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How to Make Your Happy Hour Healthy

A glass of wine and a tasty meal can do wonders for your health.

For years, wine has been touted for its health benefits—and with good reason. Wine, and other cocktails, may be good for your heart and could even tack years onto your life.

To reap the benefits, however, it’s important to consume alcohol in moderation, or one standard drink a day for women, and two for men. Depending on your cocktail of choice, the size of a “standard” drink varies: 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or 12 ounces of beer. 

Studies suggest moderate drinking reduces risks of heart disease and related deaths, stroke and diabetes. The connection between heart health and moderate drinking is still somewhat unclear, but “there have been some recent studies about red wine's antioxidant effects, in moderation,” says family practitioner, Wenny Jean, MD of Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas.

Antioxidants found in alcoholic drinks, or perhaps the alcohol itself, may boost HDL or “good” cholesterol levels, while preventing the buildup of bad cholesterol (LDL). “Pyrethrins is the antioxidant in red wine. It not only lowers the risk of heart disease, but also stroke,” Jean says.

If you don’t already enjoy a daily cocktail or two, there is no need to start. But if you do, pairing your drink of choice with a healthy (and delicious) dish is a tasty way to take in extra nutrients. 

The perfect pairs
Pinot Noir: In addition to providing antioxidants, pinot noir also has an array of flavors—berries, vanilla and oak to name a few. The earthy tones pair well with similar flavors, like mushrooms. Enjoy this wine with a potassium-rich grilled portabella mushroom cap or a side of sautéed mushrooms, which promote  proper cell and tissue function.

Cabernet: This deep red wine with a full-bodied flavor of cherry, pepper and espresso, is a fantastic accompaniment to an Italian dish, like a homemade tomato sauce. Opt for a whole wheat pasta or, better yet, spaghetti squash! Spaghetti squash contains only 40 calories per cup, and is loaded with fiber and vitamin C—which help promote regularity and weight loss, and boost your immune system.

Cannonau Di Sardegna: Bursting with berry flavor, this wine pairs well with rich dark chocolate, which boasts its own benefits. Dark chocolate promotes heart health, and can lower blood pressure. “We don't recommend more than one ounce of dark chocolate and it has to be greater than 70% cocoa dark chocolate to have an antioxidant effect,” Jean says.

Pinot Grigio: A crisp white wine, like pinot grigio, has flavors of lemon, pear and apple that complement seafood, like shrimp. Fish, like shrimp and salmon are abundant in nutrients like vitamins B12 and E. Shrimp is also a good source of iron, 15 percent daily recommended value. Vitamin B12 is required for proper blood cell formation and iron  promotes a healthy metabolism and cell function.

Riesling: Prep a bowl of an Asian-inspired salad, which is super tasty—with the apricot, apple and pear flavors of a white Riesling! Start with a bed of greens—like bok choy—and add mandarin oranges. A quarter cup of this sweet addition contains only 25 calories, but is packed with vitamins A and C.

Before you head to the package store, start your journey for a longer, healthier life by taking the RealAge Test, which measures your body’s age, based on family history and lifestyle factors. If your RealAge is lower than your biological age, you’re on the right track. If not, we’ll give you personalized recommendations for lowering your RealAge.