No holiday party is complete without some festive beverages. However, if you and your guests are indulging on the dinner spread, you may feel hesitant about certain drinks: the pleasantly thick eggnog, the steaming and rich hot chocolate, and the comfortingly sweet warm apple cider. After such a full dinner, you don’t want your drink to push you over the edge in the proverbial battle of the bulge. On the other hand, if you want to go heart healthy, you can’t really go wrong with moderate amounts of wine.
How does wine benefit the heart?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that heart disease is responsible for one out of every four deaths in the country. For years, scientists have been interested in the potential health benefits of alcohol, particularly for the heart. According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol may increase levels of high density lipoprotein (or “good” cholesterol), reduce the likelihood that unhealthy blood clots will form, decrease inflammation, or increase antioxidant activity, which is most likely to occur with consumption of antioxidant-rich red wine.
Experts from the Mayo Clinic point out that red wine is full of antioxidants known as polyphenols, which may promote healthy function for the blood vessels in the heart. Animal testing on one polyphenol called resveratrol shows that it may lower levels of low density lipoprotein (or “bad” cholesterol) and prevent blood clots. These effects have yet to be proven in humans, but the research is promising. Besides red wine, resveratrol can be found in other foods, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. However, it’s not certain whether the antioxidant is present in the same levels as it is in red wine. Moreover, resveratrol comes in dietary supplements, but this form of the nutrient may not be easily absorbed into the body. Moderate and healthy levels of drinking can include up to two drinks a day for men, or one drink a day for women. However, medical experts warn that people who don’t usually drink shouldn’t start just for the sake of the potential heart benefits.
How do you pick a good heart-healthy wine?
Once you’ve decided that wine is the best option to serve at your holiday dinner, you’ll inevitably be faced with another question: Which wines are good to serve, particularly if you’re trying to be health-conscious? Alyssa Rapp, founder and CEO of Bottlenotes.com, shared three tips with Women’s Health magazine:
- Choose red wine. Although alcohol in and of itself may have certain health benefits when consumed responsibly, Rapp pointed out that red wine is probably healthier than white. The reason for this is that antioxidant-rich grape skins are actually used in the production of red wine. Rapp recommended opting for Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Go for a lower alcohol content. Most wines tend to be between 9 percent and 16 percent alcohol by volume. Any vendor or brand will tell you to drink responsibly, so to that end, you may want to opt for whatever red wine has a lower ABV. Additionally, remember that a high alcohol content corresponds with more sugar. If you want to watch your calories, going for the lower volume will be your best bet.
- Find a brand that emphasizes sustainable farm practices. There are several reasons why sustainably farmed wines are the healthiest choices, and they all have to do with what’s not in your drink. Specifically, these wines don’t have any pesticides, synthetic chemicals or added sulfites.