By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
You've got your favorite wine figured out based on taste (and price) but when it comes to health, it's got to be red, right?
A recent survey from Mintel (2012) discovered that 71 percent of American wine drinkers now pick red. Clearly, red wine is in favor, and it's certainly the biggest hit in terms of heart-friendly headlines.
But should you skip white completely if you're looking for health benefits? Not so fast. "The only thing red wine does better than white is stain your clothes," according to Alan Richman, American food writer and journalist. Does white wine actually offer the same health benefits as red?
What's In Red and White Wine?
Red wine is made using whole grapes, including the skins, which is responsible for the richer and deeper flavor.
White wine, on the other hand, is made using white grapes without skin or seeds. The difference in the way they are made makes a difference in the health benefits each wine provides.
By the way, if you're wondering why drinking a few glasses of white is less likely to cause a hangover, it's due to the lack of "congeners"--- chemicals made during the fermentation --- in white wine.
Red Wine and Heart Health
You've heard about the benefits of a glass of red wine every night. In fact, you don't feel guilty enjoying a Rioja or Cabernet Sauvignon because the wine is widely reported to be good for your heart.
Many studies have shown that certain antioxidants in red wine called "resveratrols" offer heart-protective benefits.
Resveratrols help protect your blood vessels and they eliminate blood clots. Resveratrols increase levels of good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol. This is according to studies like the 2009 review from the University of Milan, Italy that found resveratrol plays "a crucial role in cardioprotective abilities." The benefits of resveratrol seem promising but do you only find resveratrol in red wine?
1. White Wine Offers the Same Heart Benefits - True or False?
All the headlines talk about red wine having heart-healthy properties but is red really better than white wine?
Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes. Because red wine is made using the skins of the grapes it contains more resveratrol than white wine, which doesn't use the skins. This gives red wine its antioxidant power. However, some studies have indicated that white wine could have equal cardioprotective benefits to red. These benefits in white wine are caused by other, less well-known compounds.
A 2012 review by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington suggests that white wine can be similarly good for the heart because it is rich in other antioxidants, namely "tyrosol" and "hydroxytyrosol".
Not all white wines have high levels of these compounds, according to a 2002 study by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, Connecticut.
In this review one out of three white wines offered cardiovascular benefits . Wines from Western Europe, --- particularly those from Italy and France --- were richest in hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. (Read more about the cost of living in Paris.)
Researchers concluded that white wine did offer similar benefits to red when it comes to protecting the heart. The problem is, there are not enough studies carried out into the heart-healthy powers of white wine to draw firm conclusions as to how much white, and how often, can help your heart health.
2. White Wine is Better for your Teeth?
By drinking white wine you avoid that unsightly red or purple stain on your teeth so white wine must be better than red for your pearly whites?
The reality is different - white wine is not necessarily better for your teeth than red.
White wine contains less pigment than red wine so you may not see many stains after drinking white wine, but the damage is still being done.
A 2009 study from the New York University College of Dentistry demonstrated that soaking teeth in white wine then in black tea caused a significant amount of staining compared to soaking teeth in black tea alone. Wine - whether it is white or red - helps erode tooth enamel, leaving teeth at increased risk of staining.
3. Red is a Better Antibacterial Agent than White
Both red and white wines are effective agents against the infections that cause sore throats. But red is the clear winner when it comes to providing antibacterial benefits, according to scientists.
Researchers from the University of Pavia, Italy (2007) found acids in wine help protect against and destroy strains of streptomorecoccus bacteria but that red wine has a greater impact.
4. Potassium in Red and White Wine
Wine contains potassium, which scientists say helps lower blood pressure.
Red wine again comes out on top in the potassium stakes - the National Nutrient Database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows red table wine has 131mg of potassium per 3.5 fl. oz. serving whereas white wine contains a lower amount - 73 mg per serving.
A 1991 study from St. George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK shows potassium supplements help control blood pressure in people with uncomplicated hypertension.
However, moderation is key when it comes to this wine benefit. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to blood pressure problems. Researchers suggest one serving of wine a day for potassium benefits - you can also get similar amounts by drinking fruit juice.
5. Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Action of White Wine
Here's one way in which white wine can be better than red for your health. White wine contains tyrosol and caffeic acid, compounds which act as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, according to scientists at the University of Milan (2002).
Researchers discovered that two glasses of white wine a day produced a reduced inflammatory reaction but that drinking more had the opposite effect.
Reduced inflammation can protect against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Bear in mind that tyrosol and caffeic acid are also found in olive oil - consuming extra virgin olive oil as part of the "Mediterranean diet" helps improve your healthy lifestyle without downing gallons of vino blanco.
6. Red Wine is Better than White for Cholesterol Levels