Red vs white: can wine really be good for our health?

Red vs white: can wine really be good for our health?


  • The most powerful antioxidant found in wine is resveratrol. This substance can help keep skin looking young while also preventing heart disease, reducing LDL cholesterol levels and protecting against cancer.
  • One drink (a standard unit) of wine is equal to 5 oz or 150 cc. Generally accepted guidelines recommend that people drink no more than 1 unit per day. Males who drink more than 3 units of alcohol per day, or females who drink over 1.5 units a day, significantly increase their risk of developing liver cirrhosis.
  • Drinking more than 7-10 units of alcohol on a weekly basis increases the risk of an early death resulting from coronary heart disease in both men and women.

Wine from grapes was first produced as long as 6,000 years ago. But it was in the 19th century that Louis Pasteur developed his germ theory of fermentation, discovering that sugars in the fruit turned to alcohol when left to ferment for a certain period of time.

Wines are classified into 5 categories: white, red, rosé, dessert and sparkling.

Red Wine

  • Red wine does not differ significantly from white wine and is only red due to the color of the skin, seeds and pips of the grapes it is made from and which are also included in the fermentation process. Red wine is fermented at high temperatures to remove the color, smell and astringent taste attributed to the tannin contained in the grapes. The wine’s strength is determined by how long this fermentation process is allowed to continue.
  • Red wines suitable to newcomers include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Red Zinfandel.
  • Food pairings: light-bodied red wines go well with grilled vegetables and poultry, while medium- to full-bodied reds can be paired with red meats including steaks.

White Wine

  • White wines can be made using green, red or black grape varieties, although these will first have their pigment removed. White wine is generally smooth and fruity in taste, with some varieties exhibiting a creamy flavor similar to vanilla depending on how they are made.
  • Newcomers to white wine are advised to try Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato.
  • Food pairings: There are a number of foods that go well with white wine, such as soft cheeses, white bread, fish, seafood and salads.

Rosé Wine

  • Rose wine is usually a pink, rose-like color and may be made from either red or black grape varieties. The fermentation process takes a mere 12–36 hours, and some producers combine red and white wines to make rosé. Rosé wine is easy to drink owing to the subtle balance between sweet and bitter flavors.
  • Food pairings: Rosé wine can be paired with fish, chicken and berries.

Dessert Wine

  • Dessert wines can be either red or white. Dessert wines are traditionally sweet, making them suitable for pairing with desserts. In some countries, such as England, white dessert wines may be drunk to aid digestion after a meal, while red dessert wines may be used to cleanse the palate between courses. Dessert wines have been developed over time to include other styles such as port, tawny and sherry wines.
  • Food pairings: In addition to nearly any dessert, these wines can be paired with smoked meats and soft cheeses.

Sparkling Wine

  • Sparkling wines are those that contain bubbles filled with CO2 gas, which can occur naturally during the fermentation process or be added artificially. The names of these wines tend to reflect the region in which they were first produced, such as Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and Champagne from France.
  • Food pairings: Sparkling wines go well with subtle tasting foods, including soft cheeses, hard cheeses, salads, fish and bread.

Phrases that are popular among wine drinkers

  • Finish refers to the taste left on the palate and how long that taste lasts after swallowing the wine. The longer a wine lingers on the taste buds, the better its finish, with anything longer than 10 seconds referred to as having a “great finish.”
  • Floral refers to the tendency of some wine varieties to have a taste similar to the fragrance of flowers, although this is dependent on the type of grape used. Viognier and Muscat grape varieties are known for their floral flavors.
  • Fresh and lively means that when swirling the wine around the glass prior to drinking, subtle but refreshing fragrances will be released.
  • Fruity wines are those with a distinct grape-like flavor.
  • Hot refers to the feeling that occurs in the throat when drinking wines with a high alcohol content.
  • Intensity speaks to the depth of a wine’s flavor and fragrance, as well as its alcohol content.
  • Leafy refers to a leaf-like, almost grassy fragrance.

Distinguishing factors of red and white wines

Red wine

White wine

Made from black grapes

Made from either green or black grapes

Fragrant, strong flavor

Subtle, fruit-like smooth flavor

Generally consumed at room temperature

Usually consumed chilled

Goes well with red meats

Goes well with fish, chicken, and other light dishes

125 calories per glass

115 calories per glass

Contains approximately 10 times the antioxidants than are found in white wine

Contains fewer antioxidants than red wine

Antioxidants found in red and white wines

Antioxidants are molecules produced inside and outside of our bodies that prevent or slow damage to our cells. Several antioxidants are found in red and white wines:

  • Resveratrol: Stimulates Sirtuin 2 gene function, which helps the body repair itself and keeps skin looking younger for longer. Moreover, this antioxidant helps to prevent heart disease, lowers LDL cholesterol levels and protects against cancer.
  • Quercetin: Reduces arterial inflammation, lowers LDL-C levels and decreases the chance of developing coronary heart disease.
  • Piceatannol: An antioxidant that can help reduce fat accumulation and help the body manage its glucose levels.
  • Oligomeric proanthocyanidin (OPC): Helps build arterial strength through increased collagen production, and is considered a natural sunblock owing to its ability to reduce skin damage from UV rays by up to 15%

It is clear to see how red wine can be more beneficial to health than white wine, although consumption should always be in moderation as wine contains alcohol, which can have a detrimental effect on our health when consumed in large amounts.

What is the alcohol content of wine?

One 5 oz or 150 cc glass is classified as one drink (1 standard unit) of wine. Generally accepted guidelines recommend that we drink no more than 1 unit per day. Males who drink more than 3 units of alcohol per day, or females who drink over 1.5 units a day, significantly increase their risk of developing liver cirrhosis.

Additionally, a research study titled “Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599,912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies”  and published on April 14, 2018 in the internationally-renowned Lancet Journal, uncovered significant information related to regular drinking. It was found that consuming more than 7–10 drinks per week (7–10 standard units of alcohol) increased the risk of developing coronary artery disease among both males and females.

In conclusion, those of us who enjoy drinking should ensure we regulate our consumption to no more than 1–2 drinks per session as this could significantly lower our risk of disease and physical illness. Should there be occasion to exceed the recommended daily alcohol intake, be careful not to make it a habit. It is also essential that we maintain good physical health in all other areas of our life, including diet, exercise, stress reduction and sufficient rest.


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