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Sip & Savor: Cheers to Your Health

Sep 28, 2012 12:02PM ● By Anonymous

Wine

Many drinkers are quick to justify a daily glass of wine with one simple phrase: “It’s good for the heart”—but why? One (rather scientific) word: Polyphenols. To be specific, resveratrol, a compound that scientists say could be responsible for preventing damage to blood vessels, preventing blood clots, and reducing LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes, so the amount in red wine is slightly higher due to its longer period of fermentation with grape skins.

But we’d be remiss if we ignored the bad while pointing out the good. As we all know, wine has calories—about 100 of them per four-ounce glass, to be exact. But, truthfully, who pours themselves an exact four-ounce glass of wine? Even restaurants often serve you more than that. White wine is generally slightly lower in calories than its red counterpart, though only by about five calories. If you’re concerned about calories, choose a wine with a lower alcohol content, such as Riesling or sparkling Prosecco, as calorie count naturally gets higher when you get to wines with more than 13.5 percent alcohol such as Shiraz or Chardonnay.

When weighing resveratrol content versus calorie count, it looks like red versus white is a wash, health-wise, so choose the wine you enjoy the most and sip it in moderation.

Beer

Sometimes the situation calls for cold beer, and wine’s not the only drink that can boost your health. Some studies show that all alcohol, not just wine, increases heart health. Plus, that beer may not be contributing as much to the so-called “beer belly” as you might think—a 2005 study from the Journal of Epidemiology found those who consumed three to seven drinks spaced out during a period of a week have a lower BMI than those who go overboard drinking once or twice a month.

But once again, it’s all about calories (and, for some people, carbohydrates). The tricky part is that most of our favorite craft brews are full-flavored, which often means high-calorie. Look for a beer that’s less than 150 calories per bottle, such as Guinness Draught (126 calories per 12 ounces) or, a personal favorite for the warmer months, Corona Light (105 calories per 12 ounces).

Cocktails

So what about those times when a full-fledged cocktail is the only thing that will suffice?

As always, you have options.

A handful of spirits out there are marketed as low-calorie, such as Voli and Skinnygirl vodkas. They come in multiple flavors and contain up to one-third fewer calories than regular vodka. Of course, the trade-off is that these “light” vodkas are lower in alcohol content, too.

In most cases, though, it’s the calories from the mixers that really throw things out of whack. A standard margarita can contain 500 or more calories, but if you make it simply with silver tequila, lime juice, and Triple Sec, that number is a lot lower. If you need something bubbly, choose seltzer water or even a diet soda over the sugar-filled alternatives.

And even though the summer growing season is nearly over, it’s always a good idea to incorporate some fresh fruit versus a sugary syrup or fake flavoring. Try out the recipe for Autumn Apple Sangria, and enjoy the nutritional benefits of not only the apples, but the fresh ginger, orange, cinnamon, plus those heart-healthy perks from the red wine.

Autumn Apple Sangria

Autumn Apple Sangria

Makes 1 pitcher

Ingredients

3 cups chopped red apples, divided
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
2 slices fresh ginger
1 large orange, quartered
1 bottle fruity red wine, such as Beaujolais
Club soda

Combine the first eight ingredients, minus 1/2 cup chopped apples, in a pitcher and combine thoroughly. Chill for four hours. Strain the mixture through a colander into another pitcher and discard the solids. Add the remaining apples. Top the pitcher off with club soda and serve.