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Resveratrol Explained

Everyone knows by now that wine, consumed in moderation, can be good for your health. Red wine, in particular, is chock full of healthful properties, and we often hear terms like "resveratrol" and "polyphenols" batted around. But what do these terms mean exactly?

Let's start with resveratrol, which has been touted as an inhibitor of everything from cancer to bad cholesterol to Alzheimer's to type-2 diabetes. Is there anything this wonder substance can't do? (Maybe Common Core math.) Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol, or antioxidant, that's found in abundance in red grape skins. It's produced in plants when they get stressed out from fighting drought, warding off fungal attacks or contemplating the current state of politics. It helps the plant stay healthy. All grape skins have resveratrol, but thicker skinned, darker colored grapes contain a higher concentration than thinner skinned green grapes do.

Resveratrol protects your body against damage — fixing blood vessels, regulating insulin, combatting cancerous cell growth, among other miracle workings. It basically helps you stay healthy and live longer, just as it did for the plant, by neutralizing harmful molecules and repairing cell damage. Experts wonder if maybe resveratrol is the answer to the French paradox — why the French have a relatively low rate of coronary heart disease despite their diet high in bread, butter, and cheese.

Scientists have been studying resveratrol for more than two decades now and are still trying to understand how it works exactly and its vast benefits. Vitamin manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon, selling resveratrol in capsule form. But drinking the real thing is probably better for you — and more fun, too — so cheers to that!