by Sharon Palmer, R.D.
The buzz about the benefits of red wine has many of us raising a glass to good health. And for those who choose not to imbibe, it turns out the booze behind the buzz may not be necessary. Grape juice and dealcoholized wine can offer similar benefits.
Grapes give red wine a health boost. Studies show that a daily glass or two of red wine may lower the risk of heart disease. While alcohol content may be partially responsible for wine's ability to relax blood vessels and increase levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol, the hearty concentration of flavonoid compounds, such as anthocyanin, catechins and resveratrol, play their own role in heart health by boosting antioxidants. It comes as no surprise that purple grape juice -- essentially unfermented red wine -- boasts flavonoid compounds as well.
Grape flavonoids seem to have similar protective effects in juice as they have in wine. Studies show that these compounds help prevent the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol that leads to plaque formation and build-up inside artery walls. According to a study in the journal Circulation, when 15 patients with cardiovascular disease were given a glass of grape juice each day for two weeks, their LDL oxidation was significantly reduced and blood flowed more freely through the arteries. And according to preliminary research in a 2007
The flavonoid content in grape juice was shown to be similar to that of red wine, and, in addition, a study in the
The absence of alcohol may boost the amount of time these antioxidant compounds stay in the body, according to findings reported in the
Red wine comes out on top, however, when it comes to resveratrol, which has been linked with preventing heart disease and cancer in preliminary studies. Resveratrol is extracted from the skins of the grapes during the fermentation phase of winemaking, which doesn't occur in grape juice.
Enjoy in moderation.
Both red wine and grape juice can, in moderation, be a healthy addition to a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods. Treat yourself to no more than one glass of wine a day for women and two for men. Or, enjoy a four-ounce glass of grape juice a day -- be sure to scan labels for 100 percent juices with no added sugars.