As February -- American Heart Month -- draws near, presenting a variety of cocktail recipes may seem contradictory. But we've all heard it before, and it's true: We can indulge in spirited ways without doing the health of our hearts any damage.
Just because the cocktails mentioned here are rich in antioxidants, don't think you have an instant excuse to go on a bender. For overall health, we must think and drink responsibly.
Moderation is key for heart health
I love wine -- sparkling wine, especially -- and I love to rationalize that it's doing something for my health. (Interestingly, I use the same excuse with chocolate and avocados.) But it's all about moderation. If you love to indulge in a delicious glass of wine with dinner, you absolutely should. But don't fool yourself into thinking that downing half a bottle is helping your heart.
Have a drink -- one drink
As you peruse the following recipes, adopt this strategy: Have one drink, and make it one you'll really enjoy. If you're sick of wine and light beer (100 to 125 calories per serving), try one of the lighter (but no less fun and festive) cocktails.
A pinot noir worth sipping
"My nomination is cool climate pinot noir from Finger Lakes New York, Oregon's Willammette Valley, Central Coast/Santa Rita Hills," offers John La Puma MD, who practices medicine and nutrition, and actually makes pinot noir in his garage in Santa Barbara, California.
"For its sexiness, its subtlety and its science, pinot noir is the highest in resveratrol of all wines. Resveratrol is an anti-inflammatory compound, and inflammation probably causes heart disease," explains Dr Puma. "Plus, the subtle alcohol level of so many cool-climate pinots raises HDL (healthy cholesterol), protecting the arteries from damage."
Go for fruit- and herb-based cocktails
Cocktails that feature freshly muddled fruits (hello, antioxidants!) and herbs and forego ingredients such as cream and eggs also can be part of a heart-healthy diet. An excellent example is the Raspberry Mule, which marries fresh lime, raspberries and local ginger beer; it's delicious both with and without the alcohol. Of course, it's important to accompany it with a heart-healthy snack like salmon cakes or a pear and pomegranate salad. No drink is heart-healthy if you pair it with loaded nachos!
Antioxidant-rich liqueurs and drink mixes are becoming more readily available. For example, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, made with 100 percent pomegranate juice, is packed naturally with disease-fighting antioxidants. Pair PAMA and Champagne (plus a maraschino cherry as a pretty garnish) for a really fun take on the mimosa. Another tasty option is VeeV Acai Spirit, which is made from the antioxidant-rich superfruit acai berry. If you are a tea lover, ZEN Green Tea Liquer is a fun heart-healthy cocktail addition.
Regardless of your wine or cocktail of choice, the keys to drinking to your heart health are thinking and drinking responsibly. Go ahead, savor your drink -- but have just one. You'll be doing both your heart and waistline a favor.