Is Red Wine Actually Healthy?

Valentine’s Day brings back one of nutrition’s most persistent questions—is red wine good for your heart and your overall health? Wine lovers are always looking for a reason to justify one of life’s greatest pleasures. Look at this recent study! Look at the French! They drink, they’re thin, and they live a long time! But is there any truth behind the wishful thinking? Sweetheart status or single, here’s what you need to know before raising a glass this week.

The Expert Answer

“Red wine can be healthy, but only in moderation,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, a spokesperson for the Academy of the Nutrition & Dietetics. “Enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day can help fight inflammation, lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and raise ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. It’s also associated with reduced risk for several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and strokes, and might lower rates of mortality.” So you can relax and keep sipping your pinot—but not too much.

The Benefits of Drinking Red Wine

The benefits of red wine come from resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of the grapes, Angelone explains. Fresh grapes contain resveratrol, as does grape juice, and wine still retains some of that natural goodness. Red wine has an edge over other wine or alcohol, because you get more of the skin, revealed by that juicy red color. Resveratrol acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, improving circulation and benefiting your heart and brain.

The Concerns with Drinking Any Kind of Alcohol

However, there are a few studies on the other side of the vine that say drinking red wine does nothing. And Angelone cautions that the benefits of red wine are often over-exaggerated. (She points out the French drink socially, in moderation, and don’t keep accurate death records—so much for that theory!)

The real problem is how hard it is to say no to a second glass. The distinction between “moderate” and “heavy” drinking tends to get blurry, and too much alcohol of any kind comes with serious health concerns, putting you at risk of brain, heart, and liver damage. A health professional is never going to tell you to start drinking, if you aren’t a wine sipper already. Plus, wine is simply high in calories, around 123 calories a glass, and can seriously undermine your weight loss goals.

At the Bottom of the Glass

Sip, savor, and enjoy your red wine! But if you’re drinking to your health, it better be just one glass—which might be smaller than you think. Friendly reminders: The healthy drinking guidelines recommend no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, measured as 5 fl oz (150 ml) for a glass of wine. So this holiday, “Treat yourself and your loved one to an expensive bottle,” laughs Angelone. “You might savor it a little better, and drink a little less!”

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