Introducing The Real World Diet from Dr. GourmetThe A-Z of celebrity diets
Nutritionists and physicians are careful about recommending alcoholic beverages, but agree red wine is good for you in small doses. Research suggests antioxidants in red wine, called polyphenols, help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart.
These antioxidants come in two main forms: flavonoids and nonflavonoids. Flavonoids are found in foods such as oranges, apples, onions, tea, cocoa and grape juice, as well as other alcoholic drinks like beer and white wine, but red wine contains the highest levels.
Resveratrol, a nonflavonoid antioxidant, is a key ingredient in red wine that appears to help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol and prevent blood clots.
Some research shows that resveratrol may reduce inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease.
More research is needed before it’s known whether resveratrol causes these effects. If you choose to drink wine for your health, Tallmadge says stick to red, because research has shown red grapes have 10 times more health benefit than white grapes.
“It seems all the benefits, like resveratrol, are in the seeds and the skin,” Tallmadge says, “So when they crush the red grapes, the benefits stay in the wine.”
But Georgetown’s Shields says that any alcohol, including wine, has also been found to increase the risk of breast cancer. “Some studies have shown an increase risk of 14 percent with each gram of wine you drink on a daily basis,” he says.
And a recently published study found that drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol raises the risk of a breast cancer recurrence.
“It’s really important that you moderate how much you drink, because the risk might outweigh the benefit,”
Shields says, Green Tea
“Think green,” Tallmadge says. Green tea is also full of antioxidants that scientists say can ward off some cancers. In a recent Japanese study that looked at nearly 500 Japanese women with stage I and II breast cancer, researchers found the women who drank more green tea before and after surgery had a lower chance of the cancer recurring. Other studies from China showed that the more green tea patients drank, the lower their risk of developing stomach, esophageal, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancer, compared with those who did not drink green tea.
Recent studies have shown green tea can even help you stay thin. “They’ve found people who drink green tea every day are leaner,” Tallmadge says. “Green tea helps lower belly fat.”
Scientists say that’s because it revs up your metabolism.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, green tea extract increased energy expenditure, which is a measure of metabolism, plus it had a significant effect on fat oxidation, or how much fat your body burns.
But here’s the catch: One cup won’t do the trick. “You have to drink a lot of it … at least three, up to six cups a day, to get the effect,” Tallmadge says. “And that means you use bags or loose tea every time you make a cup.” In other words, to get the full benefit, you have to brew it, not buy it in a bottle.
Another catch? Most of the green tea research has been done on animals. “Although laboratory data has shown great benefits in green tea, a lot of statistics on humans still aren’t there yet,” Shields says. “The green tea industry has asked the FDA for permission to let them put these claims on their boxes; as of now, the FDA says there’s not enough human data to justify the labeling.”
Back to that list of resolutions. When it comes to eating better, Tallmadge and Shields say moderation and balance are important. No one food is going to keep you cancer-free or make your heart healthy. “It’s unrealistic to think that eating only soy or grains all the time is going to make you a healthier person,” Shields says. “You need to look at the whole picture, and have good, healthy behaviors: Eat well, drink in moderation and stay active. All of these lead to a healthier life.”
Tallmadge agrees. “Putting these foods into your diet are excellent substitutes for other foods that may not be healthy,” she says. “If you are trying to cut down on sugar, and are looking for a drink alternative, why not green tea? Or a better snack at night can be rye crackers instead of chips. It’s all a matter of balance and good nutrition.”