Nature introduced our ancestors to the first sampling of wine about 10 million years ago. As fruit ripened and fell to the earth, a natural process of decomposition occurred.
Microbes in the soil turned fruit sugar into a simpler component, ethyl alcohol. Some curious, hungry ancestor, eating the decaying fruit, probably rejected the taste, but loved the altered state of mind. A sophisticated version of nature’s process, called fermentation, was perfected, producing wines that delight the palate as well as the mind.
My grandmother lived in rural Manitoba, Canada, and made her own wine from wild berries picked in late summer. Her doctor recommended a glass of wine each night for good sleep and longevity. In her generation, that glass was small, holding a mere four ounces. Although today’s wine goblet may be enormous in size, the recommended intake of wine remains 4-6 ounces per day. At high doses, the alcoholic content of wine may be both addictive and toxic to the brain. An alternative choice is nonalcoholic wine.
Fermentation of the grape produces any array of chemical changes. In addition to the conversion of sugar to alcohol, compounds in the grape’s skin and pulp are released, creating more than color, aroma, and a distinctive taste. Vitamins, minerals, and an array of other nutrients are released into the liquid brew. One of the heart-healthy plant chemicals concentrated in wine is the antioxidant resveratrol. How does the content of resveratrol in wine compare with that in grapes or grape juice?
Resveratrol contributes color to grapes. Red, purple, and black grapes are better sources of the chemical than white or green grapes. Secondly, there is more resveratrol in the skin of the grape than in the pulp. Fermentation releases the resveratrol from the grape’s skin into the liquid. Thus, for the same weight or volume, red wine generally has more resveratrol than dark grapes or its juice. Keep in mind that the fresh grape is an excellent choice, perhaps better than grape juice or wine. For variety, peanuts, pistachios, cocoa, blueberries, and cranberries are good sources of resveratrol.
If you want more resveratrol in your diet, get it from food or wine, not from pills. Whole food or a glass of your favorite wine contains nutrients that work with this super antioxidant (resveratrol) for more healthful years.
Dr. Laura Pawlak (Ph.D., R.D. emerita) is a world-renown biochemist and dietitian emerita. She is the author of many scientific publications and has written such best-selling books as “The Hungry Brain,” “Life Without Diets,” and “Stop Gaining Weight.” On the subjects of nutrition and brain science, she gives talks internationally.