Monday, June 18, 2012

A Glass a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Alcohol consumption in moderation can be good for you.

wine corks
A glass of wine is considered 5 fluid ounces.

Fact: Alcohol may be beneficial for your health. Fact: Alcohol may be harmful to your health. Before accusations of contradictory science start flying around, let’s consider the wise old adage that there really can be too much of a good thing.

Time to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: Moderation is the answer to many things in life, whether it be scarf collections, kitchen gadgets or alcohol consumption. So what does moderate mean anyway? The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend one drink per day for women or two per day for men.

One drink is equal to:

  • Wine (5 fluid ounces)
  • Beer (12 fluid ounces)
  • Distilled spirits (1.5 fluid ounces)

It’s been thought that only red wine offers health benefits with its high levels of an antioxidant called polyphenol. Research now shows that all types of alcohol may benefit your health in moderate amounts. Here’s how:

  • Raises HDL cholesterol (the “good” one)
  • Prevents artery damage caused by high levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one)
  • Reduces formation of blood clots
  • Decreases risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke and gallstones
  • Evokes pleasure. Endorphins are released as we use it to celebrate, socialize, relax and pair with food.

Please note that no one should begin drinking or drink more frequently based on these potential benefits. Similar effects can be achieved with regular exercise and a balanced diet. Drinking more than moderate amounts does not offer any additional protection.

Speak with your health care provider to determine if moderate alcohol intake is right for you. For more information, view the article Patient Risks and Benefits of Alcohol on the website UpToDate.

Lemon Balm Honeysuckle

Try this refreshing drink on a warm spring or summer day. Lemon balm is a calming herb and a member of the mint family. Find it at your local farmer’s market or try planting pots of it in your backyard. Mint or basil also taste nice.

6 tablespoons honey
2 cups lemon vodka or white rum
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup loosely packed fresh lemon balm leaves, mint, or basil leaves
10 lemon slices

Stir honey and 6 tablespoons hot water in a large pitcher until honey is dissolved. Stir in vodka and lemon juice. Add 2 cups ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Squeeze lemon balm several times to lightly bruise leaves; add to pitcher. Fill glasses with ice cubes. Divide cocktail among glasses. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Prep time: 10 minutes active, 2 hours for chilling
Makes: 10 servings

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, copyright August 2011

— Carrie Huseman, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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