What is the 'Healthiest' Type of Alcohol?

Red wine has been heralded for decades for its myriad of health benefits. The research shows it can be beneficial for supporting better brain function, cardiovascular health, inflammation control, blood sugar balance, and cancer protection. Not bad for a little grape!

What gives red wine its health promoting properties? A group of compounds called polyphenols, most notable resveratrol and anthocyanin, which are found in the dark red skins of the berries.  

Most people know that red wine can be health promoting, but is there a type of red wine that is best? Can you get more health boosting bang for your buck with specific varieties of grapes?

Absolutely. There are a couple of factors to consider.

#1 Resveratrol

The resveratrol content of red wine is a key indicator of the potency of its health benefits. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that quenches all the little inflammatory fires sparking up inside the body. You may be experiencing high levels of antioxidant stress if you have high belly-fat, achy joints, struggle with high blood sugar levels or a chronic condition. The wine with the highest amount of resveratrol will likely pack the biggest antioxidant punch. What grape has the most resveratrol? The answer… Pinot Noir. It's head and shoulders above the rest, consistently showing the greatest concentrations of resveratrol compared to other grape varieties, regardless of where they come from. Pair a nice Pinot Noir with your weekend dinner and you can reap the health benefits.

#2 Anthocyanin

What if you you’re not a fan of the lighter bodied Pinots? It’s not just resveratrol that makes red wines beneficial for your overall health. Another polyphenol compound called anthocyanin gives wine its deep red color. The darker and more full-bodied the red wine, the greater the content of anthocyanin.

What type of grapes have the most anthocyanin?

Experts found that Cabernet varieties have the greatest concentrations of health promoting anthocyanin, so if Pinot Noir’s are too light for you, try pairing a Cabernet Sauvignon to boost your intake of these health promoting polyphenols.

Does this mean if you don’t drink alcohol, you should start?

Not exactly, you can also obtain these healthy polyphenols from eating grapes and other fruits and veggies with darker skins. However, some of my clients rest easier at night knowing that studies show that those who abstain from alcohol completely do not live any longer than those who drink in moderation. (Insert collective sigh of relief... phew!)

Remember, always consume alcohol in moderation… one to two drinks for men and women and be sure to include multiple alcohol-free nights in the week as well. Also, be sure to add salt to your food to offset salt loses from alcohol intake.

Enjoy your health boosting Pinot Noir’s and Cabernet Sauvignon’s this fall… for the great taste and the health benefits!

Cheers, Santé, Salud!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS