Growing up I heard a tale once that I pretty much just ignored, chalking it up to southern mothers talking about old wives tales.
I was told that a shot of whiskey a day – a single shot – was in fact fairly healthy for you. See why I couldn’t believe it?
Now, years after I’d originally heard what I thought was a story, I’m finding out that there’s truth behind it after all! Obviously you can’t just keep drinking after that single shot in order for it to be true, but if you don’t you’ll find it quite a surprise as to what all whiskey can do for yourself and your body.
When people think of whiskey (also known as whisky), there are countless different images that come to mind. Hard-drinking cowboys in old western movies taking shots before barroom brawls, Prohibition-era speakeasies from Chicago to New York, or just that overwhelming smell of whiskey as it fills your head and sends chills down your spine. People tend to have a love-hate relationship with this particular form of alcohol, but if everyone knew all of the health benefits that it contains, plenty of people would likely change their tune and ask the bartender for one more whiskey, neat.
By definition, whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage that is made of some type of grain mash. The quality, flavor, price, and name of the whiskey in question depend on which type of grain you might be making your whiskey from, including barley, wheat, rye, corn, buckwheat, etc. Different types of whiskeys are produced from different whole grains using pot stills or column stills. The processes are very similar, but the tastes are distinctly different and preferred in different parts of the world. Finally, the method of storing and aging, which is usually done in cask barrels, also determines the quality and flavor of whiskey. A rye whiskey aged for 10 years in a charred white oak cask will taste completely different from a barley whiskey aged for 15 years in a wine cask, which some distilleries choose to do. This results in a massive variety of whiskeys throughout the world, and being a connoisseur of this particular alcoholic discipline is intoxicatingly enjoyable.
Health Benefits of Whiskey
Weight Loss: Many people associate drinking heavily with developing a “beer gut” or losing their muscle tone due to excessive alcohol. That is completely true. However, drinking in moderation doesn’t necessarily have to impact your weight, particularly if you drink whiskey. This delicious liquor has no fat, very little sodium. It does contain calories and carbohydrates, but in the form of alcohol, and the small amount it does contain is simple sugars that are quickly broken down to be used as energy for the body. Therefore, instead of pounding pints of beer at the bar, have a few neat whiskeys instead to maintain your weight while still having a good time.
Dementia: Studies have actually shown that whiskey can successfully boost your cognitive performance and reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Although studies are ongoing and there is quite a bit of controversy regarding alcohol as a treatment/preventative method, there is no denying that ellagic acid is extrememly powerful in terms of fighting against free radicals within the body. These free radicals are often associated with interrupting neural pathways and contributing to the slow decline towards dementia. Whiskey can reduce that mental decline and improve our quality of life as we get older. Once again, this is useful when consumed in moderation; too much alcohol kills brain cells and does the precise opposite of protecting our cognitive activity.
Heart Health: A number of studies have shown whiskey to be a major player in protecting heart health. As our bodies get older, our systems become more frail, resulting in less efficient functioning of various organ systems, and weakness of our cardiovascular system. However, a study has recently revealed that those who consume a moderate amount of whiskey on a regular basis have almost a 50% lower chance of experiencing a stroke or heart attack, which is exceptional news for those at risk of cardiovascular issues.
Blood Clots: In a related note for heart health, whiskey has been shown to significantly reduce blood clotting. Blood clotting is important when you are wounded so you stop losing blood, but internally, if your blood clots at key junctures in your blood vessels or arteries, it can be disastrous. Atherosclerosis, which usually occurs due to a large build-up of cholesterol, can combine with blood clots to result in thrombosis, heart attacks, strokes, and death. Whiskey is a blood-thinner, so it significantly lowers your chances of excess clotting. It also increases the amount of “good” cholesterol, which counteracts the effects of “bad” cholesterol, further protecting your heart.
Cancer Prevention: Cancer is one of the most devastating and globally relevant diseases known to man. We are also constantly looking for ways to prevent and slow down the disease. There are new anti-cancer schemes and fads all the time, but many of them are just that, popular fads with very little medicinal information to back it up. However, whiskey has an extremely high level of ellagic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidant compounds that we can consume. An antioxidant is a compound that neutralizes free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that cause a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and premature aging. This powerful antioxidant makes whiskey a very effective preventative measure against cancer.
Immune System Boost:There have been certain studies that have argued for the immune system-boosting capacity of whiskey. Alcohol does have a traditional role in preventing illness and improving the function of the immune system, but firm evidence was never in hand. Now, we see that the antioxidants and trace levels of vitamins in whiskey do in fact stimulate the immune system, thereby helping to fight off normal colds, illnesses, and infections. All of those old movies where they would pour whiskey on a wound to disinfect it is not just fiction! You can pour whiskey on a fresh wound to make sure it does not get infected!
Diabetes Control: Whiskey has been consistently shown to reduce the chances of diabetes, sometimes by as much as 30-40%. A moderate amount of whiskey can significantly improve your body’s ability to regulate insulin and glucose levels, thereby lowering the possibility of developing diabetes.
A Few Words of Caution: Although these health benefits sound wonderful, there is also a dangerous side to drinking whiskey. Alcoholism and binge drinking are both very detrimental to your overall health, and can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts of whiskey can impart. Therefore, be watchful of how much alcohol you consume, particularly if you try to drink small amounts every day. Your tolerance will increase, and you may feel the desire to continue drinking until you feel that “buzz”. That is a dangerous and unhealthy progression. Consume small to moderate amounts of whiskey for the best, healthiest results.