Antioxidants have been in the news more and more in recent years, with research continuing to prove the powerful benefits of these protective vitamins. Wine antioxidants have also received a great deal of attention. A glass of wine a day has been proven to protect the heart, and recent studies even indicate it could help beat cancer. But does any one kind of wine provide greater health benefits than others? What is the best kind of wine to drink to capitalize on these important benefits?
The Sources of Wine Antioxidants
The antioxidants found in wine are classified as polyphenols, and include both flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Among the most powerful of these antioxidants are resveratrol, widely advertised as an anti-aging substance, as well as quercetin and compounds called catechins. Quercetin shows promise in studies as a cancer-fighting agent, and overall these antioxidants have been shown to be even more powerful than vitamins C, A and E, long held to be among the most effective antioxidant vitamins.
Wine antioxidants are found most abundantly in the skin of the grape. Therefore, red wines carry the largest amount of antioxidants. White wines will have a much lower concentration, since the grape skins are removed to create the clear, white color of lighter wines. Grape juice also provides a healthy dose of these substances.
In general, the darker the red wine, the more concentrated the antioxidant content. Other fruit wines also can contain antioxidants. Pomegranate wine, for example, has shown promise in recent studies as having even more significant antioxidant content than grape-based wines.
Benefits of Antioxidants
So what, exactly, do antioxidants do? In general, they fight against free radicals, substances that contribute to the breakdown of body cells over time. Simply put, body cells undergo oxidation, similar to the process that occurs when metal rusts. This oxidation occurs as a natural side effect as the cells go about their daily business of producing energy by synthesizing the foods we eat. Antioxidants slow this oxidation process. In the same way, they can slow or stop processes occurring within the cells that can lead to cancer. They even seem to decelerate the aging process in general, gaining a reputation as a "fountain of youth."
Antioxidants also help relax the blood vessels, contributing to overall cardiovascular health, reduce the clotting that can lead to strokes or heart attacks, and prevent LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, from oxidizing in the system. All these functions greatly reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, and additional evidence suggests they might help fight other age-related disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
Other Health Benefits of Wine
Some of the health benefits of wine seem to be related directly to the alcohol content rather than the available antioxidants. Alcohol provides cardiovascular benefits and might even help activate the function of wine's antioxidants.
This does not mean that more wine is better, however. A single glass of red wine with dinner is plenty to provide health benefits. Too much alcohol can have detrimental effects on the body, including liver damage, and alcohol is also very dangerous for a developing fetus. So enjoy that glass of wine per day, but be sure to always drink responsibly.