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Which wine is healthier for you—red or white?

Studies have shown that moderate wine consumption may be good for your heart and circulatory system.  There is also evidence that drinking wine in moderation may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. But when it comes to choosing a glass to toast to your health, which wine is better for you—red or white?

The difference between red wine and white wine

“In comparing red wine versus white wine, the [health] benefits are seen with consumption of red wine,” says Courtney Kalamar, a licensed and registered dietitian at Piedmont Henry Hospital.  “This is in part due to the fact that the skin of the grape is included in the fermentation of red wine.”

White wine is primarily made with white grapes, and the skins are separated from the juice before the fermentation process. Red wine is made with darker red or black grapes, and the skins remain on the grapes during the fermentation process.

There are a number of antioxidants found in the skin of grapes, which may make red wine the healthier option.

“In terms of benefits, red wine has been shown to promote heart health, improve HDL cholesterol levels (beneficial fat), decrease LDL cholesterol levels (unhealthy fat), and reduces risk for blood clots,” says Kalamar. “Moderate red wine consumption has also been linked to decreased risk of certain cancers, decreased risk of gallstones and improved cognitive function. All of these benefits are the result of the antioxidants, polyphenols, resveratrol, flavonoids and tannins in red wine.”  

Polyphenols are plant-based molecules that have antioxidant properties. Red wine contains a high level of the polyphenol resveratrol, which may help prevent the growth of cancer cells and reduce the risk of heart disease.  

A side by side comparison

When it comes to the nutrition label of red and white wine, the difference is minimal, says Kalamar.

Take a look at the graphic below: 

Moderation is the key

Ultimately, wine preference is a personal choice. And those who choose to consume any alcoholic beverage, whether for health or for leisure, should only do so in moderation.

“The American Heart Association currently recommends that people only drink alcohol in moderation- that means one to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women,” says Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute.

One drink is one 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100 proof spirits.  

“I tell my patients not to worry so much about the type of alcohol they are drinking as much as much as sticking to the "moderation rule" I outlined above,” says Dr. Sharma. “There is nothing, not even an incredible glass of red wine, that can substitute for consistent physical activity and a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats.”       

For more helpful, healthful tips, click here.

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