How to Get the Benefits of Wine without the Downsides

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » How to Get the Benefits of Wine without the Downsides

Wine: Drink half a glass per child, per day.

That was the answer a mom of many children gave me when I asked how she did it all several years ago. Of course, she was saying that she drank half a glass per day for each child she had (not that she gave it to the kids… in case that was unclear). And she was half joking (but only half) since with the number of kids she had, she would have been drinking several bottles a day.

Reasons to Drink Natural Wine

im-having-fruit-salad-for-dinner-well-its-grapes-mostly-ok-all-grapes-im-having-wineThe fruit of the vine is a natural choice to accompany almost any meal. There is quite literally a wine for every occasion.

Internet memes abound about the stress-relieving effects of this delicious beverage. Gag-gift funny products joke about its benefits, from glasses the size of a whole bottle, to coffee mugs that declare:

Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can, and wine to change the things I can’t.

All joking aside, it has been extensively studied for its health benefits and its affect on mood, heart health, and longevity.

Turns out my friend may have been on to something…

Is Drinking Red Wine Healthy?

The short answer?

Yes.

You’ve probably seen the headlines over the years about the heart health-promoting benefits of red wine. These heart benefits have been well-studied. Recent research has uncovered many other benefits to this age-old fermented drink as well.

Red wine contains Resveratrol, which is not found in white wine, but recent research has called its benefits into question. The study looked at elderly residents in Tuscany and found no noticeable difference in the Resveratrol levels in the urine of those who lived longer vs. those who didn’t.

Studies about the benefits of Resveratrol have typically looked at how it affects cells in a lab setting. This isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of its role in the body. At the same time, just measuring urine levels may also not provide a clear picture of benefit.

From all of the research I’ve read, I’m not sold on the benefits of Resveratrol, as we’d essentially have to drink wine non-stop and swim in it constantly to reach the concentrations used in lab studies. At the same time, it isn’t the only beneficial compound in wine, and I think there are other benefits far beyond Resveratrol.

These studies also show that no compound, no matter how beneficial, can replace the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Alcohol consumption should just be a small part of an overall healthy lifestyle of a good diet, quality sleep and movement. I enjoy a mulled wine every now and then.

How Much Red Wine is Good for your Health?

It is important to note that all of the studies found the most benefit from moderate consumption of wine.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate consumption as one glass per day for women and up to two glasses per day for men.

Note: The good news for those who choose not to drink is that it is possible to get many of these same health benefits from other sources (although it will be much less enjoyable to do so 😉 ).

Health Benefits of Wine

For some people, the only benefit they care to understand is that it tastes great and helps take the edge off.

If you are interested in a little more of the research and understanding the nuances of what makes a great wine, read on.

Please note that not all wines are created equal. Some have a host of additives that can negate the benefits and be downright harmful, but I’ll discuss that later.

1. It Does the Heart Good

This is the most well-cited benefit. According to the Mayo Clinic:

Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and protecting against artery damage.

2. Especially With Exercise

A more recent study found an even more noticeable benefit to those who drank regularly and exercised regularly. The benefit of the two combined exceeded the benefit of either on its own. In this study, called In Vino, Veritas, researchers actually introduced the fruit of the vine to non-drinkers to track the results.

The participants drank moderate amounts of wine five days per week. Moderate amount was defined as 2-3 glasses per day for men and 1-2 glasses per day for women.

This moderate drinking did not seem to affect cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides, or levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. It also did not negatively affect people’s livers during the year.

The researchers then looked at the data of those who drank and exercised. Those who worked out twice per week and drank saw significant improvement in cholesterol levels. They increased HDL and decreased LDL after a year of regular moderate wine consumption.

In this study, the effects were the same with red or white wine.

3. Live Longer (or At Least Better)

According to a 2007 study out of Finland, wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers.

An abundance of anecdotal evidence supports longevity claims as well. In a blue zone (area with a high concentration of people who live longer than most places in the world) in Greece, residents consume wine daily. Researchers think this may be part of the reason for their longevity. Other reasons include consuming a lot of vegetables and good relationships with family and friends.

At the end of the day, many of us can agree that blue zones and studies aside, wine improves the quality of life!

4. A Better Brain

Wine may also have positive effects on the brain. A 2006 Columbia University study found that brain function declines more quickly in nondrinkers than in moderate drinkers.

Other studies back this up:

A Loyola University Medical Center Study found that those who drank red wine regularly had a 23% lower risk of dementia. “In this study, the researchers gathered and analyzed data from academic papers since 1977. The studies, which spanned 19 nations, showed a statistically significantly lower risk of dementia among regular, moderate drinkers in 14 countries.”

5. A Happier Life

Those of us who appreciate a nice glass of wine don’t need studies to tell us this. It turns out that wine may have a clinical benefit for happiness and mental health as well.

A Spanish study (this one) found that those with a moderate consumption of 2-7 glasses a week were less likely to suffer from depression.

6. Age More Gracefully

Age and bottles of wine should not be counted. -Italian Proverb

Alcohol may make us look like we are aging more gracefully when we look in the mirror. Wine may actually help us age more gracefully.

A study carried out at the University of London found that procyanidins, compounds commonly found in red wine, keep the blood vessels healthy and are one of the factors that contribute towards longer life spans enjoyed by the people in Sardinia and the southwest of France. The researchers also found that red wine made in the traditional way has much higher levels of procyanidins than other wines.

These same procyanidins may also help improve the appearance of skin and reduce wrinkles, though the studies aren’t as definitive on this.

Problems with Drinking Wine

In a perfect world, wine drinking would have all of those benefits without any downsides. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world so of course there are also a few downsides to some types of wine.

Why only some types?

I started researching the health benefits of wine months ago and was shocked at some of the information I found. I’d always focused on organic or wines made in the USA since I try to buy organic and local whenever possible.

This changed when I researched wines.

It turns out that the great majority of domestic wines are highly processed and contain additives. Also, if they aren’t organic, they practically all contain glyphosate as well. Glyphosate is also known by its brand name, Roundup, and because US soil is so contaminated, it was found in almost every US wine that was tested, even organic ones.

Those of us who experience headache, brain fog or other negative effects from wine may just be reacting to the additives, not the beverage itself. Ever gotten purple teeth from drinking a delicious red? Turns out it may be an additive called Mega Purple and not the wine itself!

Common Additives in Wine

There are dozens of approved additives for wine, yet you may not want to drink some of them. Vintner’s can add these without disclosing it on the label.

Common Wines May Contain a Host of These Additives, Including:

  • Mega Purple & Ultra Red– You probably think the dark red/purple color is natural, right? Not so fast! Manufacturers can add these super-concentrated coloring agents to change the color. According to Abel James, manufacturers add 10,000 gallons of this stuff to an estimated 25 million bottles a year! And it isn’t just for color. These additives add sweetness (and sugar) as well. React to food dyes like many people? This could be the reason you don’t do well with wine.
  • Sawdust– Another flavor hack. Some manufacturers add sawdust or wood chips to the process. This provides tannins and the flavor of an oak barrel at a lower price.
  • Commercial Yeasts– These may be the real culprits of the wine headache, especially for those who have histamine issues. Many manufacturers add commercial yeasts to speed up the fermentation. Many of these commercial yeasts are GMO. The best wines use only natural wild yeasts.
  • Sulphur– A somewhat controversial ingredient that is added as a stabilizer. It can also kill unwanted bacteria and wild yeasts. This is one additive that manufacturers must disclose, since a small fraction of people are highly sensitive to sulfur.
  • Sugar– Typically added during the fermentation process. It doesn’t make the wine sweeter like Mega Purple and Ultra Red, but it does speed fermentation and increase the alcohol content. Natural wines without added sugar are typically lower alcohol for this reason.
  • Fining  and Clarifying Agents– Added to change the finished flavor or profile. Egg whites are an age-old fining agent (which means some wines are not vegan). According to Wine Folly, other fining agents include: Dairy products (like milk and half and half), Isinglass (fish bladders), Gelatin, Protease (derived from pork or cow pancreas or stomach), and Casein.
  • Pesticides and Herbicides: Most non-organic wines contain traces of pesticides and herbicides. Round-up is the most used herbicide in US vineyards.

How to Avoid Additives

All of my research had me almost ready to give up wine forever until I met Todd White, founder of Dry Farms Wine at an event earlier this year.

Todd was well-versed on all the problems with most wines, but had figured out a solution. He founded Dry Farm Wines on the premise of using lab testing to find the highest quality wines that are free from additives.

These Natural Wines Are:

  • how-to-choose-a-high-quality-organic-wine-without-pesticides-or-moldLab tested to ensure quality and alcohol content of 12-12.5%
  • Sugar free– Their wines are lab tested for fructose and glucose, the two sugars found in wine. All contain <1g/L of total sugars, statistically sugar free. These low/no sugars are naturally occurring, nothing added or taken away. Carbs here come from the sugar content, since these are sugar free, they are also statistically carb free. Todd is on a strict keto diet and is able to drink these wines witohut a problem.
  • Mold/Mycotoxin Free– These are tested to be free of Ochratoxin A, a known carcinogen.
  • Natural, organic or bio-dynamic viticulture/farming
  • Dry farmed and don’t use irrigation
  • Old growth vines, generally 35-100 years
  • Hand harvested fruit from low yields
  • Made with minimal intervention
  • Fermented with wild native yeast (not commercial yeast)
  • Free of processed fining  and clarifying agents
  • Not using sawdust or wood chips for a fake oak flavor
  • No chaptalization (adding sugar to the grape must in fermentation)
  • Free of all other additives and preservatives

Dry Farmed Wines: A Better Option

When I found out that Todd’s wines met these strict criteria, I had to try them and I was amazed at the difference! I immediately noticed the smoothness and slight tang most of all. There was a definite difference between these and most other wines I’d tried that had a chalky feel that stayed on my teeth (probably Mega Purple).

I also noticed that I had no fogginess or headache the next day after drinking these wines. Todd claims that they are “hangover free.”

It seems like the only downside of Dry Farmed Wines is the price. They are pricier than most conventional varieties at local stores, but most high quality organic products are. Also, I’ve found the price well worth it since only moderate wine consumption is encouraged for the health benefits. I’d rather drink the higher quality kind less often than drink more of the bad stuff!

Since, I wasn’t able to find any other types that were lab tested to ensure quality, Dry Farms are the only wines in our house now.

This video explains a bit more about the rigorous Dry Farm Wine testing and selection process:

Final Thoughts on Wine Benefits

Since the studies are not conclusive on the health benefits of wine, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to encourage non-drinkers to start. But for those of us who already enjoy this nectar of the gods, there are some great benefits, especially from high quality wines like the ones mentioned above.

Because of my research, I now (almost exclusively) drink wines that are free of common additives, sugars, and contaminants (and I use the empty bottles to make mosquito-repelling tiki torches).

If you want to try Dry Farms Wine, click here to get a bottle for a penny with your first order. Then grab your wine key (my husband the ex-bartender loves this one), some good chocolate, and enjoy!

Like I said, they are pricer (but so is organic food), yet I’d personally rather drink less often and enjoy a higher quality.

Good wine is a necessity of life for me.
-Thomas Jefferson

Me too, Tommy, me too.

Are you a wine drinker? Did you know about all of the additives in many conventional wines?

all-about-wine-infographic

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

96 responses to “How to Get the Benefits of Wine without the Downsides”

  1. Cherie Avatar

    I read this article with interest but unfortunately there are a number of factual errors about winemaking – too many to point to in one comment alone. One point that is glaringly missing is that organic and biodynamic producers do have less presticides they are permitted to spray, but they are NOT spray free. They are restricted to the use of copper sulfate and therefore must rely on this spray exclusively. This will lead to much higher levels of residual copper in organic/biodynamic wines, which give the toxicity of copper on the liver is certainly not a good result. Equally the copper builds up over time in these soils bringing toxicity.

    Like all things in life, balance and moderation is the key rather than a restrictive view.

    This post aside, really love wellness mama.

  2. Elise Avatar

    Great article and so glad to know about this wine! I’ve been buying French, Spanish or Italian wine as most other countries don’t use glycosphates. I’m wondering if the quality and standards are higher as well? I’ve stopped buying US wine, I’m also concerned about fluoride levels.

    1. Lori Avatar

      Wait, why? Why fluoride? Is it in USA grapes? If so I’m gonna cry. Do you mean from the soil?

  3. Julia Smith Avatar
    Julia Smith

    Do you know if European and Australian wines are made to higher standards concerning these additives and processes?
    Thanks very much for an informative article!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      They seem to be in general, but there can still be a big difference of sugar/carb levels and they can still be sprayed with pesticides and herbicydes if not organic.

  4. Noel Nicole Avatar
    Noel Nicole

    For those who cannot afford 6 bottles of wine a month (or who don’t drink it that often), one option would be to go in with two or three people and split the cost…less wine for you, but then you have 2 or three people to have drinks with 😉

  5. Tay Avatar

    I know that most nursing mother naturalists do drink a glass of wine or 2 while breastfeeding, I have tried to do much research on this topic while nursing my own (I had my daughter about the same time you had your last one) and I was wondering if you still had wine while breastfeeding? I have looked at all the “all natural moms” that I trust to get their opinions on this and would value yours

      1. Lina Avatar

        How much do you drink, and do you wait a certain number of hours after you drink before you nurse? I tried researching this when I was nursing my son, and it was so confusing!

  6. Bill Avatar

    Why not eat dark grapes? We incorporate whole dark grapes in our smoothy, wouldn’t that do the same as wine?

    1. Lori Avatar

      I don’t see why not. I’m sure I read before that grape juice has similar effects, and the good stuff is coming from the grape so surely eating them whole gives you similar benefits.

  7. Janet Avatar

    Think I understand this article and if I get organic wine I am safe or is there an issue with contaminants in organic wine it seems like they would not be but I’d like to know for sure I have some okay table ones that come in a box by Badger that are organic and I’d like to know about that I never get a headache from Badger organic wine.

      1. Amanda Avatar

        But it does mean that any additives used are approved by the National Organic Program

  8. Julia Seewald Avatar
    Julia Seewald

    Nice post Katie. Sadly there are many errors in it. For starters, if wine is ‘sugar-free’ as you say then it should have no calories. Second, if a winery has any standards, especially wines produced in France, Italy, Spain, and Israel – it is illegal to add in sugar during fermentation. All sugars in wines from reputable wineries occur naturally from the skin of the grapes depending on how long the grapes are left on the vines. The longer they are left on the seeeter the resulting wine will be. This is why late harvest wines are almost exclusively dessert wines. This component you call mega purple that stains teeth (all of these wines stain teeth due to the color of the skins which soak in the wine during fermentation- did you know white wines can come from purple skinned grapes? It is created by stripping the skins before fermentation) is not allowed in any wines that follow strict legal codes of wineries. The only additives I’ve ever seen put in wine are actually egg whites to reduce sediments, which is strained out after a few minutes. Nice article on the benefits of wine, but when it comes to quality wine you will find that enthusiasts and well versed drinkers do not drink these adulterated wines you speak of. They also would not touch the wines you are promoting as healthier since there is no evidence of that. Wines do not come out as quality wines if they have chemicals or these additives you speak of. Just my two sense from being an avid wine enthusiast for the last 11 years and dabbling in the international industry. Cheers.

  9. Kristen Avatar

    Would love to try this! I usually get headaches if I drink too much wine. I don’t drink it often but I do love a glass of great wine now and then. Six bottles every other month is a lot of wine! I wish they had a lower amount option.

  10. Terri Avatar

    how can you tell is there are additives and preservatives if there is nothing mentioned on the bottle and no ingredient list only ‘Contains Sulfites’?

      1. Amanda Avatar

        Any bottle that carries the label “Made with Organic Grapes” means that the vineyard has been certified by a 3rd party certifier AND any ingredients that may have been used are also certified by the National Organic Program. So at least you know the ingredients (if any were used) are organic and the yeast is Non GMO. The USDA Organic symbol indicates the same, except it dictates that Sulfites are not allowed. So any wine with the USDA Organic symbol means it’s a No Sulfite wine. Biodynamic wine is also certified organic (a requirement to get Demeter certification) but they can only use native yeasts, and are the least manipulated wines on the market.

  11. Kirsten Avatar

    I love a good glass of wine to unwind my day. I’ll have to try out Dry Farms, it looks interesting!

  12. Monique Avatar

    I never, ever, ever drink wine. I really tried to find one I could enjoy when I was in my 30’s, but one sip starts a headache almost immediately. I’m extremely sensitive to MSG, and nitrates and sulfates. I wonder if I could actually have a glass of wine with dinner if I tried one of these wines…

  13. Jen Avatar

    I live in Utah (UGH) and you can’t get wines shipped here. It would be really great if someone offered a list of clean wines. I would be worth purchasing even for those of us that don’t have the option to join a wine club.

        1. Margaret Avatar

          No worries , this wine Tastes terrible. I joined this club an had two shipments an all of the wine taste the same
          It’s very tart , has a terrible smell as well. I love the fact that it’s a very clean wine,but as far as the taste it’s not very good. I tried it with friends as well to see what they thought about it an they also thought it was lacking
          In flavor . I will stick to my organic wines. Sorry but I felt I needed to tell people who can’t have it shipped to them that there not missing anything..

          1. Wellness Mama Avatar

            Have you tried more than one bottle? It is definitely more dry/tart than most American wines (which are typically very sweet, imo), but I can say that it grows on you. I’ve been drinking only these wines for a couple of months now and can’t drink most american wines anymore.

    1. Rick Avatar

      I’ve heard advertisements consistently of wine distributors packaging 12 or 24 bottles of wine for under $100. In the case are wines which could retail for $10 to $50 per bottle. You’re able to order all reds, all whites or a combination. And the wines come from diffferent wineries from Chili to Australia. BTW – what ever happened to Rose’? I drank lots just out of college on important dates.

    2. Lori Avatar

      What about Frey wines. They are organic, sulfite free, gluten free, and made in California. They don’t have any of these bad additives listed as far as I can tell. This is from their site:
      “Ninety percent of our land is held as unspoiled natural habitat with a diverse mix of native plants and animals. As stewards of the land, we emphasize producing organic and Biodynamic wine of the highest quality while caring for planet and palate alike.” Their website is freywine.com
      So is this wine “clean”? I used to drink it but haven’t had any wine at all for over a year due to a lot of digestive not fun stuff. I may try a tiny bit after reading this article.

  14. Jeanne Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    What are your thoughts on reservatrol supplements?

    Thanks for all the great articles!

  15. melissa Avatar

    Hi,
    I heard that wine from Chili normally contains less additives. Have you found that to be true?
    Also, it is funny how every country defines moderate drinking different.

  16. Sara Avatar

    what happens when you have Mthfr and can not tolerate wine? not even one sip. it makes my bones kill!! and i love wine!

  17. Telma Weisman Avatar
    Telma Weisman

    Thank you so much! I’m a wine drinker so this stuff was helfpful. ?? Also, you are one of my fave bloggers ??

  18. Nicole Avatar

    I have *never* had a glass of red wine that didn’t stain my teeth. Must give this a try. For science.

  19. Jenny Wi Avatar

    The sugars in wine give me yeast infections and headaches so I’m excited about your discovery!

  20. Meredith Avatar

    I love this post and I would love to try out the wines. I’ve given it up because of how it affects me. They do not sell to stores? I cannot spend that kind of money on wine per month. Wish I could!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Dry Farms is basically a wine club that curates wine based on the criteria mentioned above. You can find some of the wines in stores once you know what they are. The problem is you won’t know which wines have been tested with purchasing from them first though, as they’re continually trying out and testing different varieties from many different countries and regions and ship those out once the quality has been verified…

    2. Sarah Moxley Avatar
      Sarah Moxley

      Just a question… (I did not know how else to get a hold of you, ) is it ok to ferment kombucha, kefir, sour dough, etc. with the possibility of mold in the home? Just don’t know if it’s safe, or if it would collect the mold. Thanks!

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