A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to learn how to make wine at home using the apples from the tree in our backyard. Soon we had a chemistry experiment going on in our basement. Whenever we went downstairs, we could smell the distinctive aroma of fermentation as the sugar was converted to alcohol.

Currently, we have some “red wine” made with apples and cranberries awaiting bottling. Based on some recent nutrition and health research, we might want to plant grape vines and switch from apples to grapes.

(For more, see: Grapes linked to heart disease reduction)

Several studies have shown that the moderate consumption of red wine made from grapes is linked with some health benefits.

The benefits are thought to be due to the natural antioxidants, or phenolics, found in grapes. These natural compounds may help prevent “bad cholesterol” (LDL cholesterol) from becoming oxidized and leading to the buildup of plaque in the inner walls of the arteries.

Other studies point to the potential of moderate wine consumption reducing blood pressure and risk of strokes, reducing the risk of gallstones, and potentially lowering our risk for diabetes.

On the other hand, excessive alcohol consumption can have serious health consequences ranging from liver failure to death. Some people should not consume alcohol at all, including pregnant women and people taking certain medications.

Humans have been consuming wine for thousands of years. In earlier times, it was used as a beverage and also as a medicine for a variety of ailments, including digestive and heart issues.

Americans are drinking wine more frequently. U.S. wine consumption increased from 0.26 gallons per adult in 1934 to 2.54 gallons per adult in 2010, according to information from the Wine Institute.

The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans publication includes a discussion about moderate alcohol consumption.

If you choose to consume alcohol, “moderate” alcohol consumption is defined as one serving per day for women and two for men.

A serving of alcohol, according to the standard definition, is 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Alcohol is a concentrated source of calories and can lead to weight gain, so that is another reason to remember moderation. Compared with the same weight of carbohydrate or protein, alcohol has more than 1.5 times the calories. Although red wine has been tested for its potential health benefits, what if you do not drink alcohol for personal or religious reasons? Can you get any health benefits from alcohol-free purple grape juice?