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Wine: Before, During, After or Instead of a Meal?
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Wine: Before, During, After or Instead of a Meal?


Wine, especially red wine, comes with certain health benefits. Quite unexpectedly, red wine can even fight off oral bacteria and prevent cavities. Red wine is rich in a polyphenol called resveratrol. This substance is found mostly in red grape skin, therefore, red wine (even alcohol-free) will have much more than other wines. Resveratrol is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulant. It helps to reduce “bad” cholesterol and to prevent blood clots. Resveratrol, among other benefits, helps reduce insulin resistance, a condition when insulin’s efficiency in converting glucose into energy is impaired. Consuming wine, especially red wine, in moderation provides a cardioprotective function. This effect is most likely produced by an antioxidative effect on the heart. “French Paradox” is a well-known phenomena of the low mortality rate from ischemic heart disease among French people, despite a large amount of unhealthy saturated fats in their diet. This outcome is attributed to their high consumption of red wine. A Dutch study called “Antioxidant flavonols and coronary heart disease risk” showed that the more flavonoids elderly men consume, the less probability they have of developing coronary artery disease. Overall, many health practitioners agree that a glass of wine (especially red wine) per day is rather beneficial. The question is when is the best time to have it, before meals, during, after, or, perhaps as a substitute for a meal?

Wine on the table

Wine without a Meal: An Alcohol Spike, Increased Appetite

The stomach plays an important role in alcohol metabolism. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is normally present in the stomach lining. This enzyme takes part in the first-pass alcohol metabolism that begins in stomach. Alcohol consumed without food almost completely bypasses the ADH in the stomach. Instead of being metabolized to some extent by the stomach ADH, it goes into the blood quickly. The alcohol level literally spikes within an hour after having the first glass. Depending on the liver’s condition, a spike in blood alcohol level can overload it.

Women generally have lower ADH activity than men and, therefore a weaker alcohol first-pass metabolism. As a result, women are more susceptible to a higher dosage of alcohol. The effect is even more accentuated when having wine on an empty stomach.

A glass or two of wine on an empty stomach may help to stimulate appetite. This can be beneficial in case you are occasionally undereating. For those who eat normally, having wine while fasting may create unjustified cravings. It is very possible that increased appetite after ingesting alcohol is the body’s natural reaction. This way it wants to keep alcohol in the stomach longer, to break it down better.

Wine before the Meal: Excessive Eating

Generally, any wine that is not a dessert wine is an aperitif. Many enjoy having one to two glasses of wine while cooking. Studies have shown that 1-2 glasses of wine before the meal will significantly increase appetite and make you eat a lot more than without wine. In addition to that, just like when consuming wine without food at all, stomach ADH will not metabolize any alcohol. This will put an additional load on the liver and will also spike the blood alcohol level.

wine and wine bottle

Wine with a Meal: A Beneficial Combination, Increased Appetite

Having wine with meals improves wine health properties. A combination of wine and a healthy meal creates a synergistic effect. Healthy meals and wine amplify each other’s health benefits; the exact reasons for that are yet to be determined. Food digestion is usually accompanied by the formation of oxygen free radicals. Polyphenols in wine effectively combat these disease-causing compounds. Alcohol can also deactivate pathogens potentially ingested with food. Overall wine is a digestion aid, it also helps metabolize sugars and starches properly. This can be beneficial for people with diabetes.

Wine and foods

Wine after a Healthy Meal: The Most Beneficial, Appetite Control

A feeling of satiation usually occurs approximately 20 minutes after a meal. This is why those who eat too fast, tend to overeat. Try this simple test: eat a smaller portion than usual and wait for 20 minutes. Chances are, you will not be hungry any longer. The “20 minutes after a meal” period is also the best timing for the first glass of wine. This practice option combines both benefits: no excessive eating plus the maximum wine benefits due to the combination with food. 

wine bottles

When the liver is busy with alcohol, it concentrates on this as its first priority and holds off other less important functions. So, it is a good idea not to overload the liver with heavy foods when consuming wine or any other alcohol. If you are a fan of wine & cheese parties, a low-fat cheese, like this one, will do much better. Also remember that calories from alcohol are the first on the list to be used. This means that the combination of alcohol and fast carbs will result in weight gain. Though dry wines in theory are not meant to contain sugars, in reality most of the cheaper wines do. Sugar helps to improve the taste of the wine and is often present in lower-priced wines. Grape sugar is one of the fastest carbs out there: it metabolizes almost instantly, creating an insulin spike. An insulin spike, in its turn, halts fat burning. The more expensive wines will not have too many unnecessary calories from sugars.

wine and grapes

Wine, like any other alcohol, consumed in relatively large quantities, makes us lose control over our cravings. If you drink too much, chances are you will want to eat again shortly after your meal. So, the “wine after a meal” option still suggests consuming a healthy amount of wine.

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