Always around the holidays, I get this question over and over again from my clients, “Can I drink alcohol?”. The answer is YES! If you enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages with friends and family to celebrate, there is certainly room in your diet to do so. It is OK to enjoy your favorite foods and beverages in moderation, even if the most nutritious! It does not have to be detrimental to your nutrition plan or take a toll on your health. If you want to consume alcohol, it is important to develop a good relationship around alcohol and understand your limits.
It is important to note that consuming alcoholic beverages can negatively impact your blood sugar levels, liver function, blood pressure, and can even cause acid reflux. Too much alcohol over a long period of time can lead to many serious health conditions. Here are some tips on consuming alcohol safely and healthfully:
1. Be Mindful When Drinking
It is important to aware of your drinking habits and how your body and mind are affected so you can stay in control. Be mindful of how many drinks you are consuming per hour. On average, we can process around 1 drink per hour. This number can depend on multiple factors such as sex, age, size, and liver health.
2. Eat Beforehand
Eat prior to drinking alcohol so the absorption rate of the alcohol slows, leaving less of a burden on your liver. Try to have a balanced meal before drinking alcohol consisting of healthy carbs, fats, and proteins to optimize absorption. Try to load up on nutritious foods afterward as well because alcohol hinders the absorption of important nutrients like vitamin A, B, C, and zinc.
3. Know which types to drink
Studies have actually shown people live longer drinking moderate amounts of red wine! It can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer because it contains the powerful antioxidant resveratrol*. Wine does, however, contain sugar, and the calories can add up fast! Some wine contains more sugars than others, so choose drier wines to avoid inflammation from the extra sugar. It is also important to remember that grapes are on the dirty dozen list so look for the labels “Made with Organic Grapes” or USDA Organic.
Brown liquors like whisky, bourbon, and run have more negative effects on health compared to clear liquors. They are well known for causing bad hangovers due to the amount of congeners, additives, and tannins. This can result in even more inflammation and even cause sensitivities.
Mezcal is legally required to be ultra pure tequila with 100% agave. It also contains fewer chemicals, and harmful additives which is why it is considered one of the 'cleanest' liquors. Did you know that it actually is made through a fermentation process which can promote healthy microbiome adaptations?
When choosing tequila, be sure that it is 100% agave as conventional tequila can contain corn, grain, sulfates, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. This can cause further inflammation and sensitivities. Look for organic tequila to avoid any harmful ingredients.
Most vodkas are grain-based and contains gluten which is problematic for your gut lining as well as causing inflammation. Be sure to choose organic and gluten-free vodka.
Beer contains a lot of calories and carbohydrates, around 10-30g of carbs per serving. These can add up fast, so be aware of your intake. Most beers also contain gluten which can be bad for the immune system and digestive system lining and can cause sensitivities. Any benefits from the nutrients in beer are outweighed by the high carb content.
4. Avoid Unhealthy Mixers
The type of mixers you add in your drink matter just as much! Many cocktails contain high sugar mixers and harmful ingredients in addition to the alcohol. Avoid simple syrups, sugary juice mixes, fruit juice, soda, mixing multiple alcoholic beverages at once, and low nutrient mixers like cranberry juice cocktail. Sugar makes the liver work even harder, meanwhile, the liver is responsible for metabolizing the alcohol you are consuming as well. Choose to mix your drinks with clear liquids like club soda, fresh herbs, citrus, bitters, and fresh lemon or lime juice.
5. Drink Water!
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can be very dehydrating. For each serving of alcohol, drink a 10 oz glass of water. You can also water your drinks down, or have a 'mocktail' of sparkling water and lemon between drinks. Down a large 10 oz glass of water before bed after a night of drinking to avoid headaches in the morning.
6. Don’t Mix Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine can mask the depressant qualities of alcohol which and lead to more subsequent drinking. Avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks and other caffinated beverage as it will cause one to think they can drink more than they should and end up more impaired.
7. Consider your hormones
Ladies, did you know our hormone cycle can actually change how our body responds to alcohol? If you are going through hormonal imbalances then reconsider drinking any type of alcohol as it can further dysregulate your hormones. It also increases cortisol which is our stress hormone.