December 1, 2004


IT'S the season for a bit of Christmas cheer but that doesn't have to mean a few weeks of hangovers and shameful behaviour.

You could actually benefit from a moderate tipple because new research shows it can help you live longer and be 30 per cent more likely than a teetotaller to survive a heart attack. You can also expect to enjoy better general health, too.

Sensible drinking can provide a range of other surprising health benefits. So, as we enter the season to be merry, here are some festive favourites that are actually good for you...


Protects against heart disease

MAKE this your occasional tipple at Christmas and you'll look after your heart.

Red wine drinkers could reduce their risk of heart disease by as much as 50 per cent.

In moderation, any alcohol can raise levels of "good" cholesterol in the blood.

But the extra benefit of red wine comes from the flavonoid antioxidants it contains, which help prevent clots and protect against artery damage.

SHERRY Lowers cholesterol

SPANISH scientists established that drinking a glass of sherry every day could decrease the amount of bad cholesterol in the body, because the drink is packed with antioxidants.


Fights a cold

MAKE a bucks fizz with 125ml of orange juice and champagne and you'll get the full recommended daily allowance of immune-enhancing vitamin C.

Small quantities of alcohol are also known to enhance immunity, so the combo is perfect if you're feeling under the weather.

SEA BREEZE Prevents cystitis

THE cranberry juice helps fight urinary infections such as cystitis. About 300ml (equivalent to a couple of large cocktails) significantly reduces the incidence of infections in women, according to research in the Journal Of The American Medical Association.

Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which stop infection- causing bacteria such as Ecoli sticking to the bladder wall.

BEER Boosts your bones

RESEARCH at King's College and St Thomas' hospital in London found that silicon in the diet is directly linked to bone strength.

As beer is one of the richest sources of silicon, a pint a day may be an effective way to keep your bones strong and protect against osteoporosis.

And taking out the alcohol doesn't remove the nutrients, so you can have low-alcohol beers and still benefit.

GIN Beats the bloat

THE juniper berries which flavour gin were originally a herbal remedy for diseases of the kidneys and liver.

They have a diuretic action that make you need the loo more often. Because of this, gin can offer a short-term solution to bloating - especially in women with PMS.

CIDER Fights anaemia

CIDER can reduce your chances of developing iron-deficiency (symptoms include weakness, fatigue, lack of concentration and dizziness).

That's because just one pint of sweet or dry cider supplies one fifth of the recommended daily allowance of iron.

WHISKY Helps you sleep

DOCTORS often recommend a hot toddy to help induce sleep.

It works because the whisky helps you relax and the warm drink is soothing to your sinuses.

Adding a spoonful of honey and lemon will also help to beat a sore throat.

A Scotch is also one of the most waistline-friendly alcoholic drinks, with a single shot supplying only 55 calories.

VODKA Good for allergies

IT'S so highly distilled and purified that even people with a sensitive gut or multiple allergies can tolerate it.

So if you're gagging for a drink but need a sugar-free, yeast- free option, go for vodka.

It's also less likely to give you a hangover - one analysis found that vodka had only one six-thousandth of the content of headache- inducing toxic methanol as bourbon.

GUINNESS Helps you convalesce

ALL that talk about Guinness being good for anaemia is blarney (the black colour comes from roasted, malted barley, not iron). But there's truth in the idea that Guinness can help you convalesce.

It taste good and, like all alcohol, it boosts appetite, so if you've lost yours due to illness, it can help build you up again.

WHITE WINE Eases joint pain

THIS contains substances called tyrosol and caffeic acid, which are also in extra virgin olive oil.

According to Italian studies, these can help suppress the inflammatory reaction that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis.

BLOODY MARY Protects against cancer

TWO Bloody Marys containing 125ml tomato juice each provides the recommended daily intake of lycopene - an antioxidant linked with lower rates of prostate cancer in men. Lycopene can also protect against lung, colon and breast cancer.

LAGER Good for low-carb dieters

MOST standard lagers have only a trace of carbohydrate (compared with 12.4g in a pint of bitter) so they're perfect if you're following an Atkin's-style diet.

But premium lagers have as much or more carbs than beers, so you'll need to look for a special low-carb version.

SHAKEN MARTINI Fights ageing

CANADIAN scientists found that James Bond's favourite tipple had, for some reason, better antioxidant properties than a stirred one.

They also found that the mixed ingredients - equal parts vermouth and gin - were better at combating free radicals (linked with cancer and premature ageing) than either drink on its own. Which could explain why 007 always has so much energy...

..and here are a few tipples you may regret


A BOURBON, which means it has been aged in charred oak barrels and picked up lots of chemical extracts along the way.

As a result, it has one of the worst reputations for giving you a hangover.


IN a 50ml serving there are 175 calories and 7.8g of fat.

That's one fifth of a woman's and one sixth of a man's daily guideline intake of saturated fat.

If you can't resist, drink only in pubs, where the measures are controlled.


COMBINE brandy - a drink with a high chance of giving you a hangover - with fattening cream, plus creme de cacao, and you get a hefty old drink. Best in strict moderation.


IT'S too easy to knock them back as you would a soft drink - and an average bottle has around 200 calories and 1.5 alcohol units. So opt for Diet Bacardi Breezer instead at only 96 calories.