What's A Wine Diet And Is It Healthy?

Photographed by Kara Birnbaum.
Look at your dominant hand. Is there a glass of wine in it? (Or a plastic cup of wine? We don’t judge here.) If so, you must be celebrating National Wine Day, which happens to be today! Brava. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself “Why can’t every day be National Wine Day?” you are not alone.
In fact, over the years, some shrewd innovators have developed “wine diets.” Some are risky and extreme, and others are more reasonable. One of the more perilous wine diets was created by the famed editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, Helen Gurley Brown. In her New York Times best selling book, Sex and the Single Girl: The Unmarried Woman’s Guide to Men, published in 1962, Gurley Brown recommended that people survive on only wine, eggs, steak, and black coffee for three days straight. The diet was reprinted in Vogue in 1977, Vice reports.
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Gurley Brown wrote that people could lose five pounds if they followed the stringent regimen, which today would be considered a “crash diet” at best, and completely dangerous at worst. However, it’s the original wine diet, and history is important because of all that we can learn from it. Even if the only thing we learn is that drinking wine for breakfast is not conducive to a work environment.
Common sense and nutrition experts, even ones who appreciate wine, such as Roger Corder, will tell you Gurley Brown’s regimen isn’t representative of a well balanced diet. Corder, author of The Red Wine Diet, who’s been researching wine and nutrition for years, points out that Gurley Brown's diet was likely a satire, “mocking other people’s diet fads.”
“I can’t believe it’s serious,” Corder says. “The lack of vegetables, [which translates to] no folate, and other important nutrients is not only unhealthy, but also going to predispose you to many harmful effects of alcohol, particularly when the amount of alcohol is not moderate.” In effect, he’s saying he can’t help it if the internet doesn’t understand sarcasm.
Corder's wine diet is much more reasonable and palatable and based on his research, which found procyanidins (the main grape pip tannin) in red wine can lead to better health, longevity, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. These pip tannins are found in specific kinds of red wines, and some grape seed extracts.
“You’re basically looking for wines that are made in a fairly classical, old fashioned way, Corder says. "Wines that make you pucker your lips when you taste them.” Specifically, he recommends wines from Ribera del Duero, which is a region in Spain where they make wines from Tempranillo grapes — generally high in procyanidins. He says his favourite Ribera wines are from the PradoRey winery, and recommends this bottle as an affordable £6.50 option As for food, there are no real “diet” rules, per se. “You want to optimise your nutrition, not do a crash diet, to lose weight or to change your lifestyle," he says. This should be done over years to maintain optimal health and longevity. And wine can be a part of that."
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Ultimately, however, he cautions that it’s best to have your wine in moderation. One glass at night with a proper meal of salmon and vegetables would be a good example of a well balanced meal. He recommends a 150-175ml glass. If you’re not into wine, but want to add procyanidins to your daily routine, Corder says you can try supplementing with 200 to 300 milligrams of a grape seed extract, typical llyavailable at a health food store.
A 2018 study in The Lancet Journal found that there was no amount of alcohol consumption that was safe for overall health, which was disputed by some experts (and, again, common sense). Corder just wants the world to know that you can enjoy life over a glass of wine and still be healthy. “There’s plenty of opportunities to have a healthy diet and actually enjoy healthy food — and wine," he says.
It’s also important to keep in mind that diets are a choice, and definitely not a fit for everyone. The same goes for alcohol.
But here’s Corder’s bottom line — one to keep in mind this National Wine Day. “You can integrate the modern demands of alcohol into your diet without doing harm,” he says. “Alcohol is fine in moderation, but it’s got to be incorporated in a healthy, balanced diet.”
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