The Best Wines For Antioxidants & More
When you order a glass of wine at a restaurant or pick out a bottle at the store, you may be selecting the wine based on what you’re ordering for dinner, what you’re in the mood for, or even how eye-catching the label is. But soon you’ll have another criterion to make your selection with — resveratrol.
Resveratrol is a plant compound that has antioxidant properties. Found in the seeds and skins of grapes and other berries, resveratrol can help protect cells in your body from damage, preventing diseases like heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Even though fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains all have compounds with antioxidant properties, the antioxidants and the benefits that they provide vary based on different factors. The same is true for the wine you’re selecting.
Most wines have the same basic structure, but each variety may offer unique health benefits depending on the phytochemicals (plant chemicals and compounds), the fermentation process, and even the soil where the grapes were grown. So even though wine of any type should be drunk in moderation, small amounts of red wine can offer several health benefits, and some varieties of wine are better for you than others!
Plant Compounds in Red Wine
Because red wine is made from plants, each glass contains a blend of specific phytochemicals that are at the foundation of red wine’s health benefits.
- Antioxidants: A process that is occurring in your body right now is free radicals trying to bind with unpaired electrons. When left alone, these free radicals can cause cell and DNA damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants, however, neutralize the free radicals by donating an electron. Red wine is full of antioxidants like resveratrol and thiols.
- Flavonoids: Another type of antioxidant found in red wine are flavonoids, which are plant pigments, giving skins of the grapes their distinct color. Flavonoids have been found to have antihistamine, antimicrobial, memory- and even mood-enhancing properties. Other flavonoids that are found in red wine include anthocyanins, catechins, and quercetin.
- Polyphenols: A type of flavonoid, polyphenols are another reason why red wine is good for you. They are thought to aid in keeping your arteries clear, helping lower cholesterol, and reducing the risk of platelet clumps.
Health Benefits of Red Wine
Every bottle of wine contains antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols that cause a variety of chemical processes that help keep our bodies healthy. There is still a lot to learn regarding how these plant compounds function and how the health benefits are achieved, but scientists have spent decades studying antioxidants and have seen conclusive evidence that they do provide a host of benefits.
The polyphenol resveratrol and the flavonoid quercetin help fight high blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol by causing arteries to relax (arteries can stiffen as we age) and preventing cell stress.
From acne to auto-immune disorders to blood clots and arthritis, inflammation can lead to a host of conditions. The compound resveratrol, found in wine, has antioxidant properties, which help to regulate the body’s responses and enables the immune system to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy cells.
Balances Blood Sugars
The compound resveratrol has also been shown to prevent insulin resistance, protecting the body from developing diabetes. A study was completed in 2013 that showed participants who were given resveratrol supplements had significantly lower blood pressure, blood glucose, and insulin resistance.
Antioxidants like resveratrol help neutralize free radicals, helping to boost our immune system and prevent cell damage. Resveratrol also may help prevent tumor cells from developing and progressing, which is at the foundation of what cancer is.
Free radicals lead to oxidative stress, which is what antioxidants work to prevent. When oxidative stress adds up over time, it can lead to damaged brain cells, a fuzzy memory, slow learning, and possibly even Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants work to prevent stress and therefore reduces the risk of cognitive decline.
What Varieties of Red Wine Offer the Most Benefits?
It doesn’t take long in the liquor store to realize that there are dozens of varieties of red wine, but when you’re shopping for a bottle that is rich in phytochemicals (who isn’t thinking about biology and chemistry when shopping for wine?), there are a few varieties you’ll want to check out.
Malbec grapes have thick skins that are full of resveratrol, providing many of the health benefits listed above. Typically grown in Argentina and Chile, Malbec grapes and wine contain around four times the antioxidant content as merlots and nearly twice as much as cabernet sauvignons.
An easy-drinking wine with tons of flavor, pinot noirs offer a bright and colorful glass and the grapes are grown around the world. Pinot noirs contain anthocyanins and procyanidins, both are antioxidants that have been known to help reduce bad cholesterol and improve HDL cholesterol absorption. A four-ounce glass of pinot noir will give you around 640 micrograms of resveratrol. Another benefit of this variety is that they tend to be lower in sugar.
A slightly more robust wine than pinot noirs, cabernet sauvignon certainly don’t lack in health benefits. This variety contains a mix of flavonoids that provide cardiovascular and artery health benefits. Cabernets also promote the production of the amyloid precursor protein, which helps enhance cell health.
Don’t let the name fool you, the flavor and health benefits in this wine are nothing but small. The wine contains a large amount of natural tannins, which provides your body with the antioxidants thiol and resveratrol. Petite Sirah also contains procyanidin compounds, providing cardiovascular and metabolic benefits.
A slightly lesser-known variety, Madiran grapes are grown in southwest France as well as Uruguay and Argentina. The variety contains the antioxidant procyanidins, which promote healthy blood vessels and can prevent heart disease. The longer fermentation process of the Madiran variety helps to increase the levels of procyanidin. These phytochemicals may give a boost to the immune system.
You may have already known that red wine contains antioxidants, but now you know what makes them so special and what variety of wines to shop for!
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