By Vanessa Gillis
Known as the nectar of the gods, a glass of wine has the superpower to spruce up the flavours of your favourite foods and also make social gatherings (and sometimes even the people at them) more enjoyable. So really, it’s no surprise that it has been savored for centuries, but is it good for you? We reached out to Shauna Lindzon, a registered dietitian in Toronto, to get the juicy details.
Q: What are the benefits of wine consumption (moderately, of course)?
A: If people don’t overdo red wine, I think there are positive benefits, such as stress reduction, and some studies have shown cardiovascular benefits. These studies have looked at antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols. One of the polyphenols in red wine, called resveratrol, could be linked to reducing the risk of heart disease by decreasing inflammation and preventing blood clot formation that can lead to heart attacks or stroke. However, it is important to note that most of the studies have been performed on rats and not humans.
Q: What would you consider to be moderate wine consumption?
A: One to two five-ounce glasses of red wine, two or three times per week. I usually tell people to use an upper limit of one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Try not to exceed this.
Q: Are certain types of wine more beneficial than others?
A: When comparing different wines, red comes out on top in terms of health benefits. Since the grapes from red wines are fermented longer with the skins, which are used during processing, red wine has more health benefits. Dryer wines also tend to have higher flavonoid levels, and grapes grown in cool, rainy climates have the highest amount of polyphenols. These wines include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlots.
Q: Can you get the same benefits from non-alcoholic wine?
A: Lower-alcohol wines can be a great alternative for people. Wine is calorie-dense, and a large percentage of the calories come from the alcohol content. Four ounces of wine has anywhere between 80 and 120 calories, but if you remove the alcohol from the wine, it drops down to a mere 10. However, removing the alcohol does not remove the phytochemicals!
Q: How does wine compare nutritionally to other alcoholic beverages?
A: Comparing wine to other alcoholic beverages is like comparing apples to oranges or, more specifically, grapes to wheat! Alcohol on its own is a source of energy, providing us with seven calories per gram. If you compare this to carbohydrates (which supply us with four calories per gram) and fat (which has nine calories per gram), you can see that alcohol is up there in terms of calories. The nutritional breakdown of the beverage will depend on what you add to it.
Q: As a dietician, what advice can you give on alcohol and wine consumption?
A: I do remind people that our bodies don’t require alcohol as a nutrient. Our livers have to “detoxify” alcohol. It is important to realize that you have to drink responsibly.
Q: What are the dangers of overconsumption?
A: There are many health risks that can be associated with overconsumption of alcohol; a short list includes weight gain and liver cirrhosis. Chronic alcohol consumption has also been associated with increasing the risk of certain cancers.