By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Can moderate drinking actually be good for you? Are there really nightcap benefits? Read on to find out if drinking alcohol is healthy.
Turns out your wine habit could actually be helping your heart—and your weight, too! Looking for more reasons to imbibe guilt free?
I’ve mentioned before how much I love the occasional glass of red wine. In addition to the deep, bold taste, I know that a moderate amount of alcohol may not only help my stress level but my heart health, too. And sipping the occasional glass of wine is helpful for my mental health.
How Healthy is Alcohol?
Do you like to relax with a glass of beer or wine before bedtime? I'm not a big drinker, but I do love my occasional glass of vino (especially Italian reds!). So I had to ask: Is a nightly cocktail good or bad for your health? Can drinking in moderation actually be a good thing?
Well, when it comes to nightcap benefits, they may be good for your health if you drink in moderation. There's no need to feel guilty about finishing off your night with a glass of beer or wine!
What are the benefits of a nightcap? I asked dietitian experts to explain how a nightcap could actually be good for us in this what wine has the least sugar? article. Wondering
Alcohol in moderation does have many protective benefits: It may lower the risk of heart attack and may help control your levels of cholesterol and fatty acids.
On the other hand, even moderate drinking may increase your risk of high blood pressure and also that of an irregular heartbeat (which can lead to further complications).
When it comes to drinking alcohol, the American Heart Association advises women to have an average of one drink or less per day and men to have an average of two drinks per day or less, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. So having that one glass of wine a day for women is OK.
One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, 1.5 ounce of 80-proof spirit or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirit, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study authors say that research suggests that guidelines should perhaps be even more stringent.
Of course, when it comes to moderate alcohol consumption, you can't save up your drinks for the week and go binge drinking. That's not how drinking in moderation is defined! Heavy drinking is definitely not good for you and can lead to many health problems.
Interestingly, a study in The American Journal of Cardiology suggests that focusing on alcohol’s health benefits when considering a drink or two (or more) may lead to consuming more alcohol.
The study authors looked at 5,582 volunteers. A third of the subjects viewed alcohol as heart healthy, while 39% perceived it as unhealthy and 31% were unsure. Those who perceived alcohol as heart-healthy drank almost 50% more—a median of about five drinks per week.
What to Pair with Your Wine
Guess what? Pairing your wine with cheese may be a good thing.
Turns out there may be a reason wine and cheese are often paired together—a study in the Journal of Food Science found that eating cheese may over time increase how much you like the wine you’re sipping.
In the small study, 31 volunteers sampled four wines with and without cheese pairings. When a piece of cheese was eaten in between wine sips, more negative attributes of the wine were reportedly diminished, with subjects indicating they liked the wine just as much or more.
For the red wines that were sampled, the cheese eating led to a shorter duration of astringency and longer duration of red fruit aroma leading to a perception of better taste.
What this means: If you drink wine, particularly red, you might enjoy it more if you pair it with an ounce or so of cheese (you’ll get some calcium too). Some good cheese picks are mozzarella, feta, and Camembert.
If you do partake, consider the importance of portion sizes and make sure to budget for both wine and cheese A serving size of wine is 4 ounces, although most wine glasses hold two-plus servings.
This blog post was updated in June 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- Is Drinking Alcohol Part of a Healthy Lifestyle?, The American Heart Association
- Choose MyPlate, The U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Perceptions, Information Sources, and Behavior Regarding Alcohol and Heart Health, The American Journal of Cardiology
- Use of Multi-Intake Temporal Dominance of Sensations (TDS) to Evaluate the Influence of Cheese on Wine Perception, Journal of Food Science
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What are your thoughts on this topic? What are your imbibing habits? Do you take part in moderate drinking? Do you consider yourself to be one of the moderate drinkers out there? Are you worried about substance abuse?
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