Odds are you’ve probably heard of sake. Perhaps you have enjoyed a shot or two at your favorite sushi restaurant or walked by a bottle in your grocery store’s wine aisle and wondered what is that? This article will teach you all about sake, its health benefits, and its side effects.
Now, this isn’t particularly “healthy nutrition”, but we just like sake so much. And if you’re going to drink alcohol, it’s probably one of the healthiest options.
So, let’s get started!
What Is Sake?
Sake (pronounced “sah-KAY”) is the national beverage of Japan. This wine, made from fermented rice, has been enjoyed since at least the 8th century.
In Japan, sake is referred to as nihonshu or “Japanese liquor.” Being Japan’s national beverage, sake is enjoyed during holidays, ceremonies, and other special events.
The drink is typically poured from a tall bottle, called tokkuri, into small porcelain cups known as sakazuki.
While it is unclear when sake originated, its earliest known production date was in 500 BC China. The villagers would chew rice and nuts and then spit them into a communal tub where the saliva’s natural enzymes stimulated the fermenting process and made sake. Yeah, yucky sake.
Around 710 BC, a new brewing method spread across Japan. The technique used koji, a mold enzyme that aids in rice fermentation, and the results produced the same sake loved and enjoyed today.
Modern technological improvements have boosted the production of sake, allowing it to become a drink enjoyed by the masses.
Health Benefits Of Sake
In addition to the trace amounts of manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium; drinking sake may provide several powerful health benefits.
Aids In Digestion
Sake contains several digestive aids such as lactobacillus, a probiotic known for helping digestive issues. It is also much easier on the stomach than other alcohol types as it is low in sulfites and disruptive acids.
Sake is one-third less acidic than wine, so if you commonly experience acid reflux when drinking alcohol, sake could be a more enjoyable option.
Sake is an excellent alcoholic choice for those with gluten sensitivities or intolerances as it is naturally gluten-free. Some types may contain gluten, but those will be knock-offs, as real sake’s main ingredient is only rice, which is 100% gluten-free.
Rich In Amino-Acids
Sake contains over 20 amino acids, including the amino acid ornithine.
Ornithine is a non-protein making amino acid that has positively influenced several physiological functions, such as improving sleep quality and fighting fatigue.
Sake’s amino acids are also beneficial for strengthening skeletal muscle and improving athletic performance.
Boosts Immune System
The purity of sake ingredients, as well as its high amino acid makeup, may help boost our body’s immune response. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and have an essential role in building a robust immune system.
Excellent Source Of Selenium
Sake is also a great source of selenium. This essential trace mineral has a wide array of health benefits from improving the immune system, improving thyroid function, reducing inflammation, slowing cancer progression, fighting premature aging, and boosting overall health.
Combats High Blood Pressure
Sake is full of beneficial peptides that aid the body in preventing disease. Peptides are smaller versions of proteins but are still composed of valuable amino acids. Within the body, these peptides inhibit the enzymes that cause high blood pressure.
Sake may also improve blood circulation and oxygenation because of its selenium content. The average adult needs 55 micrograms of selenium per day. An eight-ounce glass of sake contains 3.3 micrograms of selenium.
Good For Your Skin
Sake, beloved for its moisturizing and brightening effects, has become a popular ingredient in the beauty world. The fermenting agent koji has been shown to inhibit the development of melasma and other forms of hyperpigmentation such as dark spots and freckles.
Is Sake Fattening?
According to sake’s nutritional profile, a one-ounce pour of sake contains the following:
- 39 Calories
- 0 Grams of sugar
- 1.5 Grams of carbohydrates
- 0 Grams of fat
- 0.1 Grams of protein
Compared to other alcoholic beverages, a 5-ounce (150ml) pour of sake contains 195 calories.
- Wine 5oz : 125–150 calories
- Beer 5oz: 43–64 calories
- Vodka 5oz: 323 calories
While sake may have a higher calorie profile than beer or wine, that doesn’t mean it is more fattening. One reason is that sake has a higher alcohol percentage; thus, you can drink less sake than beer or wine and still feel the same effects.
In traditional servings, sake is served in 3-ounce pours compared to wine’s standard 5-ounce pour.
The ingredients in sake are also straightforward—rice, water, yeast, and fermenting agents—meaning that you are not consuming unnecessary additives. And it also contains less sugar than other alcoholic beverages.
In addition, one study found that koji, the fermenting enzyme used to make sake, may have anti-obesity and anti-diabetes effects.
Side Effects Of Sake
Alcohol consumption inherently increases one’s risk of developing disease. In addition to developing some cancers, alcohol consumption has been linked to high blood pressure, liver disease, stroke, pancreatitis, and heart disease.
An occasional serving of sake isn’t much of a big deal, especially if you want to experience some of the supposed benefits of sake, but be aware of the cumulative effects alcohol can have on your body.
Being mindful of your alcohol consumption may help you avoid some of these adverse side effects.
How To Enjoy Sake
In this modern age of sake, there are so many styles and flavors to enjoy. Whether you like dry, sweet, or sparkling, there is a sake for everyone to enjoy.
If you are a novice sake drinker, be open to trying many different types of sake to find out which flavor profiles you most enjoy.
Sake can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature—depending on your preference!
A good rule of thumb is that high-quality sakes should be served semi-chilled (around 45 degrees Fahrenheit), and less expensive sakes should be warmed up in order to disguise some of its off-notes.
In general, as long as you don’t chill a sake below 40 degrees or warm it above 105, you’ll enjoy it.
While sake is traditionally served in tokkuri, it can also be served in small saucers, ceramic cups, or even wine glasses.
Bonus tips: you don’t have to enjoy sake with just seafood or sushi. It goes well with most food! And, if you aren’t drinking alone, remember it is common etiquette always to pour sake for others and then allow others to fill your cup.
So, as you can see, sake has health benefits that other drinks don’t. It has a unique taste, many ways to drink it, and a lot of culture behind it. So, are you going to try it?
Let us know in the comments below! And even though we don’t have any more articles about alcoholic beverages, since we’re on the topic of Chinese culture, check out our article about red sage root.