In Old World countries, wine is often considered a food, the beverage consumed with daily meals. In addition, because the water in those regions in times past was frequently suspect, it was considered safer to drink wine.
The “French paradox” is that despite a diet high in saturated fats, the French enjoy a relatively long lifespan. The explanation for this phenomenon includes the consumption of wine (specifically red wine), which contains alcohol and resveratrol, an antioxidant.
What makes red wine healthier than white? It’s all about the skins and the winemaking process — red wine receives much more skin contact than white. Why is that good for us? Grape skins contain an estrogen-related compound called resveratrol. One recent study found that resveratrol can help offset the development of Alzheimer’s disease in light to moderate wine drinkers. It also aids in increasing HDL levels (good cholesterol) and decreasing LDL levels (bad cholesterol). In addition, grape skins and seeds contain antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. The alcohol produced by the fermentation process dissolves the polyphenols contained in the skin and seeds, creating wine that is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from oxidative damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Cellular damage caused by these particles has been implicated in the development of cancer. Research on the antioxidants found in red wine has shown that they may help inhibit the development of certain cancers.
Another factor in wine that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle is the alcohol. Since it is a vasodilator (it makes the blood vessels wider), it may contribute to reducing the risk of cardiac diseases, including angina and stroke.
Other benefits of moderate wine consumption include the retention of usable B vitamins and the minerals potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Wine kills cholera bacteria, can combat typhoid, and has polyphenols that are effective against some viruses. It also contains the mineral boron, which helps older women to maintain their estrogen, enabling them in turn to absorb calcium. Wine also contributes to health through stimulation of gastric juices to enhance the digestive process. Recent studies even link wine drinking to the reduction of gum disease.