Wine Ink: Looking at the health benefits of wine | SierraSun.com

Wine Ink: Looking at the health benefits of wine

Kelly J. Hayes
Wine Ink

January is when we all begin to consider that perhaps we should drop a pound or two after the holidays. So it was when I found myself at a gathering where weight loss regimes were the topic du jour.

"I love red wine," said a friend who was holding a glass of what appeared to be a very white wine. "But I'm dieting so I switched to white." Was she on to something? Would simply switching from red wine to white wine allow my friend to get her bikini body back?

Well……. maybe, kind of, sort of. The caloric content of wine varies widely based upon a variety of factors. Wines that are high in residual sugar have a higher caloric level than those that are dry, meaning low in sugar.

And a wine with a higher percentage of alcohol will invariably up the caloric intake of those who imbibe. So low sugar and low alcohol wines are the keys for those who wish to drop calories in their wine consumption.

HOW MANY CALORIES?

So what does that mean? Well a glass of wine can range from a low of around 100 calories per glass for a low alcohol, low sugar wine to as much as 200 calories for high alcohol desert wines like ports. The trick is finding a sweet spot that is not too sweet and is a bit lower in alcohol.

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While most wines do not list the levels of residual sugar on their labels, they do list the ABV, which is the "alcohol by volume." Alcohol has approximately twice the impact on calories as does the residual sugar. If you want to keep your caloric consumption low, then try to drink wines that are in the 9 percent to 13 percent range in ABV.

For white wines look to Europe, where you can find dry, low alcohol wines like French chenin blanc, German riesling, Austrian gruner veltliner, Portuguese vinho verde, and the sparking wines.

But be sure that they are dry wines rather than sweeter versions. For reds, look for lighter varietals like pinot noir and Beaujolais, which is made from the gamay grape. But be aware that even these wines can be made in "bigger" styles that up the alcohol content.

Still, the difference in a glass of these wines can range from, say, a low of 110 calories to a high of maybe 170 calories for a 5-ounce pour. That is what, a difference of about 60 calories per glass?

At the end of the day, or the bottom of the glass, as the case may be, the difference is about 3 percent of the FDA's daily recommendation of 2,000 calories a day for the average woman.

Perhaps drinking what you like but drinking less of it is the better compromise than switching to something less appealing. However, always remember, moderation is a virtue.

OTHER BENEFITS

Of course, as we all know, there is much more to a healthy body than just whether or not the bikini fits. Since Hippocrates, the father of medicine, began to study wine's effect on health in about 310 B.C. or so, it has been widely postulated that the juice of fermented grapes (aka wine) has a positive impact on any number of medical maladies.

Religious figures and healers, and writings through the centuries ranging from the Apostle Paul to the Talamud, suggest that the ingestion of wine can be good for both digestion and a healthy gut, amongst other things.

There is a plethora of studies conducted by modern physicians in a plethora (yes, I like that word) of countries that have all specified ways that moderate ingestion of wine can actually improve health.

Go to the Mayo Clinic's website and there will be guarded suggestions that an average of two drinks a day for men and one for women (a drink is generally defined as 5 ounces) may have positive health benefits. Same is true on the American Heart Association's website.

Researchers at Harvard in 1992 stated that moderate consumption of wine was one of "eight proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease risk."

Scientists have cited the antioxidants and flavonoids, which are abundant in the skins of red grapes, as being beneficial in reducing the production of LDL (the bad stuff) cholesterol, boosting HDL (the good stuff) and limiting clotting in blood.

The most universally accepted benefit found by most researchers is that moderate daily consumption of alcohol can be a factor in improving cardiovascular health.

And then there are the psychological benefits that accrue to those who drink wine. As was stated by Benjamin Franklin: "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."

To your health.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass, Colo., with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

Other potential health benefits of wine

Increased Longevity: The Journals of Gerontology, 2007

Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Center, published in Diabetes Care, 2005

Reduced Risk of Stroke: Columbia University study published in Stroke, 2006

Reduced Risk of Cataracts: Icelandic stud, published in Nature, 2003

Source: List compiled by Food & Wine magazine, October 2007

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Under the influence

2013 JK Carriere “Vespidae” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: Lower alcohol levels can be found in many Oregon pinot noir wines. While some argue that this makes them a bit thin, that is hardly the case with the “Vespidae”(named for the prolific wasps in the Oregon vineyards) from Jim Prosser’s JK Carriere label. Though I can’t tell you what the calorie count is in a glass of this wine that weighs in at 12.5 percent ABV, I can tell you that the flavor quotient is off the charts.