The Mediterranean Diet

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Moyan Brenn via Flickr
Original Image by Moyan Brenn via Flickr

To follow up on a previous blog post on olive oil, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are numerous.  A lot of researchers look to the Mediterranean diet to get a better understanding of how it works and how a lot of its users eat healthy, but still enjoy a glass of wine and oil on a ocassion.

So, who predominantly follows the Mediterranean diet? Those surrounding the Mediterranean sea, such as Turkey, Greece, Algeria, Morocco, Spain, Syria, Lebanon, etc.

While the Mediterranean has the standard suggestions of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it also encourages the moderate consumption of wine and olive oil.  The small additions included in the Mediterranean diet have been praised for their help in lowering heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Original Image by Ania Mendrek via Flickr
Original Image by Ania Mendrek via Flickr

Aspects of Mediterannean diet:

  • Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt for flavor
  • Choosing healthy fats, such as olive oil instead of butter
  • Eat plant based foods, such as whole grains, nuts and legumes
  • Drink red wine in moderation (no more than 5 oz. for women and men over 65 years old, no more than 10 oz. of wine daily for men).
  • Opt for low fat dairy, such as skim milk, cheese and ice cream
  • High in fiber, which aids in digestion and alleviates constipation

The diet isn’t only strong in fruits and vegetables, but it is common for the Greek to average 6 or more servings of the fruits and veggies.  Unlike traditional American restaurants, the Greek eat whole grain bread either plain or in olive oil, not in butter.  Commonly, a handful of nuts are eaten as a great source of protein.


Role of Reservatrol in Your Health

By: Nikki Nies

You may have heard recommendations to drink a glass of wine at dinner.  It’s not for the added taste, but the health benefits of drinking wine, specifically red wine, has been recommended by many physicians.

Now you might be wondering why red wine’s considered to be healthier, well, it’s because the grapes’ skin, which contains antioxidants called resveratrol, is still in tact during the production of red wine. In regards to white wine, the skin and seeds of the grapes are removed before production, which also removes some great health benefits.

Perceived Benefits:

Original Image by Jing via Flickr
Original Image by Jing via Flickr
  • Contains resveratrol–May prevent heart disease, reduce inflammation, prevents blood clots, reduces LDL levels
    • Resveratrol’s a phytochemical found in many fruits, such as billberries, blueberries, grapes, cocoa, cranberries, peanuts and walnuts
    • May be helpful in treating neurological diseases—i.e. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as reservatrol can help in the formation of nerve cells
    • Preserves muscle fiberContains flavonoids, which polyphenols that may protect the lining of the blood vessels in one’s heart

  • Increases “good” cholesterol levels–High density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Protects against artery damage
  • May reduce risk of dementia
  • May decrease fat absorption into body
  • May prevent hearing loss
  • May favorably influence lipid profiles following one’s meal
  • Contains flavonoids, which are polyphenols that can protect the lining of the blood vessels in one’s heart
    • The relationship between the sweetness of wine in relation to number of flavonoids—the sweeter the wine, the fewer the flavonoids

As with many health claims, yes, there has been research done on the perceived benefits,  but one can’t assume consuming wine regularly will be the magic “potion” needed to prevent the aforementioned activities to subside.

**It’s recommended 5 oz. of wine daily can provide the benefits sought from drinking wine**

So to reap the most benefits of your glass of wine, choose Merlot, Chianti, Pinot and you’re good to go! Enjoy!



Alcohol 101

Original Image by Lindsey G via Flickr
Original Image by Lindsey G via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

The consumption of alcohol (ETOH) has become a regular factor of American life. Whether it’s drinking a nice cold beer after a long day’s work, socializing with friends over wine and cheese or the customary blow out for one’s 21st birthday. The fact is, alcohol consumption is associated with relaxing and fun.

I’m sure you’ve heard you shouldn’t drink your calories and it sounds silly for me to say, but that includes alcoholic beverages as well. I’ve become so dependent on nutrition fact labels that if it’s there, I can’t help but look. However, how many of you know what the recommended consumption of wine and liquor is? When you’re out with friends are you counting the amount of calories and/or sugar content? No, you’re out to have a good time.

I have to admit my nutrition interest has seeped into other realms of my life. Last Wednesday I was out with my friend chilling at the local bar and she kept asking me why I wasn’t drinking the beer, saying she wished she knew I didn’t like Coors Light. I was too embarrassed to tell her, especially as a non nutrition major, that I couldn’t help, but wonder how many calories and grams of sugar I consuming with the beer and Long Island Iced Tea she ordered. Of course, I could’ve pulled that info up on my iPhone, but part of me didn’t want to know at the time.

I recently heard one should allot 10% of their calories to whatever pleasures they want. So, if one’s on a 2000 calorie diet, allotting 200 calories to whatever treats is allowed. I should be consuming around 1600 calories so the number of discretionary calories for me is less than 200 calories, however, without even looking up the nutrition facts I knew I’d be over my recommended caloric intake if I drank all the beer.

Different liquors have varying alcohol content. In fact, many light beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beer – about 85% as much.

I don’t value beer or alcohol as highly as my fellow college students. I would rather spend my discretionary calories on sweets. Yes, I know alcohol’s a form of sugar. For the future and to be more aware of my surroundings, I’ve created a cheat sheet of customary alcoholic beverages, how much one REALLY is consuming. These numbers might make you think again when ordering your next drink. How many of you only have one? It’s hard, right?

Calories Amount Grams of alcohol Mg of Potassium Gram of OH Grams of total carbohydrates Grams of sugar Mg of sodium
Vodka, 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 13.9 0.4 13.9
Vodka, 100 proof 123 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 17.7
Red Wine, burgundy 127 5 fluid oz. 15.2 5.5
White wine, 10% alcohol 121 5.2 oz. 105.1 15.2 3.8 1.4 7
Tequila, 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 13.9
Whiskey, 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 13.9
Vodka tonic, no lemon or lime wedge 169 8.5 fluid oz. 13.4 18.8 18.8 26
Champagne 78 4.1 fluid oz. 10.3 1.2
White wine, Riesling, 9.5% alcohol 120 5 fluid oz. 14.1 5.5
Bloody Mary 125 10 fluid oz. 13.2 6.8 5.1 461
Margarita 153 3.3 fluid oz. 17.7 7 4.3 583
Gin; 80 proof 96 1.5 fluid oz. 0.8 13.9
Sugar free Red Bull and vodka 74 1 fluid oz. of vodka; 1 can of Red Bull 2.9 197
Smirnoff Vodka; red label; 40% 97 1.5 fluid oz.; shot 13.9
Kahlua; 20% alcohol 91 1 fluid oz. 14.7 4.6 3

I really like this chart and breakdown on different wines.


Last, but not least, a little alcohol’s fine in moderation. What’s moderation? A standard drink’s considered on that contains 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol, which is equivalent to:


For men, moderate drinking’s considered two drinks daily daily, while for women it’s considered one drink a day.

Overconsumption of alcoholic drinks can cause nutritional risk and lifelong damage to one’s liver.

Impact of alcohol on one’s life:

  • Alcohol and body composition:
    • Incorporating alcohol in one’s diet can lead to obesity
    • Drinking instead of regular dietary intake can cause muscle loss or protein malnutrition
    • Men that drink 2 or more drinks are found to have higher BMI than their nondrinking counterparts
    • Higher incidence of drinking may result or be in addition to problematic eating behaviors
  • Alcohol and digestion:
    • Chronic consumption impairs pancreatic endocrine function and/or pancreatic enzyme secretion, furthering to fat and/or protein malabsorption
    • Common side effect: insulin resistance, causing energy store depletion and impaired glycogen formation
    • Excessive lactic acid production can occur because of anaerobic energy production
  • Alcohol and nutrients:
    • Alcohol consumption cab lead to impaired amino acid uptake and protein synthesis in liver
    • Increased protein oxidation due to cell regeneration
    • Leptin can be increased, which is pro-inflammatory and decreases appetite
    • Uptake of folate, vitamin B6, B1 and vitamin A may be decreased with alcohol
    • Common deficiency among drinkers: folic acid deficiency because of increased demand for nucleic acids needed for regeneration of injured liver cells
    • Alcohol’s an antagonists of vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3 and vitamin K
  • Alcohol and tolerance
    • Alcohol metabolism converts LADH to other oxidizing system, which increases alcohol tolerance and lowers caloric output
  • Alcohol and hormones
    • Alcohol’s a strong mediator of sex hormones
    • i.e. ethanol—a testicular toxin, which coverts testosterone to estrogen
    • men may develop infertility, gonadal atrophy, feminization
    • Abusers tend to have lower LH and FSH levels
  • Alcohol and heart disease and oxidative stress
    • Moderate consumption’s been seen to have the lowest mortality rate
    • Often seen that moderate consumption of alcohol often consume moderately in other aspects of their lives


Photo Credit: NIAAA, Wine Folly and NBC News