Why You Should Avoid Drinking Red Wine With This Healthy Protein

Whether you're at a fancy restaurant, business gathering, or family wedding, red wine might be your preferred choice of alcoholic beverage. Aficionados of red wine probably also know of its many merits. Considered healthier than the white variety, owing to its higher content of antioxidants, red wine has health benefits, not least of which is its positive influence on your heart. Polyphenols found in red wine, particularly resveratrol, have been linked to preventing damage to blood vessels, decreasing bad or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, improving lung function, and preventing cancer. 

If you are in the habit of reaching for a glass of red wine with your dinners at home, however, there is one healthy protein you should avoid eating with this alcoholic drink — lentils. Sometimes referred to as pulses, lentils belong to the legume family, and come in a wide variety. From brown and green lentils to red and black beluga lentils, there are lots to choose from. The reason for not combining this healthy food with red wine has to do with one of the side effects of drinking wine you never expected. Let's take a closer look. 

Red wine hampers the absorption of iron found in lentils

Protein-richness aside, lentils also pack a punch when it comes to the mineral iron. One cup of lentils has as much as 6.59 milligrams of iron, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's is 37% of the recommended daily value of iron, according to Healthline. Iron, however, is a hard mineral for your body to absorb, explained vegan health educator and physician, Dr. Michael Klaper. "Less than 1% of the iron that we swallow actually makes it into our bloodstream," shared the expert.

This problem is particularly exacerbated when it comes to plant-based iron sources like lentils, per registered dietician, Alissa Rumsey (via Prevention). When you add red wine into the mix, you're making matters worse. Tannins found in red wines mess with your body's ability to absorb iron. "Plant-based iron is already more difficult to absorb than meat-based iron. Add tannins to the mix and it's that much harder to get the iron you need," explained Rumsey. A 2022 study looking at other plant-based protein options, like soy sausages and tempeh, linked the presence of the antinutrient phytate in these foods with hampering iron absorption in your body. In fact, iron isn't the only nutrient you need to think about if you're going plant-based. But that's a topic for a different day. So, how should you be eating your lentils for greater absorption of iron?

Combine your lentils with sources of vitamin C instead

Combining iron-rich sources of food — whether that's plant-based or meat-based options — with vitamin C enhances the absorption of this mineral in your body, explained Dr. Michael Klaper. The physician was quick to note, however, that this doesn't mean popping a vitamin C pill when you sit down to eat high-iron foods. 

Turning to natural sources of vitamin C, by way of citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and potatoes, is a better approach. Finding ways to creatively incorporate these sources with lentils is the next step. While red wine may seem like seamless addition to this healthy protein meal, adding vitamin C-rich foods to lentils may require a bit of research. But, there are options out there. A broccoli and orange lentil salad, a lentil and bell pepper soup, or a lentil and potato stew could all make it to the list. On a similar note, you may want to avoid eating cashews while drinking coffee, for the same reason.