Wine is a truly incredible drink. It brings a culture all its own with a host of enthusiasts and experts able to bring even the newest connoisseur into their ranks. However, despite the beauty and joy that wine can bring, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. While wine is a wonderful thing, the only thing more wonderful is the human heart, which is far more delicate than many realize. This is why the responsible consumption of wine is essential to ensure that our hearts remain healthy so we can continue to enjoy a fine vintage for years to come.
Unfortunately, wine can be highly damaging to the health of the human heart unless you can identify those that are “heart smart.” As surprising as it might sound, red wines are notoriously good at helping balance out the health of the human heart.
With so many red wines to pick from, it can be challenging to determine which are ideal for your specific needs. It is also important to not make the mistake that all red wines are good for your heart, as there are more than a few that can exacerbate your condition. Hopefully, we can help you figure out which red wines are best for promoting a healthy heart with this article.
Polyphenols Protect the Heart
Several foods in the world are known to benefit our overall health, including the status of our hearts. Some of these foods are packed with a powerful micronutrient called polyphenols. These polyphenols are not a well-defined concept, but a few well-known polyphenols can be found in food and drink, including wine. The most obvious polyphenols are:
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids comprise 60% of polyphenols and are found in foods like apples and dark chocolate.
- Tannic Acids: Tannic acids are a type of polyphenol found in food and beverages that have tannin levels, like coffee or red wines.
- Ellagitannin: A subset of the tannic acids that are less common and found in certain fruits and berries.
Insofar as wine is concerned, the primary polyphenol is tannic acid, a scientific term for tannins. As you might know, Tannins are responsible for developing a red wine’s flavor and must be balanced out to perfect the profile. This is why decanting is so vital for red wines, since the tannins need to even out. However, the tannins in red wine also contribute to the health of the human heart, making tannin-heavy wines a significantly better choice. This is because polyphenols are antioxidants, meaning they offer a wide array of health benefits that can protect your heart.
Polyphenols have been found to reduce chronic inflammation, one of the biggest threats to heart health. When there is inflammation surrounding the heart, the odds of heart disease skyrocket in response since your heart has less room to fulfill its role.
Ordinarily, inflammation is a beneficial, short-term response from the body to combat injury. However, if it becomes chronic, it can cause plaque to grow, loosen the plaque in your arteries, and create blood clots. These effects make it nearly impossible for your heart to pump blood through your body and can result in either stroke or heart attack if left unattended. However, the polyphenol tannic acid can reduce inflammation and clear up your arteries, enabling your heart to function.
There have even been supplementary studies using test-tube samples and animals to evaluate the effects of polyphenols on preventing harmful blood clots. The polyphenols inhibit the process of platelet aggregation, which would otherwise cause blood clots, which means that the use of polyphenols can be a phenomenal tool against blood clots that might induce heart conditions. Unfortunately, inflammation is not the only concern for heart health. You need to also factor in your cholesterol levels.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- High-Density Lipoprotein: High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the good type of cholesterol that you want to see at high levels.
- Low-Density Lipoprotein: Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is the bad type of cholesterol that you want to see at low levels.
Having excessively high LDL can lead to severe heart complications that can be fatal in the wrong circumstances. For that reason, regulating your diet to account for LDL is an essential part of survival in the modern era. Fortunately, polyphenols are a viable tool for bringing your cholesterol levels to the ideal. Some studies have linked the consumption of polyphenols to lowering blood pressure and LDL levels while also bolstering your HDL levels.
Finally, the most important polyphenol in red wines is a compound known as resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in grapes, which we all know to be the primary component of a wine. Resveratrol has been studied fairly extensively to discover that it can lower blood pressure, making it valuable. A study from 2015 found that resveratrol reduces the pressure your heart places on your arteries when it beats, helping to minimize the odds of heart disease. This means that resveratrol and tannic acid are among the greatest weapons red wine has to protect heart health.
The fact that polyphenols have such value in heart health management makes them extremely attractive to those suffering from heart disease. This is not to say that consuming polyphenols, especially from wine, will cure heart disease. However, it can make it less of a burden on your quality of life. The only remaining question is what types of red wines provide the tannins necessary to increase your polyphenol levels.
Heart Healthy Red Wines
Many different red wines on the market today are primarily sought for their flavor. However, the polyphenols that can be found within a bottle of wine are indicative of a greater benefit beyond flavor and profile. To think that such an elegant beverage can provide health benefits of this nature might seem farfetched, but the tannins found in the red wines offer all the effects that polyphenols offer.
The only real question is which brands of wine would best suit someone looking to improve the health of their heart. However, when it comes to heart health, some wines shine brighter than others—the first of the wines that can improve heart health is the Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is a red wine that originates from the Burgundy region of France, as the name might imply. Since we know that the French take their wine very seriously, quality is paramount to the bottles they produce. However, it turns out that the quality of Pinot Noir goes beyond the taste and elegance of the wine itself. Its ingredients possess polyphenols and traits that turn a glass of Pinot into a “heart smart” drink.
The reason behind this is that the grapes used to produce a bottle of Pinot, the Pinot grape, have thinner skins than other grapes that make up for the lack of tannins with a massive supply of resveratrol. While tannins are a powerful polyphenol, resveratrol more than makes up for Pinot Noir’s lack of this particular substance.
Next on the list is Merlot, a wine that also hails from France, albeit in the Libournais region rather than Burgundy. Merlot is almost as popular as Pinot Noir but has a more moderate body that can go down easier for newcomers to the wonderful world of wine.
Like the previous wine, the key to Merlot’s health benefits lies in the grapes, which are packed with resveratrol. Granted, the level of resveratrol in Merlot grapes is less than that in Pinot grapes, but Merlot grapes also have high concentrations of procyanidin. Procyanidin is a compound that can even out the cholesterol of the one consuming it, further adding to Merlot’s ability to manage heart health.
Next up are the Cabernet wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernets are also a French wine that comes in many forms. However, each Cabernet type can also provide a substantial resveratrol content and the usual red wine tannins. What Cabernets can do that Pinot and Merlot cannot is control your sugar levels.
The consumption of Cabernet wines has a trait that enables them to lower the concentration of blood sugar in the body to keep it reasonable. High sugar levels can play just as much of a role in heart disease as cholesterol and inflammation, so a Cabernet being able to control this while providing the more general benefits is a handy advantage.
These three wines do not encompass the entire list of red wines in the world. However, these three have the best chances of helping you manage your heart’s health and keep you healthier overall. Now, you might be wondering if you can enjoy these same benefits with a bottle of your favorite white wine.
Can White Wines Help With Heart Health?
While a wonderful experience, red wines are not the sole type of wine. White wines are a deeply loved beverage for many, and it pairs wonderfully with a seafood meal. However, one must consider if white wines can provide the same heart health benefits afforded by red wines. The unfortunate answer is “no,” white wines cannot improve your heart’s health. In fact, they can do quite the exact opposite when consumed in excess. The thing that differentiates white wines from red wines aside from the color and grapes is the sugar content.
A bottle of white wine has more sugar than a bottle of red wine, which is why white wines are always a little sweeter. While pleasant to the palate, this sugar content does not do much for your heart. This is especially true if you enjoy Riesling or Moscato, where sweetness is one of the main selling points.
In addition, white wines are completely lacking in antioxidants of any kind, meaning all of the benefits afforded by those in red wines are absent in a glass of white wine. So, while white wines are tasty and a treat to be enjoyed, they cannot be used as a heart-healthy beverage to minimize inflammation.
There is some fledgling evidence that suggests that white wines can help manage cholesterol levels. In this instance, white wines might find a place in heart health. However, this has not been fully researched and requires significantly more study to confirm before this can be considered.
Moderation is Key
While the knowledge that red wines can help improve the state of your heart is pleasant, it is important to remember that moderation is crucial. Remember that for all the joy and benefit those red wines provide, it is still alcohol. Consuming alcohol in excess can be detrimental to your health to make heart disease the least of your worries. We doubt we need to remind you that getting drunk can impair your judgment and put you in dangerous situations. However, alcohol can be even more deadly since our bodies cannot consume it in excess.
Too much alcohol can overwhelm our bodies’ ability to process it and lead to organ failure. Specifically, the human kidneys and liver are extremely vulnerable to alcohol and can shut down if we consume too much too quickly. Even when we stop for significant periods, the damage can be lasting and leave us at a disadvantage when consuming alcohol in the future. So, while the revelation that red wines can be good for your heart might seem like a license to drink them as often as you want, you must still exercise caution.
Raise a Glass With Us
Wine can unify even the most disparate of people under the banner of an elegance unavailable with any other drink. Now we know that this elegance exposes us to a culture all its own and offers benefits for the health of the human heart.
With the right bottle of wine, you will be introducing polyphenols and antioxidants to your body that can work wonders on your health and make life that much easier. With moderation and care, you can enjoy a long, healthy life filled with the wonders that only wine can provide. However, there is always more to learn about wine and its culture.
This thirst for knowledge can outpace one’s thirst for wine, so we at the Wine Diarist set out to provide as much knowledge as possible. We offer insight into how wine should be stored, prepared, and even the best glasses. This information can mean the difference for those new to the wondrous world of wine who need to get their start.
So, consider visiting our website to see the other articles we have available to inform you of the details of wine culture. However, we are also very aware that we have yet to discuss every facet of wine and its culture. There is always more to learn, and we are always happy to teach. So, if our website is missing the answer to a question you have, feel free to leave a comment to address it in our next post. Until then, we raise a toast to your health and happiness. Cheers to you!