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Healthy Wine Tips

Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008

Wine has a number of beneficial effects: It has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes, and stroke, as well as an increase in brain function. The magic prescription seems to be one 5-ounce glass with dinner for women, two for men.

Less straightforward, however, are issues concerning sulfites, because a small amount of these chemical compounds is produced during fermentation, but for centuries winemakers have also added them as a preservative. Some people claim they can smell and taste high concentrations, and others blame them for intensifying hangovers. Some wine drinkers, especially those with asthma, can have severe allergic reactions. And contrary to popular belief, red-wine headaches are caused by histamines, not sulfites.

If you're sensitive to sulfites, drink red wine. Sulfites prevent residual sugars from forming, so more are added to white wines (and even more to sweet wines). Red wine also contains resveratrol, an antioxidant thought to reduce heart disease. If you're allergic to sulfites, avoid wines containing added sulfites. This must be disclosed on the label for the wine to be sold in the United States.

Most Careful
Look for wine labeled "100 percent organic" or "USDA organic," which indicates that the wine does not contain added sulfites and the grapes were grown organically. Holistic methods are used to make biodynamic wines, which supposedly express the particular microclimate in which their grapes were grown.

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