the early evening before dinner, or if you exercise in the morning, then a short 15-20 minute brisk walk before your pre-dinner glass can do wonders.
Another tip to also limit the amount of sugar, is to opt for the driest varieties of red wine. Here’s a basic breakdown of wine types and how much sugar they contain:
Dry: About 0.5g per glass Medium dry: About 0.5 to 2 grams per glass Sweet: About 6 grams per glass or more
Tactic #2- Find ways to limit the alcohol, but still get the same benefits
Despite the protective effects of the beneficial compounds found in red wine, the amount of wine consumed deserves attention since consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can have many negative consequences. Try finding low-, or no-alcohol varieties that you enjoy, or alternatively you can look for ways to increase your intake of the favourable properties from other food sources. Foods such as blueberries, cranberries, red grapes, and dark chocolate all contain some of the same longevity-supporting compounds, so making these a regular addition to your diet is also a good bet.
Tactic #3- Trick your brain by using a small wine glass.
Unfortunately the standard glasses that I referred to earlier aren’t the giant fishbowl-sized gauntlets that you have to hold with two hands. There have been many, somewhat comedic, nutrition/portion-size studies involving randomised tests where participants were given different sized bowls, spoons, or even self-refilling bowls. They found that the people who used larger eating utensils, or who unknowingly ate from magical self-refilling bowls, ate far more than their counterparts. I often now choose to eat my meals off smaller plates with teaspoons or miniature forks, and bring out the larger bowls when having vegetables and salad. Haha! Trickery at its finest! So for this reason too, I advise using a small glass for your wine to limit your consumption.
Tactic #4- Don’t buy cheap and nasty
I admit, I used to be guilty of this. Seriously, I should’ve been given the electric chair. Clean-skins, goon bags, and the $5 bargains were my purchase-of-choice, but once I became more aware of all of the hidden nasties in commercial produce, I became a little more selective during my trips to the bottle shop.
Think about it, when you see that $5 bottle of wine that’s on special in the local bottle shop, do you think it’s really possible to grow grapes, ferment them properly, bottle them in glass, ship them around the world, then sell it for $5, and still make a profit? This is only doable when the vines and grapes are mass-produced, sprayed with chemicals, picked by underpaid visa workers and the bottom-line, not the quality, is the only think the corporation is concerned about.
So you must play the game a little better! Read the labels, buy from smaller, local vineyards that are biodynamic, go for organically grown, fair-trade approved, natural red wines and pay that little bit extra to ensure the quality is at least a little better.
Tactic #5- Go preservative-free
To preserve the fresh fruity flavour of the grape all the way until the final product (the wine itself), winemakers add preservatives immediately after the grape skin is broken, and these preservatives are continuously used throughout the winemaking process until the final bottling. The most commonly used preservative is either sulphur salts or sulphur dioxide gas itself, which can typically lead to headaches, shortness of breath, sneezing, dizziness and watery eyes.
Thankfully this is rather an easy fix. You may need to go to the “organic” section of the bottle shop or wine store, but simply look on the bottle’s label to see if it says “contains sulphites”, “sulphites added”, “preservatives added”, or the best option, “preservative-free”. I can already hear the bottles clanking in your wine cabinet from here! When you go to check on the bottles you already have, if you do discover that your favourite brand of red wine contains added sulphites, don’t panic. Most bottle shops in Australia stock something called “Pure Wine”. All you do is add five drops to your glass of wine, which blasts away the sulphur dioxide gas!
Now, for optimal health it really is best to limit your consumption of alcohol to as little as possible, and let’s be honest, I’m certainly not drinking red wine just for its potential health benefits. It’s best to pair your wine consumption by enjoying it in the company of family, friends and wider social circles, on top of a diet high in fresh, whole produce such as grass-fed meat, fatty fish, low sugar fruits, and vegetables, foods high in dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and a good amount of healthy exercise for the best results.
So if you are going to choose to have a drink with your spouse at sunset, whilst sitting out on your back patio together post-exercise, talking about your day, share a glass of natural red wine.
To your health,
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