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Calorie Count Blog

Is Wine Really a Health Food?


Posted on Mar 01, 2011 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

By Carolyn Richardson and Mary Hartley, RD

A glass of red wine is frequently recommended as a beverage that has a myriad of health benefits.  But is there any truth to the buzz around drinking red wine everyday?  The answer is yes. Truth: red wine contains antioxidants that have major health benefits including heart and brain health. Truth: red wine has been shown to help control weight gain. Truth: red wine has been connected to increased cancer risk in women.  While the health benefits of red wine are valid, don’t be misguided into believing red wine is a diet-must. 
 
Anti - Oxidation

Many of the positive health claims for drinking wine are tied to its antioxidant properties.  An antioxidant is defined by WebMD as, “an agent that inhibits oxidation; any of numerous chemical substances including certain natural body products and nutrients that can neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals and other substances.”

Rust is an example of oxidation. A red oxide forms on iron when it exposed to stress in the form of air, water and acid.  A similar process occurs inside the cells of the body, but anti-oxidant agents slow it down so the damage happens much more slowly. Anti-oxidants are linked to preventing a myriad of degenerative diseases associated with aging, such as atherosclerosis, memory loss, certain cancers, immunity, and more. 

The antioxidant agents in wine belong to a huge class of chemicals called polyphenols.  Polyphenols are found in every part of the grape: skin, flesh and seeds.  Multiple studies have shown that consumption of grapes in the form of wine, juice and grapes boosts the overall antioxidant levels in the bloodstream. Resveratrol is the most studied polyphenol in the group. Compared to red wine, white wine has a little less resveratrol because it is made without the skins.

Antioxidants Sans the Alcohol

Some researchers act as if there are no healthier alternatives from which to get antioxidants, without the alcohol intake, when the opposite is true.  In fact, foods that have higher levels of antioxidants than red wine include natural cocoa powder, blueberries, red grape juice, dark chocolate (85% or more in cocoa solids), as well as green and black tea.

Ronald Prior and Guohua Cao, oxidation experts from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, recommend getting more ORACs (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) action by eating fruits and vegetables and other plant foods. To fight oxidation, we need between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC units a day.  Blueberries and prunes have 6552 ORAC Units, black beans have 6400, 5 ounces of red wine cabernet saugvignon has 5,000 ORAC units.  Dark, semi-sweet chocolate is over the top with more than 8,000 ORAC units in 1.5 ounces.

Wine and Weight

Women who drink in moderation, up to two glasses of wine a day, maintain their weight better than non-drinkers.  Those were the findings of Lu Wang published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  Wang, a cardiologist, followed 19,000 women over a 13 year-span and found that wine drinkers who were already at a healthy weight gained the least amount of weight over time.  Alcohol itself, unrelated to wine, has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and gallstones, all chronic conditions related to obesity.

But moderation is the key, and it is defined as two 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol (or 12 ounces of regular beer or 5 ounces of table wine) a day for men and one a day for women, with a maximum of 3 drinks at any one time. Polyphenols notwithstanding, consuming wine or any other alcohol delivers calories with little additional nutritional value.  Of the 150 calories in 6 oz glass of red wine, 18 come from carbohydrate and 132 empty calories come from alcohol.

Your thoughts....

Will you raise your glass or pass on wine?



Comments


Comment Removed

I live in a wine-producing European country. I mostly just drink local wines and almost every day with my dinner I have a glass (1,8dl). Though I mostly drink white wine, since I like that a lot better than red. Next to having a great taste, I discovered that I sleep a lot better and wake up more easily when I do that. Maybe it's just that my rather overactive brain relaxes better because of the alcohol, but it works.

When my mom was 12, she had anemia. The doctor told her parents to give 1dl of red wine to her each day. He could have described a pill, but really, that is more harmful than a bit of light wine.

Maybe I'm biased, because if it wasn't for communism, we'd probably still have vineyards. However, I'm a great lover of wine and I always think that the benefits largely outweigh any harm. The key is moderation, as in all things.



I don't like wine... or beer for that matter.

I hardly ever drink anyway. So I'm not affected by any of these findings. If I drank more often, and I liked to have a glass of wine, I might make it red wine more often then not, but since I don't like to drink I'm not going to change anything.

I think it's stupid to start drinking red wine just because it may have health benefits. If you don't drink already, why start when there are plenty of other healthy alternatives out there that are probably lower in calories (or not full of empty calories) anyway.



In the 3rd paragraph  under anti-oxidation I think it should read "Compared to red wine, WHITE wine has less... 

white was omitted. 

  



For me, wine and most alcohol is a trigger food. I drink a little, and I have more, so I'll drink more. It also makes me twice as likely to consume snacks and other foods that are high in calories and fat. I tend to drink a little about once a week, but not necessarily for the anti-oxidants.



First paragraph:

 

Truth: red wine has been connected to increased cancer risk in women

 

I think you meant "DECREASED cancer risk in women"?  Just a guess...



Original Post by: eggled

First paragraph:

 

Truth: red wine has been connected to increased cancer risk in women

 

I think you meant "DECREASED cancer risk in women"?  Just a guess...


No eggled, a study in the UK has linked drinking red wine even in moderation with an increased cancer risk in women.  Here's a link to the study:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4798998/Glass-o f-wine-a-day-raises-of-cancer-in-women.html

Again it's all about your choice to weight the benefits and risks.

 



Beer and wine are part of our home menus: they are food, and are accounted for in our calories.  The vineyards of Long Island have some very good table wines, and we visit often to sample their new products.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate the red wines for their bolder tastes and textures, but overall we tend to go with the whites more often, just because we do not consume as much beef and the white wines seem to go better with chicken and turkey.  It's a plus that there are antioxidants in the wine, but like most people, I would not start drinking them just for that reason.  Sometimes I will choose wine over a cocktail, just because of the "healthier" aspects.  Also, because I think of wine as food, I enjoy it as part of our Sunday dinner, and I would skip dessert rather than turn down a glass of wine.



My Urologist had me drink 5 ozs of Red Wine a day before bed.  I am a non-drinker and all it did for me was give me a head-ache in the morning.  My family Dr told me to quit the wine and just drink 5 ozs of grape juice.  He said I would get the same benefit as the wine for less cost and no Hang-Over. 

It works for me.Cool



I prefer muscadine.



If you want the bennefits of drinking red wine and not the alcohol then you should come visit my website and take a look at Jus is full of Resveratrol.  the Resveratrol in one ounce of Jus is the same as drinking 35 8oz glasses of red wine without the alcohol.  The ORAC score on it is 8625 per ounce.  It's a product that I believe in.

Take a look:  www.myhavvn.com/tammyp 



Here's the thing about Red Wine.  It is a joyful, life-celebrating thing to sit down to a well-balanced dinner with a glass of wine.  It makes every dinner seem special.  An occasion.  It compliments the flavours of the food.  It raises the level of conviviality and it pairs well with good music and conversation.  In a way, it makes us more conscious that we are alive, and that eating is a part of living well, living with attention to how we nourish ourselves.  It is part of culture. 

I lost about 45 pounds between February and November 2010, and for the first time in my yo-yo dieting life, I did not give up red wine with dinner.  I maintained an intake of between 1600 and 2100 kc per day, with a daily average of about 1800 kc per day.  The wonderful tools on Calorie Count allowed me to track to averages and to chart the burn for the week. 

This more relaxed and realistic approach has allowed me room to enjoy life such as I've never experienced in nearly six decades on the planet.  I keep myself honest by getting on the scale once per week.  If I see the needle creeping up, now, I adjust the burn accordingly:  more exercise (longer and more intense hikes with my dog) and smaller portions for a week or so. 

This has (so far) kept the smile on my face and made weight management seem less like a study in deprivation.  The jury is out for at least the next decade, but I am committed to managing in this way until I get feedback that shows it is no longer enough.  

Raise your glasses and enjoy your dinner!

 



I think the alternatives should be pushed more. There are so many alcoholics EVERYWHERE and we certainly don't need another reason to drink! People who can't stop at one don't need to be drinking any - the negative effects far outweigh any benefits. I'm speaking for myself mostly, but those of us troubled with over drinking can easily use any encouragement to continue a burgeoning bad habit. Therefore, I ignore any of the hype about how "good" it is for you. Bring on the grapes and all the other fruits!!



I think only people who have a tendency to become addicted to something become alcoholics. One glass a day doesn't hake you an alcoholic. The trick is the same as with everything else. Pour out the glass and leave the bottle in the kitchen. Though I would never become addicted to anything as I don't have an addictive gene in my body.

And yeah, I'm sure.



I'm just thinking of myself and the other 6 million people in the country. I'm not addicted but I binge. I just think we are so used to pushing wine as healthy because of a very rich industry that is in it for the money. that's great you aren't addicted to anything. I hope that continues for you. These things sound good on paper - dump out your glass, don't drink more than one - but they don't always work so squeaky clean in the moment. I'm just glad I am honest with myself and can see through the marketing.



I just read again where you live. Maybe Europeans don't have alcohol problems like the U.S. You are fortunate!



Trigirl2 - Yes, it's true we should not be encouraging those with alcoholism to drink it.  Similarly, someone with a nut allergy should not be encouraged to eat peanuts. 

I don't think that the two issues are related. What may be beneficial to one individual can be harmful to another.  We need to know what's good for us, as individuals. 

For those who can consume alcohol and without becoming alcoholic or experiencing other ill effects, it has many benefits.  As the writer says, moderation is the key.



What's the point of one glass of wine a day? For health?  I just read the aticle & we should all drink grape if it's for health(which I do).  Red wine also makes are teeth look bad:(  Just so no, to wine for health benefits.  Wine increases the rick risk of cancer!  Drink it just to just chill out.  That will reduce your risk of cancer.  I'm going to go have a non-Alcohol beer for the health benefits tonight! 



I don't understand non-alcohol beer unless you are pregnant or something (or maybe driving but want to look like you are drinking for some reason?).  I mean, if you want a beer, drink a beer.  If you are an alcoholic, best not to be tempted back into the lifestyle I guess.  But a non-alcoholic beer is just empty calories, right?  Or are you being ironic?

I love red wine, and have a glass most nights (though not every night, sometimes I'm just not feeling it.)  So when I do have a drink in the evening to unwind, instead of having a beer or a cocktail, I have a glass of red wine.  I figure it is more of a, if you are going to have a drink, you might as well have on with some benefits.  Like eating a few whole grain chips or crackers.  Do you need to eat chips to survive?  No.  But at least these ones have whole grains and are high fiber.



Ah the prudency.  Live it up, you only live once.  Drink that glass of wine at the end of the day enjoying both the buzz and the nutritive benefits.  For goodness sakes, some people just don't let themselves enjoy life.



Original Post by: fiddlehead50

Here's the thing about Red Wine.  It is a joyful, life-celebrating thing to sit down to a well-balanced dinner with a glass of wine.  It makes every dinner seem special.  An occasion.  It compliments the flavours of the food.  It raises the level of conviviality and it pairs well with good music and conversation.  In a way, it makes us more conscious that we are alive, and that eating is a part of living well, living with attention to how we nourish ourselves.  It is part of culture. 

I lost about 45 pounds between February and November 2010, and for the first time in my yo-yo dieting life, I did not give up red wine with dinner.  I maintained an intake of between 1600 and 2100 kc per day, with a daily average of about 1800 kc per day.  The wonderful tools on Calorie Count allowed me to track to averages and to chart the burn for the week. 

This more relaxed and realistic approach has allowed me room to enjoy life such as I've never experienced in nearly six decades on the planet.  I keep myself honest by getting on the scale once per week.  If I see the needle creeping up, now, I adjust the burn accordingly:  more exercise (longer and more intense hikes with my dog) and smaller portions for a week or so. 

This has (so far) kept the smile on my face and made weight management seem less like a study in deprivation.  The jury is out for at least the next decade, but I am committed to managing in this way until I get feedback that shows it is no longer enough.  

Raise your glasses and enjoy your dinner!

 


You forgot to preface this with: In my opinion...

I appreciate your sentiments! But wine drinking is a part of SOME people's culture, not everyone's. I agree that the alternatives should be encouraged more often - not everyone can drink and have no negative consequences to their life. And, as someone else pointed out, other alternatives are often cheaper and safer (wine does not mix well with many medications).

And I know for me personally: I enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, but I do find that even though red wine may have health benefits in general, and may promote weight loss in some people, alcohol in general only encourages me to eat more (so no weight loss).



Original Post by: sophiasommer

Ah the prudency.  Live it up, you only live once.  Drink that glass of wine at the end of the day enjoying both the buzz and the nutritive benefits.  For goodness sakes, some people just don't let themselves enjoy life.


It is sad when people think that they HAVE to drink to enjoy life. There's nothing wrong with drinking in moderation, but there's also nothing wrong with not!



Original Post by: trigirl2

I'm just thinking of myself and the other 6 million people in the country. I'm not addicted but I binge. I just think we are so used to pushing wine as healthy because of a very rich industry that is in it for the money. that's great you aren't addicted to anything. I hope that continues for you. These things sound good on paper - dump out your glass, don't drink more than one - but they don't always work so squeaky clean in the moment. I'm just glad I am honest with myself and can see through the marketing.


I couldn't agree more trigirl2! While I respect anyone's desire to enjoy alcohol in moderation, I think as a culture it is pushed too much without any thought as to the many potential problem drinkers out there (think of all the kids who might have the gene for alcoholism that the alcohol industry ungrudgingly advertises to).

And I could never get into wine drinking all that much because it seems to be a contest among "serious" wine drinkers to one-up themselves on how discerning their palate is (does anyone actually taste things like coffee or licorice in their wine?), or how thick their wallet is. I have never tasted a wine over $15 that didn't make me think that the only reason it was so expensive was because of the fancy label it came with - to me there is no difference between a $5 wine and a $50 wine except for the pain at the checkout!



Hello Snookmz,

  By no means was I attempting to offend.  I don't want to give the impression that I condone self indulgency, but I do have a problem with the self righteousness that arises out of these types of discussion.  I am fully aware of the sorts of traps that exist and the type of people that fall into those things.  I'm not concerned with marketing issues, or whatever, related to wine drinking, as every indulgence I can think of is pushed and marketed and can become a pitfall.  People hoard, people become alcoholics, people become overweight, etc. But those are all choices.  It is isn't the fault of the marketing industry that people chose to become alcoholics or that people are grossly overweight because they choose to overfeed themselves.  People make concious decisions to do these things.  No one forces anyone else to watch television or read ads in magazines etc.  People chose to give into those types of things because they want to and don't have the internal controls to moderate their behavior.  And does that mean that none of us can enjoy little indulgences here or there because someone else with a serious problem can't?  That seems so unfair and just plain wrong. 

  I don't get the annoyance from all this but I do respect that people will have their opinions and I greatly respect that.  I do have to say that I do not splurge on alcohol.  I hate when people make these things an addiction.  It is not at all a problem for someone like me.  I would like to say that I agree with your ideas that you don't have to pay a lot for a good wine.  There are fairly priced wines that are quite good. 

I am sorry that I am so relaxed about this issue.  Perhaps I should be more convicted as I have been surrounded by addicts for most of my life.  But I realized a long time ago that the problem lies within them and not what is offered to them.  There is no one to blame but oneself for a wrong choice.  And wine and beer and spirits are apart of many cultures in the world.  It is common in European countries (I have a Spanish heritage) for wine to be drunk at dinner as milk or water is here.  It is no thing, no one even thinks twice about it.  No one exasperates themselves over it.  Here in America it is a problem because of the nature of our society.  I happen to be an ethnic woman and maybe that has something to do with the way I see things.  I don't know.

  Anyway, have a good week and perhaps a good glass of wine?  lol 



Original Post by: carolyn_r

Original Post by: eggled

First paragraph:

 

Truth: red wine has been connected to increased cancer risk in women

 

I think you meant "DECREASED cancer risk in women"?  Just a guess...


No eggled, a study in the UK has linked drinking red wine even in moderation with an increased cancer risk in women.  Here's a link to the study:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4798998/Glass-o f-wine-a-day-raises-of-cancer-in-women.html

Again it's all about your choice to weight the benefits and risks.

 


It's the way it's worded... I too thought it was an erratum.



Comment Removed

Original Post by: hobbbs

Beer and wine are part of our home menus: they are food, and are accounted for in our calories.  The vineyards of Long Island have some very good table wines, and we visit often to sample their new products.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate the red wines for their bolder tastes and textures, but overall we tend to go with the whites more often, just because we do not consume as much beef and the white wines seem to go better with chicken and turkey.  It's a plus that there are antioxidants in the wine, but like most people, I would not start drinking them just for that reason.  Sometimes I will choose wine over a cocktail, just because of the "healthier" aspects.  Also, because I think of wine as food, I enjoy it as part of our Sunday dinner, and I would skip dessert rather than turn down a glass of wine.


actually the uk article you reference is 2 years old.  Maybe we should be looking at

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8324161/Red-win e-can-help-breast-cancer-chemo-patients.html

which is from Feb 2011.  I think I'll have that glass of Malbec now.



I have started drinking wine when I was 16, at the family table, like most French people. I have never been drunk in my entire life (I am past 56), and never drunk more than a glass of wine at a time, and always good wine, with a meal. It is part of our culture and we know how to drink. There are drunkards everywhere, and those can drink rubbing alcohol when nothing else is available. Wine has nothing to do with their being drunkards. Moderation in everything is necessary, be it in eating chocolate, or meat or anything else. If you like wine, drink it, by all means, as it is not bad for your health, IF taken in moderation. That is my opinion.



Original Post by: trigirl2

I just read again where you live. Maybe Europeans don't have alcohol problems like the U.S. You are fortunate!


Some people do have alcohol problems, but I really don't have any addictive genes. I can't even form habits, I'm so in need of constant change in my life. Like sometimes I drink wine, other times nothing, then apple juice, then tea. I even have 10 kinds of tea in my home all the time, because I get bored of drinking one kind. I can't even eat the same food for two consecutive lunches. Though I can't say I never binge, but that happens once every year and at home, alone, with half a bottle of wine or champagne. I usually have a good cry about being alone and stuff, dance belly dancing for two hours (I even get exercise) and then go to sleep. I don't feel the need again for another year.



Comment Removed

Anything taken in extremes is not a health food. That is why everthing should be consumed in moderation. My husband and I are wine drinkers because wine is a work of art. It is a living thing that changes constantly (the same bottle of wine will taste different the next day). It enhances meals and is celebratory. Martin Luther himself said, "Beer is made my man, wine by God."

A hint for those of you who get stained teeth - I use Supersmile (nonabrasive!). When I first started drinking wine my teeth turned grey. I used the toothpaste and mouthwash every day for a couple of weeks and now I only use it when I know I'll be drinking wine (or tea) and after I drink it. The best thing is when I get a cleaning at the dentist, it looks as if I got a whitening job done!!

Anyway, no one should really consider wine a "health food" but we should celebrate the benefits and the positive aspects of it that scientists can't argue about.



Original Post by: elysemh

I don't understand non-alcohol beer unless you are pregnant or something (or maybe driving but want to look like you are drinking for some reason?).  I mean, if you want a beer, drink a beer.  If you are an alcoholic, best not to be tempted back into the lifestyle I guess.  But a non-alcoholic beer is just empty calories, right?  Or are you being ironic?

I love red wine, and have a glass most nights (though not every night, sometimes I'm just not feeling it.)  So when I do have a drink in the evening to unwind, instead of having a beer or a cocktail, I have a glass of red wine.  I figure it is more of a, if you are going to have a drink, you might as well have on with some benefits.  Like eating a few whole grain chips or crackers.  Do you need to eat chips to survive?  No.  But at least these ones have whole grains and are high fiber.


Alcohol is bad for you.  Why have only 1 drink when it rises the rick of cancer?  Live it up.  non-alcohol beer or beer is like wine.  It is very healthy in moderation(1-2 a day max.) but, the alcohol is not healthy besides relaxing you.  Besides O'Douls taste GREAT!



I agree!  NA beer IS great!  Only 65 cal for a bottle too...

Just because you chose to cut out alcohol doesn't mean you have to be restricted to juice (want to talk about empty cals- 130 cal min on an 8 oz glass) or tea (I know it's good for you too but yuck after you billionth glass/cup and the caffine can get you) or soda (don't even get me started on THAT) or water (boring). 

The true question is, "Is wine really a health food?"  My opinion- no.  Anything that generates this sort of debate probably has too many negitive aspects to be truly good. 

No one argues like this over blueberries.



Why dont we all just agree to disagree-  I was entertained to say the least.  I am very surprised by how many comments are negative to the article and to one another.  Dont mention the word binge, omg, it might trigger a behavior-  do not read this article if you are an alcoholic, yikes.  Maybe I am a prude-  no wait being a prude causes bloating-  no that was the sodium article...

Anyway... I think I will buy a bottle of wine for my husband and I to go with our dinner tonight.  I do like those little 4 pack of smaller bottles.



Original Post by: acequick

Original Post by: hobbbs

Beer and wine are part of our home menus: they are food, and are accounted for in our calories.  The vineyards of Long Island have some very good table wines, and we visit often to sample their new products.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate the red wines for their bolder tastes and textures, but overall we tend to go with the whites more often, just because we do not consume as much beef and the white wines seem to go better with chicken and turkey.  It's a plus that there are antioxidants in the wine, but like most people, I would not start drinking them just for that reason.  Sometimes I will choose wine over a cocktail, just because of the "healthier" aspects.  Also, because I think of wine as food, I enjoy it as part of our Sunday dinner, and I would skip dessert rather than turn down a glass of wine.


actually the uk article you reference is 2 years old.  Maybe we should be looking at

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8324161/Red-win e-can-help-breast-cancer-chemo-patients.html

which is from Feb 2011.  I think I'll have that glass of Malbec now.


That wasn't me quoting an article, but as a cancer survivor, I can tell you that beer and wine are a huge part of the joy I experience in this life.  All y'all can drink, or don't drink, that's your personal choice.  But it is INTERESTING to know that there are some positive aspects to the choices we make. 

BTW, if a glass of wine or an artisan beer make your day a little more liveable, go ahead and indulge.  There are times when I do, and times when I don't...



I have bought a bottle of red wine to start drinking it but have yet to open it. This article provides great motivation.



Comment Removed

I am 6 decades along in life and have done well without any wine in my life. I really feel, and its only my opinion of course that if you don't have an addiction to alcohol who cares if you have a glass.  If you like it enjoy it, if your looking for a health benefit I am thinking your looking for a excuse to OK having it. When it comes to harming you or helping you the amounts needed to gain the benefits is probably an amount that would put you attending alcoholic anonymous as your next battle to conquer.  Listen to that inner voice for the truth, not for what you want to hear. For me wine is the least of my worries but I am not so saintly when it comes to food. 



i'll pass on wine and just get my antioxidants from grape juice and dark chocolate, thanks.



Here's looking at ya.....

 

Whatever makes you happy....just enjoy life.



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