Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a steaming cup of mulled wine – ideally with a cinnamon stick bobbing inside it, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and a slice of orange hooked fetchingly over the rim.
While drinking too much is always bad for you, it turns out that indulging in a festive glass of mulled wine every now and then does have some unexpected health benefits – which is nothing short of a Christmas miracle, in our opinion.
Here’s a few of our favourites for you to mull over…
It can boost your memory (and fight against Alzheimer’s)
Ever heard of resveratrol? It’s a naturally occurring compound found in foods such as red grapes, red wine, raspberries, and dark chocolate – and it’s a miracle worker when it comes to your memory.
In fact, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Centre have found that resveratrol reduces the ability of harmful immune molecules to infiltrate brain tissue, which could help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
“The study's lead author, Assistant Professor Dr Charbel Moussa said: 'These findings suggest that resveratrol imposes a kind of crowd control at the border of the brain.
“The agent seems to shut out unwanted immune molecules that can exacerbate brain inflammation and kill neurons.
“These are very exciting findings because it shows that resveratrol engages the brain in a measurable way, and that the immune response to Alzheimer's disease comes, in part, from outside the brain.”
It could lower your cholesterol
Which is great news, but it depends on the particular type of red wine you use.
A study from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain has shown that Tempranillo red grapes—which are used to make certain red wines, like Rioja—may actually have a significant effect on cholesterol levels.
Researchers discovered that healthy study participants who consumed the same grape supplement found in red wine saw their LDL (aka their "bad” cholesterol) levels decrease by 9%. Participants with high cholesterol experienced a drop of 12%.
We’ll raise a glass to that…
It can protect your heart
Polyphenols – the antioxidants found in red wine, mulled or nay – can help to keep blood vessels flexible and reduce the risk of unwanted clotting.
Professor John Folts, who specialises in cardiovascular medicine at University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Today: “They’re nearly as effective as aspirin.”
However, as is always the case with alcohol, remember to drink responsibly; too much alcohol can prove damaging to the heart.
Read more: Why Prosecco is good for your health
It can prevent colds
Tis the season to get the sniffles – but, as it turns out, a weekly glass of mulled wine could keep bugs firmly at bay. And it’s all thanks to the antioxidants packed inside each bottle of red plonk; they fight off infections, and protect cells against the effects of free radicals.
Not convinced? Don’t take our word for it; a 2010 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that among 4,000 faculty members at five Spanish universities, those who drank more than 14 weekly glasses of wine for a year were 40% less likely to come down with a common cold.
It can protect you from strokes
Red wine tannins – aka the stuff that makes it glow that ruby-red colour – contain resveratrol, which helps to remove chemicals responsible for causing blood clots. Which, in turn, reduces your chance of having a stroke.
Dr. Natalia Rost, the associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, says: “Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower.”
However she cautions: “Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.”
Read more: Why you need to eat more cheese
It can act as an anti-inflammatory
It wouldn’t be a glass of mulled wine without a few cinnamon sticks, and these Christmassy bundles of fun are filled with antioxidants. Cue a potent anti-inflammatory activity, which can reduce swelling and restore normal tissue function – not to mention ease arthritic aches and pains.
It’s good for your bones
Once again, you can thank your red wine for this; a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology in April 2000 showed that women who drank 11 to 29 grams of alcohol a day -- the equivalent of one to three glasses of wine -- had greater bone mineral density, measured in the hip region of their thighbones, than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers.
Bone mineral density, for those wondering, is the measure physicians use to determine bone strength and resilience.
Read more: The amazing health benefits of gin, revealed
It can detoxify your body – particularly your liver
Enjoy nutmeg in your mulled wine? Who can blame you; not only does it taste magnificent, but it also acts as a detoxifying agent and can improve the overall health of your body. More specifically, though, it rules supreme in looking after your liver and kidney; nutmeg helps to cleanse these organs out of all the toxins that may be stored there, from alcohol, drugs, pollution, food, or natural organic toxins.
It can help to dissolve kidney stones
Again, this is all about the nutmeg you’re consuming via your mulled wine; its active ingredients have been shown to help to dissolve kidney stones, and increase overall function and efficiency of the kidney and liver.
Read more: 14 signs that gin is your one true love
It can help ease constipation
If your mulled wine features cloves (and it really should – this is a crucial ingredient for the ultimate Christmassy tipple), you’re in luck; the active principles in the clove may increase gut motility as well as improve the digestion power through increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. Which, when you break it down, simply means that it can help to relieve indigestion and constipation problems - amazing.
It can lower your risk of diabetes
Mulled wine can help to ward off diabetes; in fact, a 2009 study in Canada showed that all wines can lower your risk of contracting the disease by a cool 13%.
However they do warn that people who already have diabetes should take care when drinking alcohol; drink slowly, eat carbohydrate-rich foods, and be aware that glucagon (a treatment for low blood glucose) will not work when alcohol is in your blood system. It’s also worth remembering that mulled wine can often have a higher sugar content than most other vinos.
Read more: Say hello to this epic WINE advent calendar
It’s a total beauty booster
Yes, really. Anshul Jaibharat, a Delhi-based nutritionist, explains: “It is really good for skin and in fact, prevents ageing of skin.
“Red wine is packed with antioxidants like flavonoid, resveratrol and tannin which help fight ageing by restoring collagen and elastic fibres.”
If you don’t fancy drinking the stuff, you can mix your red vino with rosehips, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, and essential oils to make a little mulled wine facial. Just massage it into the skin, leave for 10 minutes, and then wash it clean – voila!
It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But please do remember that less is definitely more when it comes to booze, so stay smart, drink responsibly, and avoid partaking in anything more than one glass a night. As with any alcohol, over-imbibing can wreak havoc on your health.
Otherwise… bottoms up!