Forget Exercise – Raise Your Glass Instead?

Let’s get one thing on the table: today is National Beer Day. That’s a good thing, but it’s not my thing. I’d rather write about wine: why at BigSexyReds.com we love learning about wine, writing about it and most of all, drinking it.

And the best reason for drinking red wine especially: because it’s good for you – apparently as beneficial as a one-hour workout at the gym.

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Scientists aren’t telling us to hang up our sneakers just yet, but they have discovered some surprising gains in recent years from drinking a glass of vino.

Researchers from Oregon State University found that ellagic acids, antioxidants found in grapes, can delay the growth of existing fat cells and slow the development of new ones. Pretty cool, yes? When they tested the acids on mice, those that were given extracts of Pinot Noir grapes stored less fat in their livers and had healthier blood sugar levels, while those who scarfed down “mouse chow” developed fatty liver and symptoms of diabetes—“the same metabolic consequences we see in many overweight, sedentary people,” the researchers wrote.

Jeff Gargiulo, now owner of Gargiulo Vineyards in Napa Valley, isn’t surprised. “We all agree out here that wine is very healthy,” he told BigSexyReds.com. “People out here live it.”

It gets better: in a separate study out of the University of Alberta last year, scientists concluded that drinking one glass of red wine per day bestows the same payoffs in physical performance, heart function and muscle strength as working out for an hour. Resveratrol, they found, “could mimic exercise” for patients unable to work out, or to boost benefits for those who did exercise.

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But moderation matters: Three glasses of red does not equal three hours in the gym, no matter how pricey the wine. The good news is, you don’t have to spend a fortune; cheaper red wine brings the same health benefits as the good stuff.

And the bonuses keep coming:

  • Drinking red wine can lower your risk of depression, according to a  2013 Spanish study published in the journal BMC Medicine. That’s for people who drink two to seven glasses per week.
  • Another mental health boost: a study published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment showed that 23 percent of participants who drank red wine lowered their risk of developing dementia.
  • A newer study last October found that for patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who also were at low risk for alcohol abuse, enjoyed more restful sleep and higher HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) when they drank one glass of red wine each day. That group, in fact, scored better than patients who drank white wine or water.
  • A bit of surprise, but it makes sense: researchers at the University of Barcelona found that drinking moderate amounts of red wine helps protect against sunburn.

Beer drinking, by the way, carries its own health advantages: it’s a heart-healthy drink, it boosts creativity, and it helps prevent cataracts, among other benefits.

So, I’ll raise my wineglass to beer drinkers today – and whatever you pour, drink it in good health!

Wine Lingo of the Day:  Flavonoids = compounds that contribute to a wine’s color, astringency (tannins), texture and bitterness, and are largely responsible for wine’s healthy qualities.

Healthy sipping!

Mary

[Photos courtesy of Steve Corey and donireewalker, Flickr/Creative Commons]
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Green Wine? Nope, Not Even for St. Patrick’s Day

We are, after all, BigSexyReds, not BigSexyGreens.

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Green beer is out of the question, too, because…well…it’s beer. So what else could we drink today? And why green, anyway?

Credit for our green mania goes to St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, born into nobility in about 387 A.D. (Most historians say he was born in “Roman England” or Scotland, but some sources claim he was born in Wales.) He was kidnapped by Irish pirates at 16 and lived as a slave in Gaelic Ireland, tending sheep until he escaped six years later.

St. Patrick later returned to Ireland as a missionary, and he’s said to have used the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, to illustrate the Holy Trinity to pagans interested in Christianity. The green symbolism never quite disappeared, and in the 1640s the Irish Confederation adopted a flag showing a golden harp on a green background. By the 1680s, people began wearing shamrocks and green ribbons to commemorate Irish independence.

The phrase, “the wearing of the green,” comes from a street ballad that honors supporters of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Since then, we’ve associated the color green with Irish nationalism.

Not surprisingly, Irish stout is the most popular drink of the day. Beer lovers worldwide will down about 13 million pints of Guinness today – about 3 million of those pints in the U.S., where we usually drink just 600,000 pints.

But it’s a party, and if you want an alternative to beer, my pick would be green Chartreuse, the only liqueur in the world with a natural green color.

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Now, recommending Chartreuse comes with a caveat. You see, my dad ran a neighborhood pub when I was just out of college, and I worked weekends behind the bar. When friends would stop in, we’d sip green Chartreuse while we talked. And sure, it’s made by monks, so you’d like to think it brings a blessed experience. And it’s made with 130 herbs and flowers, so anything this botanical must be a healthy indulgence, right?

Wrong. The devil is in this stuff. Chartreuse is 110 proof, my friends. There’s a lot of alcohol in that emerald-green nectar, so watch it. And you’re not doing tequila shots here; don’t throw down shot after shot. Sip it icy-cold, in a fine crystal cordial glass if you can, and see how many of those 130 herbs and flowers you can identify.

But you’ll never know how many of them you identify correctly. Only two people in the world know the ingredients in Chartreuse, and they’re not talking.

Wine Lingo of the Day:  Pomace = the solids (skins, stems, pulp, seeds) left after grapes are pressed. Pomace often is distilled, transforming it into Grappa (Italy), Marc (France) or Eau-de-Vie (France and the U.S.).

Cheers!

Mary

[Photos courtesy of Dustin Gaffke and T Sea, via Flickr/Creative Commons]