The health benefits of drinking red wine in moderation include preventing weight gain and protecting your skin.

Having a couple of glasses of wine at dinner may feel like an indulgence, but there are actually legitimate reasons to drink a moderate amount of wine three or four days a week.

Although both red and white wine have their benefits, there is a significant number of antioxidants, known as flavonoids, in red wine. The antioxidants include resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants are shown in various studies to lower the risks of heart disease and cancer, which is why red wine is considered the healthier choice.

The types of red wine, which vary in taste and colour, include Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. According to research, the sweeter the wine tastes, the lower the levels of antioxidants present. The highest level of antioxidants is in dry red wines, like Pinot Noir. So go ahead, pour yourself a glass. Here are four reasons why you should:

Red wine boosts your immune system

If you are one of those people who get sick often, the antiox- idants in red wine can boost your immune system and keep you cold-free. According to a 2010 study in Pharmacognosy Reviews Journal, the antioxidants fight infection and protect cells against the effects of free radicals—which can be linked with cancer and other diseases. Another study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed a decrease in cancer deaths in wine drinkers but not in beer or spirits drinkers.

Another 2010 study, in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that among 4,000 faculty members at five Spanish universities, those who drank over 14 weekly glasses of wine for a year were actually 40% less likely to catch the common cold. The study revealed that some of the flavonoids in red wine work specifically against nasal viruses and inflammation. When the body is fighting infections caused by cold virus- es, consuming wine will reduce the inflammation in the nose and airways.

Red wine promotes heart health

The antioxidants in red wine, such as resveratrol, increase levels of high-density lipids (“good” cholesterol) and lower low-density lipids (“bad” cholesterol), while protecting the lining of your coronary arteries. Steven Nissen, MD, chair of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said the antioxidants in red wine can actually help keep blood vessels flexible and reduce the risk of clot- ting. The antioxidants also reduce inflammation, which plays a large role in heart attacks and strokes. That being said, re- searchers at Cambridge University emphasize that moderate wine drinking is associated with a lower risk of certain cardio- vascular diseases.

Red wine prevents weight gain

Drinking red wine can also prevent weight gain. Yes, you read that right. Jason Dyck and a team of researchers at the University of Alberta found that the resveratrol in red wine improves heart, muscle and bone functions—the same way they’re improved from going to the gym.

Additionally, a study done by Purdue University in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that piceatannol (a metabolite of resveratrol) in red wine and grapes blocks the cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop and grow, helping with weight management and prevention of obesity.

Even though consuming red wine in moderation doesn’t in itself promote weight loss, it does assist in maintaining your body weight long-term. An eight-year study published inThe Archives of Internal Medicine of more than 19,000 middle-aged women found that those who drank a moderate amount of red wine were less likely to become overweight compared to women who don’t drink.

Red wine protects your skin

Say bye-bye to skin damage. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the antioxidants in red wine, including resveratrol, help protect your skin against the sun’s harsh rays.

These antioxidants protect the skin from free radicals, which can attack the cells in the skin, and therefore reduce the risk for sunburn. This doesn’t mean ditch the sunscreen altogether, but it does mean that drinking red wine can provide an additional protective layer. These antioxidants can protect against oxidative reactions from sun exposure, which can cause sunburns, wrinkles and eventually skin cancer.

Drink responsibly

While red wine does have all of these benefits, it is important to be cautious, since too much alcohol can have harmful effects on the body. In addition, many doctors are hesitant to encourage the consumption of alcohol, especially if one has a family history of alcohol abuse. As with most health habits, moderation is the key.

Author: Charmaine Millaire. Charmaine is the Editor for OptiMYz magazine and writes many articles.

More Inspiration: Check out this Guide to Eating Less Meat and have a glass of wine while you read it!

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