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    Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Peanuts vs. Tree Nuts

    peanuts-peeledA peanut butter sandwich is as American as apple pie.

    What are your thoughts on peanut butter, though?

    I’ve been hearing that peanuts, which I know are actually legumes, aren’t as healthy as tree nuts.

    Should I be making my sandwiches with almond butter instead?

    — Fred (Last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    I don’t have any issues with peanuts or peanut butter.

    When it comes to nuts (and, yes, for the sake of this post we’ll treat peanuts as such), my recommendation is to always have one serving of some nut every day.

    One serving is made up of 13 walnuts halves.  In the case of almonds, that’s 23 individual pieces.  If you’re talking pistachios, you’re looking at 49 kernels!

    The issue with nuts is that you could label any one as “better” or “worse” than the next, depending on what criteria you use.

    Consider these lists I compiled:

    FIBER CONTENT (per ounce)

    • Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios: 3 grams
    • Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts: 2 grams
    • Cashews: 1 gram

    PROTEIN CONTENT (per ounce)

    • Peanuts: 7 grams
    • Almonds, pistachios: 6 grams
    • Cashews: 5 grams
    • Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts: 4 grams
    • Pecans: 3 grams

    MONOUNSATURATED (heart-healthy!) FAT (per ounce)

    • Hazelnuts: 12.9 grams
    • Pecans: 11.5 grams
    • Almonds: 8.7 grams
    • Brazil nuts, peanuts: 6.9 grams
    • Cashews: 6.7 grams
    • Pistachios: 6.6 grams

    OMEGA 3: OMEGA 6 RATIO (per ounce)

    • Walnuts: 1:4
    • Pecans: 1:20
    • Pistachios: 1:51
    • Hazelnuts: 1:89
    • Cashews: 1:125
    • Brazil nuts: 1:1,139
    • Almonds: 1:2,181
    • Peanuts: 1:5,491

    All of them, meanwhile, are good sources of vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese.  Calorie amounts range from 155 (cashews) to 195 (pecans).

    I always recommend varying your nut intake since each variety contains unique phytonutrients and antioxidants that have been linked to an array of health benefits.

    Peanuts, for example, are a wonderful source of resveratrol (the same antioxidant in red wine and grape skins), while pecans contain high amounts of beta-sisterol, a cholesterol-lowering phytonutrient.


    You Ask, I Answer: Alcohol & Weight Loss

    tall_beerI would like to know the calorie content for beer, hard liquor and wine.

    If you’re trying to lose weight, what kind of alcohol should you stick to/try to avoid?

    Is it better to drink wine instead of beer?

    — Lori (last name withheld)
    Ottawa, Ontario

    As far as calorie figures are concerned, please refer to this post from July 2009.

    If weight-loss is your goal, though, liquid calories should be the first to go.

    Unless you are talking about homemade smoothies made with whole fruits and fiber-rich ingredients like oat bran and ground flax, liquid calories do very little towards helping you feel full, making it very easy to consume several hundred calories and still feel hungry.

    The best alcohol to drink is the one you simply drink less of.

    If, for instance, you find that one glass of red wine satisfies you the same way that three beers do, then wine is the best choice.

    Wine is not “more fattening” than beer, or vice versa.

    That said, keep in mind that mixed drinks are often higher in calories because they also include soda, fruit juice, or cream, all of which add extra calories.


    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Liz Hurley Pinpoints The Cause of Bloating… NOT!

    VNSAYM3elizabeth_hurleyMany thanks to Small Bites reader Sara Zuba for forwarding along this article from London’s Daily Mail newspaper, which details actress Elizabeth Hurley’s “diet secrets”.

    For starters?  In order to “keep her famously svelte figure,” Hurley now opts for vodka and seltzer over white wine.

    Mind you, she doesn’t “like vodka that much” and thinks it initially “tastes like medicine”, but anything to look svelte, right?  Insert eyeroll HERE.

    Not to mention, the caloric difference between a vodka drink and a glass of wine isn’t exactly earth-shattering.

    A 1.5 ounce serving of vodka with whatever amount of seltzer water she’s adding contains 103 calories.

    A 5-ounce serving of wine, meanwhile, provides 120 calories.

    We’re talking about 17 fewer calories — the amount found in two cashews.

    She then pulls this bit of nutrition advice from seemingly out of thin air:

    “‘I used to drink an awful lot of coffee, but I was told after the age of 40 you have to be careful with coffee and wine.  Apparently, that can be one of the reasons older women get bloated around their stomach.”

    Absolutely untrue.  There is nothing intrinsic in coffee that promotes bloating or the collection of adipose tissue around the stomach area.

    Perhaps the most disturbing — and, sad, really — part of the article is this reference to something Hurley said back in 2002:

    “Following the birth of [her 7-year-old son] Damian, she revealed how she only eats one meal a day and often goes to bed hungry”


    You Ask, I Answer: Antioxidants in Wine

    red wine glassDo the antioxidants in wine decrease with time like they do with olive oil?

    For example, if I drink a wine from 1996 tonight, am I not getting any of the health benefits I would from one that was bottled earlier this month?

    — Cassandra (last name withheld)
    San Francisco, CA

    The issue of health benefits from red wine can get rather dizzying.  Let’s recap the latest batch of information:

    • Do older wines have lower antioxidant levels than newer ones?  No.  A study published in 2006 in the Journal of Food Science and Agriculture compared wines ranging from 1 to 28 years old and concluded that, on average,  “antioxidant activity of red wines does not correlate with wine age.”
    • The “on average” is particularly important, since some antioxidants increase with age, while others decrease.  For example, a 2003 study in the Journal of Food Science and Agriculture found that the anthocyanin content of red wine decreased by an average of 88 percent over a 7-month period.
    • It is difficult to generalize antioxidant levels of wines since these are affected by several factors, including the particular variety of grape used, aging methods, pH levels, and even the specific strain of yeast used in the fermentation process.
    • Resveratrol (the famous antioxidant found in high amounts in the skins of red grapes) levels are higher in grapes that grow in cooler climates.
    • Pinot Noir has the highest level of resveratrol

    I wouldn’t get too concerned with these details, though.

    Remember, red wine is not the only source of these antioxidants.  Red grapes — with the skin on! — basically deliver the same health benefits.

    Anthocyanins, for example, are found in abundance in red grapes, cherries, raspberries, and blueberries.  Instead of shunning vintage wines because of their low anthocyanin content, just eat any of those fruits on a regular basis.


    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrition Labels on Alcoholic Beverages

    Mike's Hard LemonadeWhy don’t alcoholic beverages have nutrition labels?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location Unknown)

    The answer is quite dull — bureaucracy.

    Since alcohol is regulated by the US Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Firearms — and not the Food & Drug Administration — those products are not required to carry a Nutrition Facts label.

    Interestingly, any alcoholic beverages that make weight or calorie-related claims (such as “light beers”) must display calorie values.

    Last year, there was talk of the Department of Treasury — huh? — mandating that all alcoholic beverages display a Nutrition Facts label by 2010, although I don’t know what the current status of that is.

    In the meantime, here are some helpful caloric reminders:

    • A 12-ounce bottle of regular beer contains, on average, 145 calories
    • A 12-ounce bottle of light beer, on average, adds up to 110 calories
    • A 12-ounce bottle of an alcoholic beverage like Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice contains approximately 220 calories
    • A 1.5 ounce shot of hard liquor provides, on average, 98 calories (depending on the specific liquor, this figure can range from 80 to 120 calories)
    • A serving of wine (defined as a hard-to-gauge 5 ounces) contains, on average, 115 calories

    As you can imagine, it is easiest to keep track of calories that come in bottles or cans (if you polish off three 12-ounce bottles of regular beer in one night, some simple math reveals you drank approximately 435 calories).

    The problems come in when a bartender makes a drink that may have anywhere from 1.5 to 3 ounces of hard liquor, or when your glass of red wine is refilled throughout the night before it ever has a chance to run empty.


    You Ask, I Answer: Sulfites

    redwineglassWhat are sulfites?  I recently read an article that blamed them for the headache some people get after drinking red wine.

    The article also suggested buying European or organic wines, since those don’t have sulfites.

    Why don’t organic wines have sulfites?  Is it a pesticide?

    — Maureen Rosen
    New York, NY

    Sulfites are one of the most misunderstood nutrition-related concepts.  I am often amazed at the gross inaccuracies passed off as “fact.”  Allow me to guide you through the information maze via this interview I conducted with myself!

    What are sulfites?

    Sulfites are compounds naturally found in certain foods, including garlic, onions, apricots, and grapes.  Mother Nature utilizes sulfites for a specific reason — preventing microbial growth on these plants.

    Notice the words “naturally occurring.”  This means that all wines have sulfates in them simply by being made from grapes.  There is no such thing as a sulfite-free wine.

    Are sulfites unhealthy?

    Much like gluten (the protein in wheat), sulfite concerns have little to do with health and more to do with allergies.

    Gluten-free products are not healthier, they are simply labeled that way to let consumers with celiac disease and wheat allergies know those products are safe for them to consume.

    Wine bottles sold in the United States must carry a “contains sulfite” warning on their label for the same reason that many food products carry warnings if they are processed in facilities that also process a variety of allergens (i.e.: soy, peanuts, and wheat) — liability concerns.

    According to current estimates, 0.28 percent of the United States population is allergic to sulfites.  Mind you, that number could be higher since that statistic is solely based on documented complaints.

    For all we know, there could be millions of people allergic to sulfites who are not reporting symptoms and, therefore, are unaccounted for.

    Individuals with asthma appear to be more sensitive to sulfites.

    If sulfites are already contained in grapes, why are they added to wines?

    Sulfites are added in the form of sulfur dioxide to keep wines from oxidizing, developing rancid flavors, and harboring bacteria and other microorganisms.  This is not a modern development by any means.

    Wines without added sulfites have much shorter shelf lives and should be consumed as soon as possible after being bottled.  The naturally occurring sulfites in grapes can only prevent oxidation for a few months.

    Does red wine have more sulfites than white wine?

    No.  As far as naturally-occurring sulfites go, sweet white wines contain more.

    How do I know if I’m allergic to sulfites?

    Wines vary in their sulfite content, so a simple and anecdotal way to help you determine if you have an allergy, have a serving of a sulfite-rich food.  Dried fruit is a good choice.  If you have a reaction to dried fruit, you’re probably allergic to sulfites.

    What symptoms would I have if I’m allergic to sulfites?

    The most common symptoms are shortness of breath and dermatological manifestations (mostly rashes or hives).    Headaches have not been shown to be caused by sulfite intake among those with allergies.  Headaches associated with wine drinking are more probably caused by tyramines and tannins.

    Is there such a thing as sulfite-free wine?

    No.  A wine bottle that does mention sulfite content still contains the naturally occurring sulfites in grapes.  In the United States, wines must be labeled as “containing sulfites” if these compounds exist at levels higher than 10 parts per million.  Wines without added sulfites have anywhere between 2 and 4 parts per million.

    What about organic wines?  They don’t have added sulfites but have long shelf lives.

    Organic wines use different types of additives that prevent wines from oxidation.  In order to be certified organic, a wine may not add sulfites during processing.

    Is it true that European wines do not have added sulfites?

    Not always.  Food law and regulation varies from country to country.  In many European and South American countries, organic wines can contain added sulfites.  I am unsure where the notion that only wines made in the United States contain added sulfites came from.

    Two more things to keep in mind:

    • Sulfites are also added to fruit concentrates, instant tea powders, prescription medications, soup mixes, and syrups.  Some of these products can contain sulfites in amounts higher than 1,000 parts per million.
    • Our bodies produce approximately 1 gram of sulfites on a daily basis!  These sulfites are crucial for immune system function.

    Class dismissed!


    You Ask, I Answer: Grapes vs. Wine

    Out of curiosity, how many grapes would someone have to eat to equal a serving (how many ounces is that?) of wine?

    Also, is grape juice just as healthy as wine?

    — Patricia (last name unknown)
    Berkeley, CA

    Is it only red grapes that offer health benefits?

    — “WifeMomChocoholic”
    Via the blog

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the same buzz-worthy components in red wine are available in red grapes. One slight exception to the rule is resveratrol, which is simply more concentrated in wine.

    One reason you don’t hear quite as much about white wine, by the way, is because the production process separates the grape’s flesh from the skin (for red wine, the whole fruit is used).

    If you want to talk numbers, your average bottle of wine is made from approximately 600 grapes.

    Now, let’s do some math.

    A standard wine bottle contains roughly 25 ounces. According to MyPyramid guidelines, one serving of wine is equal to 5 ounces.

    Therefore, one serving of wine contains 120 grapes. That helps us better understand the recommendations of drinking, rather than eating, the fruit.

    That is not to say, of course, that you need to eat 120 grapes to get health benefits (FYI — one serving of fresh grapes is made up of 15 individual pieces).

    As far as grape juice is concerned — the health benefits are not quite up to those of wine.

    Remember, the vast majority of grape juices are made from concentrate (which is largely made up of the naturally-occurring sugars). Consequently, a lot of the polyphenols and antioxidants found in grape skins do not make it to the final product.

    Although red wine (and, therefore, red grapes) offers a wider variety of healthful components in larger amounts, don’t cast off white grapes. Even though white wine is not made from grape skins, the fruit’s flesh offers a fair share of polyphenols and antioxidants.


    You Ask, I Answer: Popular Healthy Foods

    Why is it that there is much talk about eating olive oil, wine, and tomato products and not simply olives, grapes, and tomatoes?

    Surely the benefits of the processed forms are even more present in the whole form of the food.

    Or is that not the case?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    I love this “thinking cap turned on” question!

    Here is my take on each of the pairings:

    Olive oil vs. olives: Everyone cooks with some sort of fat; not everyone eats olives.

    So, in order to have as many people as possible reap the benefits of olives, it makes more sense to suggest they use olive oil in their cooking/salad dressings rather than eat olives.

    Also, olives have a much stronger flavor than olive oil. Many people who enjoy olive oil do not find olives palatable.

    Although olives offer more vitamins and minerals than olive oil, 120 calories of olives (equal to 1 tablespoon of olive oil) offers almost half of the daily recommended limit of sodium!

    Tomato products vs. whole tomatoes: Cooked tomatoes offer higher levels of lycopene than their raw counterparts.

    Wine vs. grapes: This is one I never understood. Grapes offer the same healthy compounds as wine. This is why I always tell people that if they regularly eat grapes but do not drink wine, they are not missing out on any health benefits!

    I personally think this comes back to the “reaching as many people as possible” goal that applies to olive oil.


    In The News: Valentine’s Day/Small Bites

    Last Friday, Terri Coles of Reuters.com interviewed me for a special Valentine’s Day article on the health benefits of common romantic staples like chocolate and wine.

    We also talked about healthy foods often dismissed as “empty calories.”

    She did a wonderful job with the piece, which came out earler this afternoon. Read it here!


    You Ask, I Answer: Resveratrol

    What is your view on resveratrol? Are you opposed or open to the idea of taking resveratrol daily for its alleged significant benefits?

    — Guy Betterbid
    New York, NY

    Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in significant quantities in the skins of red grapes and, subsequently, in red wine.

    The popular “French paradox” claims that one reason why French adults have lower rates of cardiovascular disease despite consuming a high-fat diet is due to their consistent consumption of red wine.

    Touted by some as an anti-cancer agent, resveratrol (which is actually produced by plants’ immune systems when attacked by certain bacteria or fungi) soon became a hot supplement.

    I personally wouldn’t recommend you rush out to GNC and start buying it, though.

    I am always skeptical when one component of a food (in this case, resveratrol — found in grapes, raspberries, blueberries, etc.) is isolated and expected to function the same way as when it is accompanied in its original packaging (in this case, an actual grape).

    Remember that supplements are not regulated by any agency. Studies have shown that the amount of concentrated resveratrol is supplements widely ranges from one company to another.

    There truly isn’t enough research of this supplement on humans to recommend it. In fact, there are no long-term studies, and the short-term ones performed on rats appear to show that high concentrations of resveratrol might overwork the liver.

    You’re better off having a handful of grapes or berries every day (or, if you already drink, having a glass of red wine every day) to get your share of resveratrol.


    You Ask, I Answer: (More) Wine

    What is the deal with tannins in red wine? Are they healthy?

    — Jane Shou
    Brooklyn, New York

    Tannins are bitter compounds found in tree bark, tea, cheese, nuts, berries and grapes (and, thus, in wine)

    You’ve had them, believe me. Remember the time you took a sip of red wine or bit into an unripened blueberry that just made your mouth pucker? Well, tannins are plant’s shields. They taste bitter to animals (that includes us) and prevent fungi and bacteria from attacking.

    Going back to the blueberry example – tannins disappear from fruit once it’s ripened (nature’s ingenious way of keeping animals from eating certain growing crops).

    If not handled properly during the winemaking process, tannins can turn a potentially delicious bottle of wine into a bitter mess. That being said, all wines contain them, since they are responsible for their color and, to a certain extent, texture.

    They also happen to bring along some nifty antioxidant properties! For instante, catechin (found in tea) is a tannin that helps increase our good cholesterol while lowering the bad.

    A 2006 study by Queen Mary’s School of Medicine in London concluded that tannins in wine known as procyanidins help our cardiovascular systems by minimizing the damage certain enzymes do to our arteries.

    Some people understandably steer clear of these compounds. Turns out tannin decreases our levels of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which consequently triggers migraines in a small percentage of the population.

    Unless you regularly suffer from migraines, I would not be concerned with the consumption of tannins. Since they are naturally found in foods that have been consumed for thousands of years by millions of people, I wouldn’t give them a second thought.

    Instead, we should be more concerned with how some candies can drastically change colors ten seconds after being chewed.


    You Ask, I Answer: Wine

    I’ve read red wine is the only healthy alcoholic drink. True?

    — Nydia Parries
    Brooklyn, New York

    Partially true. It is true that the antioxidants in red wine – courtesy of the fermented grapes  – have been found to help with circulation and heart health. White wine also has these components, although to a lesser degree.

    That being said, that statistic only applies to one 5.5 ounce glass of wine a day for women, and two for men. These health properties are not cumulative (no wine for five days followed by 10 glasses on Friday night has harmful, rather beneficial, effects).

    Keep in mind that no one ever developed cardiovascular disease from NOT drinking red wine.

    And, don’t forget that red wine still has calories. One 6-ounce glass packs 128 calories, which translates to 512 calories per bottle.

    In conclusion, if you already are a wine drinker, one or two glasses a day (depending on your sex) can provide health benefits. Otherwise, you’re better off looking for antioxidants in actual foods than in wine.

    PS: All alcohol, when consumed in small amounts, has beneficial effects on blood cholesterol levels.


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