Wine has been around since at least the Paleolithic time period. Evidence from that era shows that it was used not only for enjoyment but also medicinal and health purposes. In that time, wine was made in small batches and from natural, plant-based ingredients only. As you can expect, the winemaking process of today is drastically different than that of our ancestors. Today’s conventional winemakers put their wine extensive protocols of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals. Not only does this damage our environment, but these poisons leak into every glass that we drink. In addition, wines commonly include added sugars, GMO ingredients, artificial colouring and flavouring. Altogether, the FDA allows a total of 76 artificial additives to be in wine. Not only do these changes come at the expense of our health, but most people actually agree that additive-free, dry-farmed, organic wine actually tastes better.
While it is important not to over-consume alcohol, there is reliable research that has shown that small to moderate amounts of red wine consumption can have a number of health benefits. So why does red wine provide its drinkers health benefits? Because it is a powerful source of antioxidants and friendly bacteria.
Organic wines are packed full of polyphenol antioxidants like quercetin and resveratrol. Clinical studies have shown these powerful antioxidants to be anti-inflammatory, protect the heart and brain, and play a fundamental role in reducing oxidative stress.
Benefits of Organic Red Wine
Prevent eye diseases
Given what we know about the role of antioxidants in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, it’s no secret that they are foundational to protecting our eyes from pathologies.
A core pillar of research on the pathogenesis of eye diseases, like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, has been on the role of mitochondrial dysfunction and death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). (RGCs are neurons that transmit information from the eye to the brain.)
Researchers found that resveratrol plays a key role in preventing RGC death and boosting mitochondrial biogenesis. Another study found that resveratrol helps prevent light-induced retinal damage and RGC death.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
For some time, researchers sought answers on how to improve heart health by studying the relationship between serum total cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. In recent years, researchers have shifted their focus to oxidative stress, which plays a role in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases, including heart disease. As mentioned before, polyphenols have proven to be effective at reducing oxidative stress and preventing free radical damage, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease. Researchers have confirmed as much; red wine, because it contains polyphenol antioxidants, can protect the heart.
Another study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Disease research reported that drinking red wine can reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries. The Journal of Molecular Medicine also studied the effect of red wine on atherosclerosis and yielded some interesting results. They also found that those with small to moderate red wine intake had a decreased mortality rate due to heart disease. However, people who drink excessive amounts of red wine, or those who didn’t drink any red wine, had a higher risk of dying from cardiac disease.
- This study found that resveratrol protects the heart from stroke damage, cholesterol accumulation, and improves blood circulation and overall vascular health.
- This study found that quercetin is effective at regulating blood pressure and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
Fosters a Healthy Microbiome
Genetic, environmental, and dietary factors all contribute to the makeup of gut microbiota. There is a substantial body of evidence that shows polyphenols maintain gut health and promote its microbial balance by stimulating the growth of friendly bacteria (such as Proteobacteria, Fusobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes) and suppressing pathogenic bacteria.
It is important to note that excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the microbial balance in the gut. So it is important to not drink excessive amounts of red wine, or else the cons may outweigh the benefits.
Regulates blood sugar levels and diabetes
Researchers found that moderate amount of red wine consumption may inhibit enzymes that facilitate glucose absorption. This slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which reduces and prevents blood sugar spikes in diabetic patients.
Protects against oxidative stress
In a study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science, researchers found that antioxidants support our immune system and reduce our risk of developing many degenerative and chronic diseases. This is due, in part, to its role in preventing and repairing oxidative stress damage.
Oxidative stress is known to play a role in a long list of serious chronic conditions, including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. The antioxidants within red wine support a number of metabolic processes in the body and counteract oxidative stress damage by scavenging for free radicals and repairing cellular tissues.
Prevents cognitive decline
In one study, researchers found that the resveratrol in red wine has neuroprotective properties and can protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. They also found that it plays a role in preventing the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque, which can be found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.
As already mentioned, the antioxidants in red wine also reduce free radical damage and inflammation, both of which commonly underpin cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
How to Choose a Healthy Wine
The polyphenols and live cultures can make red wine a healthy drink choice. However, not all wines are created healthfully. Conventional wines commonly contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, GMO ingredients, high amounts of sulfites, and other artificial additives. Not to mention, they are typically farmed unsustainably.
Red wine or white wine?
The high polyphenol levels in red wine make it a better regulator of glucose levels than white wine. Red wine has nearly 1000 percent more polyphenols and inhibited glucose absorption enzymes 5 times more than white wine.
Healthy Wine Checklist:
- Organically and biodynamically farmed means that the crop is grown without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other dangerous chemicals.
- Dry farmed means the way was grown with natural rainfall. Dry farmed plants grow up to 50 ft deeper than irrigated plants, which allows the crop to grow in nutrient-rich soil in an environmentally friendly way.
- No artificial additives. The FDA approves 76 wine additives without requiring them to be put on the label. These include toxic metals, chemicals, sweeteners, and artificial colors.
- No added sugars or carbs. Natural and organic red wines are friendly to those on a ketogenic, paleo, or a low-carb diet.
- Low alcohol means the alcohol percentage is 12.5% or lower.
- Low in sulfites. Natural wine should be 75 ppm or lower. High sulfite wines kill healthy bacteria in the wine.
- Non-GMO ingredients. For example, yeast is a common GMO ingredient that is used in conventional wines.
- Gluten-free. While wine is naturally gluten-free because it is made from grapes, some winemakers use a flour or wheat-based paste to seal the wine barrels that are used to age the wine.
Where is the Best Natural & Organic Wine?
I want to reiterate that wine may have these health benefits if consumed in moderation. Overconsumption of alcohol can have a host of unwanted side effects. However, as shown by the research, drinking red wine can actually support a number of our bodily systems.
So where can you get a red wine that is free of artificial additives, toxicities, and chemicals, environmentally friendly, and resembles what our ancestors drank?