There are several mysteries that are still unsolved: What wouldn't Meat Loaf do for love? How was the universe created? Is wine good for you? While we can't help with the first two, we are here to demystify the third (and most important?) one.
There's a lot of differing information out there about whether or not wine is good for you—and if it is good for you (fingers crossed), how much is good for you, and how much is too much?
Because inquiring minds want to know (and we're really hoping to justify our red wine drinking), we went to the experts to get their honest opinions about wine. Here's what they had to say.
What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Wine?
First, the obvious: Drinking too much wine puts extra strain on your liver because your liver is responsible for removing toxins from your body. And no matter how expensive the vintage, wine is still a toxin.
Jennie Miremadi, MS, CNS, LDN, integrative clinical nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner, says that alcohol, e.g. wine, can also increase estrogen levels in the body. Some symptoms of high estrogen levels include cravings for sugar, heavy periods, histamine intolerance, fluid retention, mood issues, and headaches, she explains.
"You see, alcohol energy can't be used for physical energy or metabolic function; it all converts to sugar and is stored as fat, especially as we age," explains Elizabeth Trattner, a Chinese and integrative medicine doctor. "Wine usually has added sugar, yeast, and sulfites (a preserving agent) and as we age, these are harder to metabolize," she explains.
But How Bad Is It for You, Really?
"Despite most of my patients' good intentions, they work out, they eat fairly well, but there is usually one big culprit to point a finger at: wine," says Trattner. "There are some compelling studies correlating wine with improved cardiovascular health, but don't be fooled into thinking that wine is a health category itself." (Way harsh, Tai.)
So basically, if you're trying to reach a specific health goal, drinking wine is probably going to slow down your progress. But it's not all terrible news!
Can I Still Have Wine?
Trattner uses this tough-love equation with her patients: "Let's say you have two glasses of wine, four times a week. At 150 calories per six-ounce glass, that equates to 1200 calories a week or 62,400 calories a year." That's the equivalent of about 17 extra pounds being added to your body, because like Trattner mentioned before, calories from alcohol are not used for energy.
Okay, so that's a major bummer. But also a good reality check.
All that said, you don't have to give up wine completely. Stella Metsovas, an expert in food science and nutrition and author of Wild Mediterranean, says, "Wine is considered a dietary source of polyphenols by many Mediterranean countries," Metsovas says. "Grapes contain these antioxidants and have been shown to possess many bioactive properties such as free radical scavenging, antimicrobial, and chemopreventive benefits in the body." So as long as you're mindful with your consumption, wine can be part of your healthy lifestyle.
"I recommend drinking a glass or two earlier in the evening to prevent any issues with sleep due to the alcohol and sugars. And always drink at least one cup of water per five ounces of wine," she advises.
Exercising and Wine
Obviously, we had to know: Is it better or worse to drink wine after exercising? Like, if we SoulCycle first and then have a couple glasses of vino, those totally cancel each other out, right?
We were fully expecting to be brutally rebuffed, but Metsovas says that having wine after exercising can be a good thing. "I do believe drinking a glass of wine two hours or so after a good workout is beneficial due to the natural vasodilator properties," she explains. "Wine is considered more potent of a vasodilator than hard alcohol due to the polyphenol and tannic acid concentration. Vasodilation means that blood vessels dilate (open), which allows blood to flow more easily." (That sound you hear is us booking our bikes for tonight.)
How to Choose the Healthiest Wine
Okay, so we may be considering lowering the amount of wine we consume—but we're not going to cut it out completely. Here's how you can choose a "healthier" wine.
"Red wine is known to possess higher levels of polyphenols. However, white wine contains a simpler class of phenols, such as hydroxytyrosol, which is also found in extra-virgin olive oil. These properties carry a synergistic value that can be compared to the polyphenols found in red wine," she explains. "Personally, I drink mostly dry-farmed white wines!"
Another thing to consider when choosing wine is whether it contains sulfites or not. "Sulfite-free wine contains more microbial diversity than sulfite-added wines, and according to a research article in The Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, wines that are sulfite-free during fermentation contain even more diversity," adds Metsovas. She recommends choosing dry-farmed wines whenever possible.