The French poet Baudelaire said that if wine were to disappear from human production, there would be a void in human health and intelligence, and that would be worse than all the excesses it’s guilty of. Hmmm, would you agree?

Today we explore the fourth lesson from centenarians living in the Blue Zones, unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led not only to an amazing number of years lived, but also a better quality of life.

In preparation for our upcoming Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, I’m reposting (this time with recipes) all nine lessons from the Blue Zones. The lessons are simple, yet powerful, and can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

Soba Noodle Soup BowlLesson Four: Grapes of Life
A daily drink or two of wine has been associated with lower rates of heart disease. However, alcohol use has also been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. The secrets of the Blue Zones suggest that moderation and consistency are key. In Sardinia, for example, it’s common to drink a glass of dark red wine with each meal and whenever friends get together. In Okinawa, sake is drunk daily with friends.

Having a glass of wine with a meal helps make it easier to relax and eat more slowly. It lends an atmosphere of seriousness, refinement and luxury, all of which can help counter the tendency to eat mindlessly. For instance, if you open a bottle of wine, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll enjoy it while eating in front of the television.

When consumed with food and in moderation, wine can enhance your health. Aside from containing fewer calories than most alcoholic rinks, fine wine is full of nutrients and recognized to thin the blood and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Red wine offers additional benefits as it contains artery-scrubbing polyphenols that can possibly help fight arteriosclerosis. However, when daily consumption exceeds a glass or two, the risks and toxic effects of drinking alcohol outweigh any health benefits. Again, moderation is key.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

Tips and strategies of introducing a glass of wine into a daily routine
Buy high-quality red wine
The Sardinians drink Cannonau in their Blue Zone, but any dark red wine should do.

Keep it simple
Wine can be a perfect accompaniment to a meal. It can be considered a gift to be enjoyed, not abused. Drink it with friends, family and always with food.

Moderation
To reiterate, a glass or two of red wine per day is the most you need to take advantage of its health benefits. Overdoing it negates the health benefits. Drink in moderation.

Next post: Lesson number five from centenarians in the Blue Zone, won’t you join me?

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

We enjoy soba noodles quite a bit in my home. They’re easy to cook and even seasoned simply with just a little sesame oil and tamari, they’re delicious. I normally cook them in warm summer months as soba noodles taste great cold. But in the winter, they’re really nice to have in a hot spicy broth. Since my husband and son don’t eat spicy food, I often make the soup flavorful, but not spicy. So I can enjoy the spiciness, I later add a dollop of chili paste or hot sauce to my serving bowl. If you like spicy, feel free to add pepper, in any form, to your soup.

Soba Noodle Soup Bowl

Serves 6
10 ounces dry soba noodles
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion (I used half red and half white), chopped
1 head of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground pepper
1, 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup tamari
1 small head of red cabbage, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons white miso paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 bunch of baby spinach
avocados (optional)
steamed broccoli, optional
chili garlic sauce (optional)
cilantro leaves, for garnish
sesame seeds (I used black and white), for garnish
Roasted seaweed, for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add garlic, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, stir and cook another mite or so. Add broth, soy sauce, and cabbage. Bring to a boil, then simmer until cabbage has slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add soba noodles and cook until tender, but still al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse well and set aside.

Turn off the heat from the soup pot. Remove some broth (about 1/2 cup) and transfer it to a small bowl. Mix in the miso paste and stir until dissolved. Add miso liquid to the soup pot. Taste and adjust for salt. Add rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference, adding more salt, tamari or vinegar, if preferred.

Put a serving of noodles and some spinach leaves in a bowl, ladle hot soup on top. Top with avocados, broccoli, and chili sauce, if using. Garnish with cilantro, sesame seeds and seaweed, if using. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.

Notes: Although soba noodles are made of buckwheat, which is free of gluten, many soba noodles are made with a combination of wheat and buckwheat. If you prefer to eat gluten free soba noodles, be sure to look for soba noodles that clearly indicate they are gluten free.

Here are some more photos of the soup with avocados and roasted seaweed on top:
Soba Noodle Soup BowlSoba Noodle Soup Bowl

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