Is Healthy Alcohol Consumption Possible?

Is Healthy Alcohol Consumption Possible?
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


Healthy alcohol consumption can be tricky to figure out. On the one hand, there are all kinds of studies and articles saying that red wine and other alcohol is healthy.

On the other hand, alcohol causes stress to your liver and can make you do stupid things. So is it possible for alcohol to be part of a healthy eating plan?

Obviously, drinking too much on a regular basis isn’t a healthy way to go. Alcohol is, after all, a toxin that your body has to work to get rid of. But if you don’t overdo it (and if you don’t have an addiction to it), I don’t see anything wrong with having a drink or two every so often.

It gets people (especially me) a little more relaxed, and conversations seem to flow a little easier. I’m extremely shy when I meet new people, and especially in a group. But there are some reasons that I don’t drink as much or as often as I used to.

One downside to keep in mind is that alcohol is empty calories. An interesting tidbit is that while most carbohydrates give you 4 calories per gram, alcohol actually gives you 7 calories per gram.

Another thing to consider is that alcohol tends to loosen your inhibitions. I’m not just talking about dancing on tabletops, but when you’re drunk you can get the munchies for a huge plate of french fries or some other unhealthy snack.

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There are upsides to alcohol, though. It does have some small amounts of nutrients. Red wine is the flag-carrier for alcohol being healthy, with its resveratrol and other antioxidants. Now, I wouldn’t say healthy alcohol consumption is about drinking wine just for nutrients. The resveratrol in wine is a pretty low dose, and supplements are probably more effective. You can also get loads of antioxidants from grapes, and other fresh produce, along with other nutrients.

But I think more important than nutrients is the social aspect of alcohol. You usually drink it with friends, and it brings people together to have a fun time. Having fun, and having a strong network of friends, is actually really important to being healthy. It might be a cliche, but it’s true, especially as you get older.

Drinking In Moderation

Since I rarely drink, alcohol can hit me pretty hard. So I like to alternate drinks with a glass of water. Put a lemon or lime wedge in it and you won’t stick out as much as the one person in a group not drinking.

I also find that it helps if I go into a party or night out knowing how many drinks I should cap out at. Three’s usually my limit. If I go for a fourth, things go downhill. Being aware of your own limit makes healthy alcohol consumption easier.

If you’re drinking just to make a special evening, think about whether you actually want alcohol or if you’d be just as happy with something else. I like to sip coconut water from a wine glass, and Phil likes to mix sparkling water with juice when we have a date/movie night. The bonus is that I don’t fall asleep halfway through the movie. Well, not as often anyway.

Healthy Alcohol Consumption Choices

When you do have a drink, there are some choices that are better than others. I wouldn’t exactly call them healthier, but they’re definitely less unhealthy than others. Sometimes you just have to use a double negative.

My drink of choice used to be rum and root beer, but after learning exactly what’s in sodas, I don’t order anything like that anymore. Shooters, and things like coconut rum, have a ton of sugar and often just make me feel sick.

My top choices now are wine, cider or vodka with water and a little bit of cranberry juice or lime/lemon/orange slices. Try to find as naturally-produced versions of these things as you can. Beer can be ok too, I’m just not a fan of the flavor.

The cool thing about vodka (or whatever liquor) with water is that you get some hydration with your diuretic (alcohol flushes water out of your system). I need a bit of flavor with it from a splash of juice or squeeze of citrus, but the sugar and calories are pretty minimal.

When you’re shopping for alcohol, you want to look at the sugar content and the additives. There are preservatives, flavorings and sulfites used in a lot of wines, ciders, beers and juices. If you look around, there are some that are brewed and fermented much more naturally.

The ultimate would be making your own, although it can take a lot of time and effort. Phil and I have a friend who made some amazing sparkling ginger wine. Check out the book Wild Fermentation for some recipes for cool things like elderberry and dandelion wines.

The important thing to remember is to keep it in balance with an overall healthy eating plan and lifestyle, but you also have to have fun with your life. Otherwise there’s no point in being healthy, right?

What do you think – is healthy alcohol consumption possible? Let me know below.


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