Many people wonder about the health benefits of certain types of alcohol. We’ve all heard stories about how beer was something of a meal for sailors, how wine can increase longevity, and how spirits can, well, lift your spirit. In most cases, the alcohol consumed is not that beneficial – either there are better sources of the nutrition or there are too many negative side effects that can’t be overlooked.
This got me wondering about one of my favorite drinks: sake (which is pronounced SA-keh, not SAH-kee).
Available at many sushi restaurants and local grocery stores, sake is well known for its taste, pungency, and traditional forms of serving.
What is Sake?
Let’s start with the basic question most people ask themselves: what is sake? Is it a beer? A wine? A spirit?
Sake World does a great job at explaining this, stating that “Sake is a beverage fermented from rice, which is a grain. This would make it more of a beer than a wine. Yet, sake is not carbonated, and flavor-wise is closer to wine than beer, although it is indeed uniquely different from wine. Sake is not a distilled beverage, and is not even remotely related to gin, vodka or other spirits.” Another thing to note is that sake sports a 15-18 percent alcohol volume regularly, making it stronger than wine.
So what does that make Sake? Personally, I’ve always referred to it as a type of rice wine, which pulls some of the above definitions together. The important thing to note, regardless of title, is that it is made with rice. As we know, rice itself comes with many health benefits. Of course, not all of these are translated into the benefits of sake, though. With over 65 varieties of rice used in sake production, you can find yourself with a whole range of tastes, personalities, and qualities.
The Health Benefits of Sake
With a firm(er) understanding of what sake is, we can start to get into the health benefits of the drink. The first thing that should be noted is that alcohol, in any form, is hazardous to your health when consumed in excess. Don’t kid yourself – sake is still an alcoholic beverage with effects of intoxication.
When it comes to the benefits though, sake has a pretty nice set of claims:
- Culturally, sake has been a part of Japan for anywhere between 13 to 18 centuries, perhaps longer. In the 3rd century, the Japanese recorded in the Book of Wei details about drinking and dancing, but it is unclear whether this alcohol was sake. Alternatively, sake is specifically mentioned several times in Kojiki, Japan’s first written history. Though this history doesn’t contribute to better health, it certainly enriches the culture Japan, which is undoubtedly beneficial for the Japanese people and all those who they come into contact with.
- Digging a bit deeper into the health benefits, it’s important to note that sake is a fermented drink. Fermented foods have a host of benefits themselves. When asked if fermented foods and drinks like sake are healthy for us, Dr. Berka, NMD., stated “They are not just good, but essential in our diet.” The reason lies in the bacteria used in fermentation and their role in the body. To get a whole explanation, check out Dr. Berka’s answer on fermented foods.
- In addition to the benefits of fermentation, Yuji Matsumoto, the first Master Sake Sommelier from Japan and the President of the Sake Institute of America, has noted on his blog that sake holds a whole host of other benefits. Sake can help reduce the risk of cancer as well as help prevent Cirrhosis, Arteriosclerosis, Cardiac Infarction, Osteoporosis, and aging and senility.
- Finally, sake is even being considered for its benefits in skin care and beauty. Being rich in amino acids, sake is becoming a key ingredient in many cosmetics, as reported by Natural News and Time.
Perk Up with some Sake!
All in all, sake presents itself as a healthy drink with many benefits. That being said, why not stop by the store today and pick yourself up a small bottle of the unique drink? You may find yourself hooked on the stuff! Just remember to not go overboard!