How Much Wine Should I Really Drink? (or Not?)

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As a huge fan of red wine I love hearing that common saying, “1 glass of red wine a day is healthy!” My daily indulgence is rationalized by society! The real question is, this idea is so widely accepted that I’ve never stopped to doubt it; but is a glass of wine really healthy? Should we really even drink wine at all?

Moderation is Key

If you do decide to drink, moderation is key. But what exactly is moderation? The FDA defines moderation as 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men, daily. Not only do you keep your alcohol consumption to a healthy level this way, but you don’t blow your daily calorie intake out of the water. Make sure you account for the calories in your alcohol when considering how much you’ve eaten or drank.

A study from the Scientific Report shows that small amounts of alcohol are more beneficial for mice’s health than no alcohol at all! “There seems to be a sweet spot in terms of alcohol consumption whereby low-level exposure is better than none. Meanwhile, there is a corresponding detrimental response from high consumption.” 

So, should you change your wine drinking habits based on this study alone? No! One small study on mice isn’t enough data.

Old Studies Overplay Wine Benefits

We’ve been told over and over that studies have proven moderate wine consumption is healthy. New studies have called this into question, using the logic that there are also genetic and behavioral differences between those that drink moderately and those that drink excessively. 

What’s Really Inside a Glass of Wine?

Most red and white bottles of wine average about 1.6 pounds of grapes and contain 750 calories per bottle. Bottles of wine have about 5 glasses of wine total (5 oz servings). 

If you were to break down a glass of wine, you’d find that 85% of the wine is good for your health, and the other 15% is bad. The good is water, antioxidants, and polyphenols (micronutrients you get from plant foods). The bad is what makes wine so fun; alcohol is really a neurotoxin that impairs brain function!

Moderate Wine Drinking is Not Really That Great for Cardiovascular Health

Contrary to what we’ve been told our whole lives, anything more than 5 glasses of wine a week could knock years off of your life! The University of Cambridge studied over 600,000 wine drinkers and discovered that drinking more than 5 a week brings on the risk of stroke and heart failure. In fact, they found that drinking 10 glasses of wine a week could reduce your life by up to 2 years.

Instead of looking at these numbers as a target, change the way you perceive them. Think of 5 glasses a week as a threshold, something you should try and stay well below. If you throw in a few days sans alcohol throughout the week, this makes it a lot easier.

Know your limits: Signs to Look out for

Most of us know the first signs we feel or show when alcohol is starting to impact our body. One of the most obvious signs is the “red flush” that some people get, after as little as one drink. If you get the red flush, a lot of people think you are allergic to alcohol. 

In reality, you simply have a genetic condition where you lack the ability to break down acetaldehyde (a byproduct of your metabolic intake of alcohol). Most of this condition’s lineage can be traced back to Asia. If you have the red flush, be careful as there are higher rates of esophageal cancer with increased alcohol consumption!

Who Should not Consume Alcohol

You should always think about whether or not it’s the right time for you to drink. If you are taking medicines that don’t mix well with alcohol, have an alcohol dependency, or are under 21 you should not drink! If you are driving or taking part in an event requiring you to be alert and coordinated, wait until later. Definitely, don’t drink if you have any symptoms of dizziness. 

Last but certainly not least, if you are pregnant it is very important to wait until your baby is born to drink alcohol of any kind. Drinking, especially in the first few months of pregnancy, can have very negative effects on the development of your baby. Also, consider no alcohol if breastfeeding. 

Mixing Alcohol with Caffeine can have Detrimental Effects

It’s been a long week and you want to go out and enjoy your Friday night after work. If you are tired, don’t drink coffee or anything with caffeine to stay awake before heading out on the town. Mixing caffeine and alcohol is not at all good for you! The FDA warns that people who mix these will probably become more intoxicated than they realize. Drinking caffeine will not reduce your blood alcohol content, so the harmful effects of alcohol are still there.

At the end of the day, everything is better in moderation. Wine is no different. Drinking wine is a fantastic treat and hobby for many people, and ultimately the decision is yours. If you do decide you want to keep drinking wine, we suggest you read our Napa Valley Hidden Gems guide. 


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