You’ve heard it before – a glass of wine with dinner is good for your heart … is this true?
Well, hold on to your bottle openers! Studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake, especially wine consumption, does indeed help lower the risk of heart disease.
Recently, a clinical trial, that included 224 patients with controlled diabetes that were following a Mediterranean diet, showed that participants who consumed five ounces of red wine each day saw a two-point increase in their HDL (the good cholesterol) levels, and those who consumed white wine saw their fasting blood sugar levels fall 18 mg/dL. In addition to this, participants that consumed wine, either red or white, also reported improved sleep quality as compared to water drinking controls.
However, the story is not all rosé (sorry – couldn’t help myself) – as there’s a fine line between benefit and harm.
Don’t assume that a glass of wine will fix everything. The changes in HDL and blood sugar levels were meaningful, but they’re not game changers. You still need to adopt a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight and increase your physical activity to achieve maximum heart health benefits.
You should drink small amounts of wine, consistently to see results. The idea of saving your wine consumption for the weekend may seem like a good idea, but it’s important to note that the results from this study were achieved by consuming only five ounces of wine daily at the same time each day. So, five ounces daily, not 25 ounces on Saturday if you want to see a health benefit.
Alcohol is a double-edged sword. At Step One Foods, we may be focused on heart and cholesterol, but we also keep your entire health in mind. Alcohol is not benign and cancer risk goes up with increasing alcohol consumption. This is definitely a situation where more of a good thing is NOT better.
And if you’ve ever struggled with alcohol addiction, it is not recommended that you incorporate any wine into your diet – no matter the heart health benefits! In this study, participants with past alcohol addictions were prohibited from participating.
Benefits without the buzz. If you're someone who doesn't enjoy wine or would prefer to avoid alcohol altogether, you still have options for capitalizing on wine's benefits. The major heart health benefit of wine appears to come from polyphenols. These are powerful antioxidants that give red wine its color. In general, the darker the red wine, the more polyphenols, the greater the benefit. But polyphenols are not just found in wine, and antioxidants can come from many other sources. Chocolate is a great source of polyphenols – and just like with wine, the darker the better. 70%+ cacao chocolate is especially rich in these antioxidants. Step One Foods Chocolate Crunch Bar and Peanut Butter Cluster are made exclusively with 72% cacao dark chocolate for just this reason. And the antioxidant levels in the Strawberry Banana Smoothie are off the charts because we've included so much fruit in the mix.
Just one part of the whole. Finally, it’s important to remember that participants in this study followed a Mediterranean diet made up of whole, plant-based foods. So the benefits of wine consumption were realized in the setting of a heart healthy eating plan. There's no guarantee any of these beneficial effects would have been seen if the underlying diet was made up of cheeseburgers and fries.
I share more about the alcohol and heart health in the video below.