Put your feet up, sit back, and savour that smooth cabernet-merlot or full-bodied baco noir—you deserve a quiet, introspective moment. Even just the thought may have you feeling a little calmer. Sound like your end-of-day ritual? No reason to quit anytime soon—research shows specific ingredients in red wine benefit heart health and may even help block stress hormones in your brain. So rest assured, you can enjoy that evening vino without an ounce of guilt.
For at least 5,000 years, alcohol, especially wine, has played a role in helping us to disengage from the thought-mill of our minds. It’s a simple, luxurious way to pamper yourself. It’s well known that alcohol is a nervous system depressant (a sedative), so that one night cap usually leaves you feeling free of tension and ready for a good sleep. But in more recent years, scientists have taken their study of alcohol’s relaxing effects one step further by honing in on its chemical compounds. According to science, it seems that red wine is the best of the bunch. Why? Resveratrol: a polyphenol found in the skin of grapes that becomes activated when grapes are fermented into wine.
Researchers at the University of China have found that resveratrol may have neuro-protective effects. Studies on mice show that resveratrol blocks the expression of an enzyme related to a stress hormone called corticosterone. Over time, sustained high levels of this stress hormone can lead to depression or other mental health illnesses. So kicking off your shoes, breaking out the shiraz, and taking a few moments to sip your verre de vin rouge may be just what the doctor ordered to prevent the long-term health damages of prolonged stress.
The benefits of this particular plant compound might go beyond our brain. Some research shows resveratrol may help protect lining of the blood vessels in the heart. Scientists studying the antioxidant have found it may also help prevent blood clots, damage to blood vessels, and could even reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol. A large build-up of LDL on the walls of our blood vessels—often referred to as plaque—is linked with the narrowing of our arteries, and can potentially lead to heart disease. What’s more, research from Toronto General Hospital shows one glass of wine helps blood vessels dilate, further increasing blood flow.
Of course, moderation is key. Researchers have found that the benefits are constrained to that one (and only one) drink. So go ahead, make your most beloved wine part of your evening routine, but stick to the limit. It’s really about taking the time to get comfy at home and savour each sip of that one glass. A glass a day is a ritual of relaxation, and now you can feel find even more comfort in knowing that this time-honoured tradition has the backing of science behind it.
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