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Here’s to good health, Cheers!

Drinking can be surprisingly healthy if you use the right ingredients. Try including fruit in your tipple.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 15, 2011 19:40 IST
Kavita Devgan
Kavita Devgan
Hindustan Times

Too much alcohol is bad for your health. We all know that, and expect to be berated for drinking. But hold your (non-alcoholic) breath, as support has come in from totally unexpected quarters. Writing in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers from Kasetsart University in Thailand and the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, reported that most fruity cocktails that come with an umbrella are surprisingly healthy; especially when they contain high levels of antioxidant-rich ingredients, such as blackberries and citrus.

The reason? According to the study’s lead author Korakot Chanjirakul, apparently, the alcohol content in tequila, rum, vodka, and strong types of booze improves our bodies’ ability to absorb antioxidants. The ethanol found in alcohol boosts antioxidant levels, so a cranberry and vodka cocktail may just be a lot healthier than a glass of cranberry juice. This discovery came about while Chanjirakul and his co-workers were exploring ways to help keep strawberries fresh during storage.

Teens In the same vein, drinking a shot of smooth full-flavoured brandy, according to Monash University researchers (published in December 2005 in their online journal), can also give you a shot of antioxidants. "These come mainly from copper during the distilling process," wrote Dr Gordon Troup, one of the lead researchers of the study, "And a shot (30ml) of brandy would give one the equivalent antioxidant potential of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C."

The smart choice

Even the experts agree, albeit with certain provisos, that consuming more antioxidants can only be good for you. "Because of our metabolic processes, certain free radicals are released continuously in the body," explains Dr Ashutosh Shukla, head of department and senior consultant – internal medicine, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon. He adds, "These radicals are responsible for our gradual ageing process, plus they may lead to health problems like heart disease, cancer etc., too."

According to Dr Shukla, antioxidants nullify the effect of these free radicals effectively. He adds, "Drinking alcohol simply adds up empty calories anyway, so notching up its health quotient by taking in some antioxidants is a good idea."

The key, though, is moderation and making smart judicious choices. Shatbhi Basu, a mixologist and beverage consultant based in Mumbai, explains how to have a healthy drinking session.

Make your cocktail healthy

Use fresh ingredients instead of an overkill of sugar and artificial flavours. For example, a long, thin slice of fresh, peeled sugarcane is a healthy, unprocessed sweetener.

Maximise antioxidants, vitamins and fibre. Go for antioxidant-rich ingredients like kiwi fruit, strawberries, red bell peppers, as well as spices such as thyme and cinnamon.

Throwing a half-cup of pineapple chunks into a piña colada gives you twice as much filling fibre than if you used syrup or juice. It also adds volume, texture, and a more natural flavour.

Opt for light beer

If beer’s on the menu, then simply opting for the lighter one can massively cut down your calorie intake. Most light beers weigh in at 100-120 calories per bottle, but still have quite a lot of flavour and taste delicious. However, remember that low-carb beers contain the same amount of alcohol.

Before the party…

Start the evening with a tall glass of water to satisfy your thirst. Avoid using alcoholic beverages for hydration, and then alternate water with alcoholic beverages.

Remember that water (or soda water) slows your pace when it comes to consuming alcohol and also hydrates you. Or if you feel it draws too much attention, a soda-and-lime combination can substitute for a couple of those glasses of strong drink.

And never ever drink on an empty stomach. That is a sure recipe for disaster. So make sure you eat some food before you begin the party.

Three low-calorie cocktails
When you start drinking, the calories can add up really fast. A glass of orange juice has slightly less than 100 calories, but if you mix it with alcohol, the calories double. So learn to use alcohol and mixers smartly. For example, you can save 100 calories if you have a diet soda as your mixer. Also make sure that the juices you use have no added sugar.

Light Caipirinha / Caipirojka: Wash a lime, cut into 8 pieces, put in shaker. Add 2 tsp of organic brown sugar (jaggery is good too), some sugar-free powder and 30 ml of Brazilian Cachaca / vodka. Crush the limes with a crusher until the juice is pressed out. Fill with ice. Shake up, pour into whisky glass. Top with soda if you like.

Try a sour-apple one, made with 15 ml lime juice, 1 tsp sugar free powder and 45ml green apple vodka, for a less than 140-calorie treat.

Bellini: Spoon peach puree to the bottom of a champagne flute (fill 1/4th of a flute). Fill to the top with champagne.
However, beware of the bubbles. Champagne gets you stumbling around very fast.

Turn up the heat
Try these warming drinks while the weather’s still nippy

Make a hot toddy: Toddy is traditionally made with whisky, honey and spices (usually cloves). Usually, a mug is warmed with boiling water before the warming alcoholic drink is poured into it. Less traditional hot toddies use rum or brandy with an orange slice.

Try a posset: Possets are hot, alcoholic, milky drinks that were all the rage in the Middle Ages. A classic Scottish posset combines milk, oatmeal, salt, honey, grated nutmeg and a large shot of whisky heated until it is nearly boiling.

Hot buttered rum: Dissolve two sugar cubes in a little bit of hot water or hot cider and then top it off with two ounces of dark rum and some butter.

Hot cocktails: Pour two ounces of Kahlua and one ounce of vodka into a mug. Add one cup of hot chocolate made with milk. Stir. Put a sugar cube in a coffee mug. Fill the mug till it is two thirds full with boiling water and top it with two ounces of brandy.

- From HT Brunch, Januray 16

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First Published: Jan 14, 2011 17:03 IST