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Best Wines for Your Heart Health

November 09, 2023

Swirl, sniff, sip and savor. But if you’re indulging in some wine, here’s something else to consider: how it ranks for cardiovascular health.

To be clear, the top spot in “best wines for your heart health” goes to no wine at all. It’s alcohol, after all, which can cause a slew of serious health problems if you’re not careful.

But if you’re planning on having a glass anyway, here’s what to keep in mind.

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Red wine or white? It may not matter.

When you follow the science specific to heart health, “red or white?” turns out to be a trick question.

All wine, in moderation, is shown to have cardiovascular benefits — along with, believe it or not, pretty much any type of alcohol.

“Several observational studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption decreases the risk of coronary heart disease, when compared to drinking no alcohol or heavy alcohol intake,” says Heather Swales, MD, cardiologist with the Heart & Vascular Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.

White wine lovers, rejoice: This means you don’t have to swap your pinot grigio for noir.

“At the end of the day, the type of alcohol one drinks is probably less important than the quantity,” says Dr. Swales. “Even those who drink white wine in moderation may still have some cardioprotection.”

> Related: These Are the 3 Best and Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Your Diet

Then why do we hear so much about red wine?

It’s not just a scheme by red wine lobbyists. Because of how red wine is made, it has high levels of healthy substances called polyphenols, which naturally occur in grape skin. (You may have also heard about resveratrol and flavonoids.) As is the case with many fruits and vegetables, these grape-derived nutrients seem to have a number of health benefits.

However, if you’re set on a heart-specific boost, don’t rush out to buy a case of red just yet. Looking at the available research, experts like Dr. Swales aren’t leaping to any conclusions.

“Red wine does contain polyphenols and flavonoids that have antioxidant and anticlotting benefits, but the data is rather mixed as to whether red wine is actually better than other alcohols for heart health,” says Dr. Swales.

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Want to hedge your bets?

Maybe you’re already a red wine drinker, and figure you might as well choose one with more of those nutrients.

In general, red wines that are high in tannins and dark in color seem to have higher levels of polyphenols. (Pinot noir is a notable exception.) Like everything in winemaking, though, this can vary by region and year.

You might try:

  • Pinot noir
  • Petite sirah
  • Cabernet sauvignon
  • Nebbiolo

If you’re really worried about wine and heart health, sip slowly.

“All alcohol consumption should be in moderation, even wine,” says Dr. Swales.

Your cheat sheet for the recommended amount:

  • Women under age 65: Up to 1 glass per day and 7 per week
  • Men under age 65: Up to 2 glass per day and 14 per week
  • Anyone over age 65: Up to 1 glass per day and 7 per week

To be precise, a glass of wine counts as 5 ounces. At home, most people tend to over-pour — you’re probably glugging out 7 to 9 ounces. So try getting out the measuring cup, using a smaller glass, or both.

And if you’re hoping that someday, heart doctors will hand out prescriptions for pinot? Keep hoping.

“I don’t recommend starting to drink alcohol to help protect your heart if you don’t already drink,” says Dr. Swales.