A Glass of Wine and a Salad for Your Heart

hh-18.jpgDo the French know something we don’t know? A salad and a glass of Bordeaux with dinner may be just the thing to improve heart health.

Beneficial, plant-based antioxidants (called polyphenols),and the resveratrol in wine, accompanied by the lutein found in greens, may compliment the perfect meal to benefit our heart health and help us live longer.

Red wine is made by fermenting grape juices in vats with the crushed grape skins still present. This lends a red color to the wine, but also increases the concentration of polyphenols transferred to the liquid. Wine is unique in this benefit, as beer and spirits do not have these flavonoid-like antioxidants in concentration.

Researchers in Britain have found compounds in red wine that combat a protein (endothelin-1) that causes blood vessels to constrict. This constriction can reduce blood flow to the heart and is related to angina, atherosclerosis and heart disease. In spite of a lengthy tradition of consuming butter, goose fat, rich cheeses and cream sauces, the French have also traditionally averted heart disease and stroke. Perhaps drinking wine is a part of the puzzle.

Wine also contains resveratrol, an anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory chemical produced by certain plants. Although existing all wines, the resveratrol concentrations are much higher in red wine (2-7 mg per liter) than white (1-2 mg per liter). Some researchers now think this amazing substance has the power to extend life as effectively as calorie restriction, and without the pain of food deprivation. It can be consumed in wine directly, or in concentrated capsules (with no alcoholic effect).

It appears that consuming a small to moderate amount of wine (one or two glasses a day) can lower our risk of heart disease as well as make us live longer. It seems to work for the French!

Lutein is one of over 600 known carotenoids. Like its more famous cousin beta-carotene (in carrots), lutein is found in leafy, green vegetables like spinach, parsley and kale. It’s best known for protecting against loss of vision.

An exceptional antioxidant, lutein can help prevent the hardening of the arteries that is associated with heart attacks and strokes, as it neutralizes oxidation of the ‘bad’ cholesterol that forms arterial plaques.

Absence of lutein in the diet seems to be related to thickened and stiff artery walls, a mark of vascular disease. Investigators noted that test subjects with high levels of lutein had the healthiest, most flexible arteries, while those with low lutein levels revealed varying stages of thickened, more rigid vessels.

Eating better for your good heart health should include getting enough greens and vegetables to go with your wine, or supplementing with resveratrol and lutein to maintain optimal heart health.

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