Wine expert and best-selling food writer Sam Rice has a new column in Top Santé on how to incorporate alcohol into a healthy lifestyle. After all, the responsible enjoyment of a nice glass of wine or a delicious cocktail can be relaxing and sociable, and contribute to overall wellbeing. You can follow Sam on Instagram @midlifekitchen and on her blog stealthhealthblog.com.
Who doesn’t love a garden party, picnic or barbecue with a glass of something chilled in hand at this time of year? But, is it really possible to enjoy a drink and stay healthy?
As a health writer and wine expert I believe that it most certainly is. The key, as ever, is moderation and there are some excellent apps you can download to help you keep track of your drinking (see drinkaware.com).
To minimise the health risks associated with alcohol, current advice is:
- Stick to a maximum of 14 units a week.
- Have no more than six units in one session (or eight for men). More than this is considered a ‘binge’ and the health risks increase significantly.
- Keep at least three days drink-free each week, ideally two consecutively.
Go low alcohol…
Even with the best intentions, summertime can make it difficult to keep a lid on alcohol consumption. A tactic I use is to reduce the alcohol content of my drinks, so that even if I have more glasses I’m still within the limits.
As far as lower ABV (alcohol by volume) wines are concerned, anything under 11 per cent, is a good choice. If you dilute it with fizzy water the alcohol content is even lower.
I am a huge fan of fizz and have recently discovered ciders that are made in much the same way as Champagne. They have that same delicate sparkle but with less alcohol and they are to be drunk by the flute rather than the pint!
If you really want booze with benefits, one of the most exciting trends I’ve spotted is for low ABV kombuchas. They’ll give you a hint of celebratory fizz, a teeny hit of alcohol and a whole load of gut health benefits thanks to their probiotic content.
To illustrate how these lower-alcohol drinks can help you stay within your 14 unit weekly allowance you could have:
7 x 150ml glasses of ‘standard’ strength wine (12.5-13% ABV)
10 glasses of 9.5% ABV wine (or 20 if you mix 50/50 with sparkling water)
11 glasses of 8.3% ABV sparkling cider
77 glasses of 1.2% ABV kombucha
I’m not suggesting you actually have 77 glasses of kombucha in a week by the way! It simply illustrates how paying attention to the ABV of your drinks can really help keep your alcohol intake in check. So raise a glass and say santé!
Lower alcohol drinks for summer for you to try
The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc
A NZ-style wine crafted to be lower alcohol – just 9.5% ABV. (£8.99, waitrosecellar.
This lovely English sparkling cider is more akin to Champagne
than scrumpy and it’s 8.3% ABV. (£7.49, laithwaites.co.uk).
Old Tree Brewery Kombucha
This has a kick and an alcohol content of just 1.2% ABV. (£3.75, sevencellars.co.uk).