Why wine is good for you: Mediterranean wine and food for the over-50s

Posted on: 09 October 2013 by 50connect editorial

Sarah Abbott looks at the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and chooses her wine of the month.

Fitou reserve

The healthy properties of a Mediterranean diet for all are widely known, but this vibrant cuisine is especially beneficial for the over-50s. The sun and warmth of the Mediterranean zone ripen olives, herbs, fruits, vegetables, beans and grains in profusion. These, and the seafood and fish from the sea, are the basis for Mediterranean cooking. It is particularly good for we Brits partly because it is so different to our traditional recipes. To swap olive oil for butter, red meat for fish, and whole-grains and legumes for chips and pastry is to make a dramatic change in our daily nutrition. Mediterranean cooking is rich in vitamins, because fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs feature so prominently. It is much lower in saturated fat, and so is much better for our hearts. There is also evidence that the Mediterranean diet is better for our bones: their incidence of osteoporosis in the over 50s is much lower than ours.

There are many but conflicting sources of advice on the healthy consumption of alcohol for the over 50s. Don’t drink too much, is the core message. But wine has a special status as the “healthy” alcoholic drink. This reputation is centuries long. The symbolic associations of wine, which itself is rooted in the marvel of fermented transformation, meant that it was woven into the earliest medicine, which was generally under the control of priests. Wine’s association with health is also thoroughly practical: it was a safer, more sanitary drink than water until at least the 18th century. Harmful bacteria and parasites can’t survive in the high acidity, high alcohol wine environment. Wine has a long medical history as an antiseptic, and as a mild anaesthetic.

Today, wine’s principle claim to health fame is in its antioxidant and anti-coagulant properties. Regular, moderate consumption of, particularly red, wine is good for your heart, and possibly general health, too. But habitual heavy drinking certainly isn’t. Here, we should look again at the Mediterranean countries. In Greece, Spain, France and Italy, wine is the principle alcoholic drink. And the locals drink it frequently, daily in fact, with meals. Total consumption is, however, moderate. You very rarely see the reckless inebriation which is almost expected in sun-starved northern European. And here’s another thing I think the inhabitants of the Med can teach us. In my travels to wine regions and visits to wine makers, I have observed the attention and joy with which they prepare, share and eat meals. They practise, quite naturally, Mindful Eating. This applies also to they way they drink wine. They choose a bottle with some care and anticipation. They think and chat about what they’d like to drink, and what it’s going with. And then they really savour and share it.

It’s this attitude towards the joys of eating and drinking that can further enhance and support our health. Happiness is good for us. So, enjoy a couple of glasses of a wine you really love, with a heart-healthy and delicious taste of the Med. There are some great tips and recipe ideas for following the Mediterranean diet here, and once you’ve decided what you fancy for dinner, here is a delicious, anti-oxidant, uplifting red from the south of France to go with it.



Fitou Reserve Mont Tauch - £8.99 per bottle.

This spicy, juicy red from the beautiful, rocky Languedoc is a blend of the classic Southern French varieties of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. Gorgeously fruity, supple and smoothly intense.



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About Sarah Abbott

Sarah Abbott is a Master of Wine, and works with new online wine retailer Rude Wines.

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