How Healthy is Wine?

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I love wine, the flavour, the variety and how it pairs with food but I always wonder how healthy wine is? I’ve been pretty proud of myself for successfully completing Dry January 2021, in spite of the stress of lockdown. February has been slightly less disciplined and so I thought it was time to get some expert advice as to how I can incorporate enjoying a glass of wine into a healthy lifestyle. I read articles in the press that veer from suggesting that drinking wine can be good for you and your heart, to telling me that alcohol consumption is a primary cause of cancers, particularly breast cancer.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to be introduced to nutritionist, Huguette Lelong who kindly offered to answer my questions and give me some advice.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

I am from Paris but lived overseas for more than 25 years now!  I have so many great memories linked to food. In my family from a very young age, we ate vegetables, fruit and a wide range of other foods. My mother would cook from scratch, and we were lucky she’s a fantastic cook. It’s part of French culture to sit at a table and share meals with family and friends. Spending hours around a nice meal is not a myth!  As for wine, my father was a wine connoisseur and only drunk very good wine but to be honest I had my first glass of wine at 28!  It’s in Sydney that I earned my advanced diploma of nutritional medicine, it was a huge challenge to go back to college while having to take care of two young children but it’s so rewarding that I am really happy I completed my diploma! I founded Huguette Lelong Healthy life in New York in 2015.

What is your food philosophy?

I am a passionate nutritionist who truly believes that good health and wellbeing start with a healthy diet and sustainable lifestyle changes. I also call myself a food lover because I want people to associate me with food. Usually when you are a nutritionist people don’t expect you to eat bread, chocolate or drink wine! Obviously I adapt my advice depending on my clients’ health issues, and/ or beliefs. 

I lived in many different cities including Tokyo, Auckland, The Hague, Sydney & New York before moving to London in 2019 . I love traveling and discovering different cuisines. My focus has always been around health and whole food and above all, pleasure! The pleasure of eating. We all have one thing in common; we eat food. I also believe that food connects people, nothing beats a nice dinner with friends or family! I look forward to my first dinner with friends!! 

As a nutritionist I believe that food can help regain energy, have a strong immune system, and nourish our body. By eating a nutrient-dense diet, exercising and having fun we can prevent chronic diseases & even lose weight!

Does drinking wine have any health benefits?

Let’s be clear, we are talking of drinking wine in moderation here! Let’s not forget that alcohol has damaging effects on our health but if consumed with moderation (not more than one drink and not every day ) it may have some health benefits in adults such as reducing risks of heart attacks.  I always make sure my clients understand the importance of having a healthy lifestyle (healthy diet and exercise). Make sure not to drink any alcohol if pregnant or on any medication, always check with your doctor of for interactions.  

Wine has no carbs or fat so where do the calories come from?

The calories come from sugars and alcohol itself. 7 calories per gram; a bit less than fat.

What is the best wine to drink if you are trying to stay healthy?

Again I cannot stress enough that drinking alcohol is detrimental to health if drunk in large quantities. Young adults should avoid alcohol consumption, unfortunately they’re often the ones who binge drink and we know the terrible effects it has on their health. 

To answer your question, since I am a big fan of the Mediterranean diet, I would say a glass of red wine. 

Red wine contains polyphenols such as quercetin, resveratrol & bioflavonoids in grape skins; they are protective molecules that may help prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Can I tell you about Suzanne, my lovely & bubbly 93 year old aunt?  She loves her glass of red wine with her meals, but she’s also on a really healthy diet, she eats vegetables and salads at every meal and she also enjoys cheese! She’s the perfect example of the famous French paradox

Which is best for you, red wine or white wine?

Personally I prefer white wine but I have to watch the sulphite content so I try to buy organic wine. But of course you have to take into account what you eat, certain wines don’t match certain meals.  I rarely drink during the week, I made it a habit and as a nutritionist I encourage my clients to do the same.

A few tips & facts:  

  • Eat some food when you drink, if you drink on an empty stomach, alcohol goes straight to your brain
  • Drink a glass of water between drinks
  • Drink slowly enough to allow the liver to keep up
  • When you drink too much you lose all the health benefits 
  • The bottom line: enjoy wine in moderation and only if it’s part of a nutrient-dense diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Personally, I’m so grateful to Huguette for all these tips. I think March will see me drinking less but spending a bit more and investing in some better wines. We have just started to stock 125ml steel wine measures that I think I am going to enjoy using. I find it very easy to get through a bottle a bit too quickly if I’m are pouring freely into a large glass. Finally, remember that wine keeps longer than you might think providing you use a good stopper and store it carefully. Our recent article about how to keep wine fresh will tell you more.

If you would like more nutrition advice from Huguette you can book a free 20 minute consultation.