I've noticed a pattern among my lean friends: Many of them enjoy a glass of red wine instead of having dessert.
First things first: If you don’t drink now, please don’t start. If you feel like you have a drinking problem, seek professional help. That said, for those who like to uncork now and then, studies show an occasional glass of red wine can possibly help you maintain a weight you love.
One study found that normal-weight women who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese during an almost-13 year follow-up compared to women who didn't drink. Another found ellagic acid, a compound in grapes, could inhibit fat-cell growth and prevent new fat cells from developing.
Notice both studies showed less weight gain, not fat loss. Before you rush off to grab a glass of cabernet, let’s get clear about one thing: red wine isn't a magic fat-burning elixir.
When you drink alcohol, you’ll sideline fat burning because alcohol cuts to the front of the metabolic line, putting everything else on hold including fat metabolism.
Alcohol also seems to stimulate (not suppress) appetite, so if you thought you could get away with swapping out alcohol for dinner, think again. It doesn’t affect satiety like food calories do, and it can actually increase hunger and mindless grazing.
You know the likely scenario. You’re watching Sex and the City reruns with a bottle of merlot, you’re suddenly starving, and you mindlessly plow through a bag of jalapeno cheddar potato chips.
Or you arrive famished to a party, dinner is running an hour late, and tossing back a few drinks absentmindedly leads you to a plate of petit quiches. (Let’s face it: In those situations, you’re not going to binge on crudités.)
So how can these and other studies show wine drinkers are thinner than non-drinkers? Well, these women are probably already health-conscious, opting for red wine over margaritas or other high-sugar alcoholic drinks. And like my friends, they're probably having wine instead of dessert.
Red wine also contains resveratrol, a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Studies show resveratrol benefits brain health, helps balance blood sugar if you have Type 2 diabetes and protects against cancer. Though you’d have to drink several bottles receive sufficient amounts of resveratrol, so supplements are probably the way to go if you’re going for therapeutic benefits.
Ultimately, red wine becomes a dose-dependent drink. An occasional glass can become one of life’s pleasures that maybe helps your waistline. Too much can lead to fatty liver, poor eating habits, nutrient deﬁciencies, weight loss resistance, inflammation, and of course, a really nasty hangover.
If you drink, quantity and quality matter. During fermentation, enzymes gobble up those grapes’ sugar. Wine doesn’t usually have residual sugars, though some cheaper or sweeter wines do.
Enjoyed responsibly, a glass or two of dry wine can reasonably fit into a healthy plan that includes a low-sugar impact diet, burst training coupled with weight resistance, seven to nine hours of quality sleep and stress control.
A few caveats for women. You become intoxicated more quickly than men (even of the same weight) because you have less of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in your stomach, so you can’t break alcohol down as fast. If you’re menopausal, you’ll also become more intoxicated on smaller doses of alcohol.
Because red wine comes loaded with antioxidants and other healthy ingredients, I prefer it to white. But an occasional white wine or champagne can also work.
Do you agree an occasional glass of red wine can fit into a healthy eating plan? Share your thoughts below.
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