Health benefits of drinking red wine
Credit: Credit: James Pallinsad, via Flickr

Wine has been a popular beverage of choice for thousands of years. Not only is this tasty juice delicious, but more and more research is suggesting there might be some major health benefits to consuming a glass of red wine a day. From heart health and fighting tooth cavities to the social nature of sharing a bottle, the benefits are numerous. 

Heart Health

Of all the health benefits of red wine, the benefit to the heart is probably the most well known. Red wine contains tannins, which are a natural polyphenol found in the grape's skin. These tannins provide health benefits that set it apart from white. 

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Tannins contain procyanidins, which have been shown to help reduce blood clots. The reduction of blood clots reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. Studies have shown that a glass of red wine a day can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent. Along with that, the polyphenols help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart and reduces bad cholesterol levels. [1]

Reduce Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension puts extra strain on the heart. Hypertension is to the heart what driving in first gear at high speeds is to a car engine - the heart is working extra hard when not necessary. A glass a day has been shown to increase HDL levels, which is the good kind of cholesterol. This type of cholesterol fights against the plaques that build up in your arteries. The built up plaque reduces blood flow through the arteries, causing the heart to work harder for the same effect of a healthy heart lining. By increasing HDL and reducing plaque build up, red wine is helping to reduce blood pressure.

Stress Relief

Alcohol in general, when consumed responsibly and in moderation, helps reduce stress levels. Reduced stress levels helps lower your heart rate, which allows for less work on the heart. For many, wine is like the coffee of the evening. Coffee is there to help kick start a day and wine is there to help slow and end an evening.

Tooth Cavity Prevention

Despite the fact that the dark red color in the wine can leave a little evidence on your teeth, there is good news that drinking red wine can help prevent cavities. Studies have shown that grape seed extract can help reduce  your risk of cavities by combating against bacteria. Certain bacteria bond together and form a strong, tough to get rid of biofilm. This in turn produces plaque on the teeth, which creates an acid wall against your enamel. That acid eats away at the tooth, leading to a cavity. Despite the benefits of brushing daily and using fluoride, the built up biofilm is still difficult to breakdown. This is where the grape seed extract is beneficial - it helps prevent the buildup of these bacteria, and thus prevents cavities. [2]

Other Health Benefits

Wine drinkers are shown to have longer life spans. Whether it is from the benefits to the heart through the presence of resveratrol (the polyphenol found in red skins) or a behavior and social benefit, wine drinkers live longer than beer and vodka consumers. This same polyphenol has shown to help ward off Alzheimer symptoms by preventing age-related cell damage and mental decline. 

Resveratrol has also shown to improve physical performance and strength training. More recent research has linked the benefits of red wine to those found in an average cardio exercise at the gym. This isn't to say that consumption should take the place of a healthy gym routine, but doing both might provide an additional benefit (but not both at the same time!).[1]

There is early stage research showing signs that red wine might aid in cancer treatment. Through its rich content of antioxidants, studies are showing wine consumption as an aid in breaking down cancer cells.

Social Benefits

As important as the health benefits are, there is one characteristic of wine that puts it above all other beverages - it is a very social beverage that is meant to be shared. Sharing a bottle, whether it be red, white or a bottle of bubbly instantly enhances a social gathering. 

There is also a level of sophistication and classiness that comes along with drinking wine, especially reds. This is most evident in professional and business dinners, where it tends to be the beverage of choice. Knowing a little bit about what you are drinking and the etiquettes of tasting and sharing can leave a good impression on the company you dine with. 

Wine is also a great topic for bringing people together in a small group. My wife and I host a monthly wine night at our house with about ten other people. Each month we all bring a bottle to share that fits a given theme. We spend the next four hours tasting each wine, talking about our impressions of each, snacking and enjoying the great company of friends. Wine has such a great complexity and robust history that everyone can find something they like and the options for tasting and learning are endless. But most importantly, it brings people together and enhances any social gathering. 

Drink More Wine!

With all the heart health and possible dental benefits drinking a glass or two of red wine each evening appears to have long-term benefits. Add in the additional social nature of wine and it becomes easy to see why this delicious juice made from grapes has been enjoyed for thousands of years. 

Not a fan of red wines? You will miss many of the health benefits associated with tannins and polyphenols in the red grape skins, but drinking white wines has shown to have moderate health benefits and still gets you into the great social scene of wine. My suggestion: give red wine another chance. Start with something light-bodied, such as Pinot Noir or Grenache. If you begin to develop a taste for these lighter reds, expand to Merlot and eventually Cabernet Sauvignon. This will get you through the main styles of red wine. 

Now raise your glass and toast to heart health and friends, the main benefits of drinking red wine. 

Resveratrol: Unleashing the Benefits of Red Wine
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(price as of Jul 27, 2015)
If you are interested in learning more about the health benefits of red wine, check out this book on Resveratrol.