Trying to cut back on sugar? Try a glass of wine

It’s no secret that nutrition and diet experts condemn sugar as poison, though some seem to be conflicted about alcohol, and wine in particular. They might conclude that because grape juice has all of the healthy polyphenol antioxidants without the harmful effects of alcohol, it must be better, right? If only it were so simple. There’s one big strike against that argument: grape juice has about the highest sugar content of all fruit juices, essentially the same as Coca-Cola. But ferment the same juice into red wine and there is next to none.

I know what you’re thinking – doesn’t the alcohol have the same calories? Interestingly, fermenting sugar into alcohol does reduce the calorie content, but not dramatically. The important question is how the body handles the calories. Grape juice has a high glycemic index, spiking blood sugar levels. Not so with a glass of red wine. Even if the calories were the same, you’re better off getting them in vino, and more so when taken with a meal. Multiple studies confirm that moderate regular consumption is not only allowable for diabetics, but probably helpful.

Why wine is better for you than grape juice

If you are inclined to believe that all of wine’s health benefits are due to its non-alcohol components like resveratrol, you’ll need to reconsider that as well. Wine is not just grape juice with the sugars converted to alcohol, for several reasons:

  • Vinifera grapes usually have higher polyphenol concentrations than grapes grown for juice
  • Wine grapes are often fermented with the pips, which are a primary source of many of its heart-healthy tannins
  • Fermentation with the skins gives time for extraction of the polyphenols
  • Alcohol acts as a solvent to further extract the polyphenols
  • Some develop during the fermentation process
  • Contact with oak may add additional healthy substances

And all of this assumes that alcohol is a net negative with the polyphenol antioxidants there mostly as a convenient excuse. That too is debatable, which we have discussed at great length here. Consumed with meals, wine is an amplifier of a healthy diet. Plus it tastes good.

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