The Skinny on Wine: Fitting wine and its calories into a healthy diet

It's that time of year when Thanksgiving, holiday parties and New Year's Eve end up mounded on our collective butts. The guilt from this six-week indulgence can be as overwhelming as the shock that even your fat jeans don't fit anymore. But fear not. Although eliminating wine from your daily routine might be tempting, it can, indeed, be incorporated into a healthy diet. Here's how: Moderation.

Yes, it's a word we hear ad nausem, but "moderation" bears many interpretations. In our case, it means one five-ounce glass per day. Ideally, with food. 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 it's just as difficult to have just one. However, unlike chips, hidden inside that 100-calorie glass are geeky-sounding, good-for-you substances like polyphenols and resveratrol, which reportedly help keep cancer, strokes and heart attacks at bay (More on that. Evidence of alcohol's positive effect on the human body continues to mound up and I imagine it won't stop heaping. Kind of like mashed potatoes during the holidays. (Here's a post about how it fights tooth decay)

Thus, the popular one-glass-a-day advice could certainly help most of us, and who can't make room for 100 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 has 96. Legally, a winery must list the alcohol-by-volume content on each bottle so you'll know what you're getting into.

But adding more than one glass to this scenario gets a little harrowing. 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 turning to 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 pasta drowning in cream sauce, the four glasses of tasty Chianti might not be doing your waistline any favors. Following this logic, eating low-carb, high-protein while drinking "professionally" might be your best bet. That's what I do and it seems to work so far.

Gluttonous temptations surround us 24/7, so it's easy to wallow in decadence. 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

Esca 2006 Syrah Napa Valley

Paul Dolan 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino


Jan. 4, 2011

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