For this year’s holiday season, we’re doing something different: A DIY wine mulling kit!
For this year’s holiday season, we’re doing something different: A DIY wine mulling kit!

Mulled wine is a traditional seasonal drink made with red wine—but it’s so much more. (And if you’re like me and don’t drink alcohol, you can make a nonalcoholic version that’ll work just as well.) You can think of mulled wine as “wine plus one,” with the “plus one” being a rich concoction of delicious—and incredibly healthful—spices.

Chef Jeannette and her family decided to give wine mulling kits as Christmas presents this year, so we all get to benefit. That’s because she put the whole thing in an easy-to-follow recipe that will allow you to delight your friends and families with this original and thoughtful gift.

What Ingredients Are Used in Mulled Wine?

Since wine is our featured ingredient this month, let me make sure to give props to the supporting cast of this inventive little recipe. 

  • Apple cider is a rich source of many of the plant compounds found in apples, including flavonoids, which have multiple documented health benefits. 
  • Ginger is antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and may even inhibit inflammatory processes in the brain. 
  • Cinnamon also does double duty as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and in some studies has been shown to help lower blood sugar.
  • In Asian medicine, cloves are thought to be among the spices that promote energy circulation and increase metabolic rate. And the highly respected German Commission E has approved their use as antiseptics and anesthetics. 
  • People who have eaten in Indian restaurants are probably familiar with cardamom because it’s usually offered in a dish by the cashier’s station— like mints in an American restaurant. But cardamom does a lot more than make your mouth taste good after eating. It’s been used as a digestive aid since ancient times, and is known for easing stomach cramps, stimulating digestion, and cutting mucus.

So assemble this lovely little package and send it off as a gift. It’s as easy as counting to four:

  1. Make the spiced syrup. 
  2. Pack it up with a bottle of red. 
  3. Throw in an orange (or apple) and a box of raisins. 
  4. Print up the directions, stick it all in a nice gift box, and you’re done. 

Chef Jeannette even offers a sugar-free option. This will be a stocking stuffer gift everyone will love!

Featured ingredient: Wine

As far back as 2004, researchers writing in the British Medical Journal included red wine in what they proposed was—from a preventative medicine point of view—the perfect meal. They called it the “polymeal,” and proposed that if everyone in the world were to eat this meal on a regular basis, there would be double-digit reductions in deaths from heart disease, a reduction equal to that achievable by medications. In fact, the authors calculated that based on the available research, 150 ml of wine a day would likely result in a 23–41 percent reduction in risk for coronary heart disease.

One of the reasons (not the only one) that red wine is considered so doggone healthy is that it’s a potent source of one of the great “anti-aging” substances of all time, resveratrol. In studies, the life spans of everything from yeast cells to mice to monkeys have been dramatically lengthened by resveratrol. Studies have also shown that resveratrol has a myriad of other benefits, including increasing insulin sensitivity, protecting the brain, and lowering inflammation.

Besides resveratrol, there are other health-promoting polyphenols in red wine, and many of these are heart-protective. Studies investigating the benefits of red wine suggest that a moderate amount of red wine (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) lowers the risk of heart attack for middle-aged people by 30–50 percent. It’s also suggested that alcohol may prevent additional heart attacks if you have already suffered one. Other studies have indicated that red wine can raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Red wine may help prevent blood clots and reduce the blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits. Indeed, studies showed that people from the Mediterranean region who regularly drink red wine have lower risks of heart disease.

Red Wine and the Risk of Breast Cancer

Before you go out and start guzzling, here’s where it gets tricky, especially if you’re a woman. The relationship of alcohol consumption to breast cancer risk is murky but troubling. Some studies have found an increased risk of breast cancer for women who drink, even moderately.

The bad news is that—in general—alcohol does appear to increase the risk of breast cancer in women, albeit moderately. But there’s good news, If you get enough folate, the problem with alcohol and breast cancer goes away. According to the Mayo Clinic, folate counteracts the breast cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption. Women who drink alcohol and have a high folate intake are not at increased risk of cancer. So make sure you’re getting at least a multi’s dose of folate every day (usually 400–800 mcg).

Alcohol and Stress Reduction

Shakespeare referred to alcohol’s stress-reducing properties in Julius Caesar: “Give me a bowl of wine. In this I bury all unkindness.” But the notion that alcohol can “calm the nerves” has been around long before Shakespeare.

Alcohol is considered a “disinhibitor,” technical talk for loosening people up. In an uptight, stress-packed world, a little winding down can be a good thing, and anything that helps people connect, socialize, laugh, and relax is definitely good from a health point of view. The problem is, alcohol is also related to an awful lot of bad stuff, and many people do not really understand the word “moderation” (I’m one of them).

So the best and most truthful thing to say about red wine regarding its stress- reducing properties is that drinking can reduce stress in certain people and under certain circumstances. Whether you are one of those people is something only you can decide. If alcohol is an issue, you can get all the health benefits of red wine by eating a lot of dark grapes or taking resveratrol supplements. And if alcohol isn’t an issue—well, then, drink up and be merry!

Notes from The Clean Food Coach

The best mulling wines are fresh and fruity choices, such as Italian or Shiraz. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or a full-bodied Merlot can also work well. Go for a wine you enjoy, but there’s no need to overspend, as you are mulling.

For teetotalers, substitute 1-quart jugs of apple cider and a cinnamon stick for the wine with the same instructions.

Make one of your DIY Wine Mulling Kits.

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