Fitting wine into a diet

I'm a food-obsessed individual, so, for me, diet crazes are just this side of torture – but I sometimes do them anyway. It's a tightwire to figure out what to eat that won't pack on the pounds. And since wine is automatically incorporated into my diet, that's what happens if eyes sway from the scale. On the Atkins and South Beach diets, you not only have to avoid alcohol in the beginning "Induction Phase" to allow your body to adjust to the new regimen, post-induction you still have to "watch yourself." What's up with that? The world has been drinking wine much longer than we've been snarfing fat-laden McBurgers and sitting on our asses – the true blubber-inducing culprits, in my opinion. And nonfortified, premium table wine is pretty low in carbohydrates, ranging from 1.8 to 3.0 carbohydrates per 3.5-ounce glass, according to the USDA.

Bitterness aside, fitting wine into a healthy diet is the main goal. No one really wants to get fatter and almost everyone I know thinks they should lose at least 10 pounds. Myself included. So if you drink in moderation and haven't heard friends whisper "AA" behind your back, wine, according to all the studies, can be your friend.

Maybe you've heard of "empty calories"? Wine is one of those empty-calorie foods, meaning it has no real traditional nutritional value, kind of like potato chips (and can you really have just one?). A five-ounce glass – an average by-the-glass pour in most restaurants (but ask) – averages around 100 calories. But, unlike chips, hidden inside those calories are geeky-sounding, good-for-you substances like polyphenols and resveratrol, which help keep cancer, strokes and heart attacks at bay. The popular one-glass-a-day advice could certainly help most of us, and who can't make room for 80 calories into their daily routine? Just walk up another few flights of stairs and you're golden. But beware the high alcohol grogs. A wine with 15 percent alcohol (like Zinfandel or Cabernet from California) contains 120 calories per 5-ounce pour while a wine with 12 percent alcohol contains 96.

Incorporating several glasses, however, might be a little more harrowing, and there's plenty you need to know if you're watching your intake. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, most of the alcohol you drink gets converted into a substance called acetate by your liver. To fuel your body, your system seeks out carbohydrates first, then burns acetate before seeking out fat. A recent study found that drinking the equivalent of two shots of vodka reduces the amount of fat your body burns by 73-percent for several hours afterward. So, if you're facing a plate mounded with fatty meat next to thick pasta drowning in cheesy cream sauce, and washing it down with a few glasses of nice Chianti (and some fava beans), you're probably not doing your waistline any favors. Following this logic, eating low-carb while drinking might be your best bet. That's what I do and it seems to work, but that's my odd bod. (Read more about wine's health benefits)

Since gluttonous temptations surround us 24/7, it's easy to wallow in overindulgence. Moderation really is king when it comes to wine, weight loss and responsibility. Wine, or any alcohol, should be consumed with food, to balance blood sugar and to maintain our sober wits. It might be more difficult to moderate, but, in the end, your butt will thank you.

Wine reviews:


Oct. 5, 2010

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