Let’s address the elephant in the room: alcohol is not healthy for you. However, alcohol is a big part of many people’s social lives as well as associated with celebratory events. As a 20-something, alcohol is a part of my social life. With the warmer summer weather, there are more opportunities to drink socially outside (while practicing social distancing). While no alcohol is exactly healthy, in this post I’ll share some better alcohol choices.
Before we get into better alcohol choices, I will discuss some “healthy claims” pertaining to alcohol.
“Healthy Claims” Pertaining To Alcohol
First, alcohol by itself does not digest similar to carbohydrates in the body. Alcohol is not a macronutrient. It provides calories, but has no other metabolic benefit. What does this mean? It is an empty calorie. Alcohol is metabolically similar to a fatty acid. However, the sugary sodas and mixers in cocktails are a different story…
Second, moderate consumption of red wine is thought to be good for heart health. This health claim stems from the presence of antioxidants, called polyphenols, that are present in red wine. A polyphenol called resveratrol is specifically thought to have health benefits and play a role in preventing heart disease. However, the research on resveratrol and its role in preventing heart disease has mixed results. More research needs to be done to determine if resveratrol plays a role in prevention of heart disease1.
Resveratrol is found in red grapes. Since red grapes are used to make red wine, resveratrol is also found in red wine. It’s no secret that fruit contains antioxidants, which are beneficial to our health. If you really wanted the potential health benefits of resveratrol, you could simply eat grapes1. It is not recommended to start drinking red wine to lower risk of heart disease as drinking alcohol can increase your risk for certain health problems.
Antioxidants are beneficial to our health. However, in the case of red wine, you would most likely need to drink such large quantities of red wine to gain any benefits from the antioxidants. Any benefits from the antioxidants would be outweighed by the damage the alcohol would do to your liver. So could moderate consumption of red wine have potential health benefits? Personally, I’m not convinced..
Drinking large quantities of alcohol can cause dehydration, low blood sugar, and other negative side effects, all of which can lead to hangover symptoms.
Based on this, see below some things to keep in mind when drinking…
Eat a Balanced Meal
Prior to drinking, eat a balanced meal that includes adequate quantities of fat, protein, and veggies in addition to carbs. It is a common misconception that you need to “carbo-load” before a drinking. However, eating a balanced meal will help keep your blood sugar balanced and help keep you satiated.
Stick to clear liquors
Drinking clear liquors in comparison to dark liquors may help prevent a hangover. This is due to the presence of higher quantities of congeners in dark liquors. Congeners are chemical by-products of alcohol fermentation. Methanol, a type of congener, breaks down to form toxins which can worsen a hangover2.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Hydration, of course, is very important when you are drinking alcohol. Make sure to drink water prior to drinking alcohol, to hydrate between drinks, and hydrate after drinking. Additionally, use water or soda water as a drink mixer. This neutral mixer is also a great substitute for sugary mixers.
Stick To Low-Sugar Drinks
In addition to starting off with a balanced meal, stick to drinking lower-sugar alcohol drinks. Low-sugar drinks tend to be lower in calories and can still taste great.
Spiked Seltzers tend to be lower in sugar. Most brands only contain about 2-3 grams of sugar per can.
Loverboy is brand of hard tea that is sweetened with monkfruit sweetener. Monkfruit is a natural alternative to sugar, that is both sugar-free and calorie-free.
Make a low-sugar cocktail by mixing liquor with a lower-sugar mixer. Instead of sugary drink mixers such as soda or tonic water, try mixing drinks with water or soda water. Add lemon or limes for added flavor. If you’re making a traditionally sugary cocktail, such as a margarita, try incorporating monkfruit sweetener instead of cane sugar to make a lower-sugar drink. Check out this recipe for Monkfruit Margaritas.
Alcohol provides no health benefits. However, alcohol can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle when consumed in moderation. Like many factors related to nutrition, it really comes down to balance. You can enjoy your favorite drinks on occasion. However, if you are looking for better alcohol choices, lower-sugar drinks may be the way to go.