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Red, red wine. It’s made of grapes, so hey, it’s good for you, right? Sort of—and sort of not. Wine in all of its varieties—from red and white to sparkling—does offer a slew of health benefits. But it also challenges winos to be mindful about how many glasses they’re downing. Here, we spoke with nutrition experts to explore the secret side effects of drinking your beloved wine. Then, be sure to check out our list of the Surprising Side Effects Wine Has On Your Gut, Says Science.
1. You might be drinking health-supportive antioxidants.
Great news for red wine fans: your evening beverage does more than helping you unwind and release stress from a hard day. It’s also full of antioxidants your body needs. According to celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon, red wine contains plant-based polyphenols, such as resveratrol, quercetin, and epicatechins.
“Antioxidants help protect your cells from damaging free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress that leads to aging and disease,” she says. “Red wine, in particular, has been shown to support heart health and cancer and diabetes prevention.”
2. It could be good for your heart.
Along the same lines, the antioxidants found in red wine also help with your heart health. (And no, sadly, we don’t mean it will heal you from a breakup, no matter how much you drink.) instead, Poon points to ‘resveratrol’ which has been researched extensively. It works to prevent damage to the blood cells, thus reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol and preventing blood clots. These benefits are thought to help prevent coronary heart disease, Poon notes.
3. You could improve—or decrease—male fertility.
Interestingly enough, resveratrol could also impact male fertility, according to Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND, an associate clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“There has been evidence in favor of red wine and against red wine, concluding that there just isn’t strong enough evidence to recommend resveratrol for treating male fertility,” he explains. “For male fertility issues, the best bet is to seek real medical help.”
4. You might disrupt your sleep.
When you need to ease your mind and become sleepy, do you turn to an adult bottle to nurse yourself to bed? Be careful if you make this a habit. As Poon explains, while a glass or two of wine might make you feel tired and fall asleep quickly, people who drink before bed often experience more middle-of-the-night disturbances.
“One study found that men who drank before bed experienced overall poor sleep quality, difficulty in maintaining sleep rather than falling asleep, shorter overall sleep duration, and overall decreased subjective sleep quality,” she explains.
For the best, most restful sleep, stop boozing between three and six hours before tucking yourself in for the night.
5. You could gain weight.
We hate to break it to you, but while wine goes down easy, it doesn’t do much for your system. In other words: it’s full of calories—between 100 and 150 per five ounces—but no protein or fiber. According to weight loss coach Stephanie Mansour, this means it doesn’t fulfill you and could even lead to hunger. It’s best to enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner, so you receive all your body’s nutritional requirements, too.
6. You might trigger an allergic reaction.
Not so fun fact: researchers have found that about 10% of the population is allergic to wine. Yep, you read that correctly: you may be putting your body through a reaction each time you pop a cork. The trouble with pinpointing where the allergy comes from is the fact that wine has so many ingredients and goes through various processes.
“From grape proteins to yeasts, molds, ethanol acetaldehyde, and sulfites, there are a number of substances in wine that can cause a reaction,” says Poon. “Researchers found the most frequent reactions to occur in response to sulfites in white wine and asthma patients and to histamine and biogenic amines in red wine.”
How do you know if you’re among the ten percent? Poon says to look out for a runny nose or trouble breathing. “If you do have a mild reaction but still want to continue drinking wine, you could try a few different styles and varietals to find a wine that does not cause one.”
You should practice moderation.
All alcohol puts our liver in overdrive and increases our risk for certain health conditions. This is true no matter if it’s beer, liquor, or wine. However, as Ayoob points out, there is still no official government or health organization’s recommendation to drink red wine or any alcohol. Instead, the guidelines tend to be ‘if you choose to drink alcohol, limit to one or two servings daily, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Generally speaking, that’s one glass of wine for women and two for men. As Ayoob reminds me: you can’t save them all up for heavy drinking on Saturday night. It’s a use ’em or lose ’em situation.