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The Upside of Alcohol

Good spirits: Some alcoholic beverages provide antioxidants and others may reduce cholesterol.

By Sara Reistad-Long
Can You Drink to Your Health? Miha Matei (Illustrations: Andrew Rea)

Moderation May Lower Cholesterol

Many studies have linked the consumption of any kind of alcohol in moderation to high levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, but scientists initially theorized this outcome had more to do with the sorts of people who drink in moderation than with the alcohol itself causing physical changes. However, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2007 suggests otherwise. Researchers examined the bloodstreams of older moderate drinkers (people who had one to six drinks a week) and saw that they had larger particles of good and bad (LDL) cholesterol in their bloodstreams than did those who drank more. Why is bigger better? Larger HDL particles fight heart disease, while sizable LDL particles are less likely to cause it.

Alcohol Boosts the Benefits of Fruit

A 2007 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that adding fruit to alcoholic drinks―plopping strawberries in Champagne or sliced apples in sangria―may help to increase the already beneficial antioxidant potency of the fruits. The effect you get depends on the fruit you use (berries tend to be the most antioxidant-rich) and how much you include in your drink. So a fresh-raspberry margarita, for example, offers more nutrients than one made with a juice concentrate or mix. Also, “the latter two often contain more refined sugars, so more calories, and less fiber,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., a nutritionist and the author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (Fair Winds Press, $25).


Read More About:Preventative Health

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