In Mediterranean countries such as France where folks eat diets that contain ample amounts of fat, it might seem improbable that the population has a lower overall risk for heart disease than does the population of the United States. Sometimes referred to as the “French Paradox,” the heart health of the French can partly be credited to their red wine intake at meals.
According to research, red wine helps boost heart health in several ways:
- Made from grapes and then fermented with the skins, red wine is rich in flavanols. These compounds found in grape skins act as powerful antioxidants, which protect the bad carrier of cholesterol LDL from damaging artery walls, thus lowering heart disease risk. (Note: white wine, fermented without the grape skins, is lower in antioxidant levels.)
- Other compounds such as quercitin found in grape skins also protect the heart by keeping blood substances called platelets from becoming “sticky,” thus lowering the risk of artery-clogging blood clots.
- Alcohol in wine (and other alcoholic beverages such as beer and distilled spirits) also appears to protect heart health by boosting the amount of HDL – the carrier of cholesterol that lowers heart disease risk.
Word to the wise:
- Before you take drinking wine to heart, know that wine’s benefits come from moderate consumption primarily at meals. Moderation is 1 drink or less daily for women and 2 or fewer drinks for men (1 drink = 5 ounces of wine.)
- Also, for some people regular alcohol use may increase cancer risk, especially breast cancer for women. And heavy drinking increases the risk of various diseases such as stroke and should be avoided completely by pregnant women as it leads to birth defects.