The holiday season brings with it invitations to lots of parties, family gatherings, and social events. With each one, an abundance of food and alcohol awaits. The question that I get from many people is, “Should I drink?” Well, that’s a question with many answers.
Drinking, whether you prefer beer, wine, or hard liquor, can have positive and negative effects on your health. Before you sip, take a good hard look at your health profile. Are you battling with your weight? Do you have high blood pressure? Diabetes? Do you suffer from insomnia? Have you ever battled with alcoholism or other addictive substance?
- Reduces risk of heart disease – In moderation, both red and white wine have been correlated with a lower risk of developing heart disease. This is likely due to the many antioxidants in the grape, including resveratrol. Small amounts of alcohol raise your HDL (good cholesterol), but so does exercise.
- It helps you chill out: Alcohol causes the release of dopamine, which increases brain activity related to pleasure-seeking, and a substance known as GABA, which is thought to reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation. As a result, you feel at ease yet pleasantly stimulated — a very nice combination.
- May reduce risk of osteoporosis and diabetes: Some studies show a correlation between moderate drinking and bone health and reduced risk of diabetes, but correlation does not mean causation. Don’t think that regular drinking will keep your bones from breaking or developing diabetes.
NEGATIVE HEALTH EFFECTS:
- Weight Management – Alcoholic drinks are high in calories, and when you’re watching what you eat, those extra calories can make or break your success at losing weight and keeping it off. If you’ve been steadily gaining weight, take a look at how many calories are coming from alcohol. The average mixed drink has 300-400 calories. Some are so tasty, it’s hard to stop at just one. Also, when you drink, it lowers your inhibitions, which leads to more eating, especially of salty, fatty, high calorie foods. If you want to lose weight, then skip the cocktail.
- Cancer – Recent review of studies revel the higher risk of breast, rectum, liver, esophagus, oral cavity, and pharynx cancer among regular drinkers. One daily drink upped breast cancer risk by 12 percent.
- Insomnia – Sure a drink or two at night might make it easier for you to fall asleep, as alcohol is a depressant. But, it will also disrupt your sleep patterns and wake you up in the middle of the night. If you want to get to sleep and stay asleep, then try a warm mug of chamomile tea before bed.
- Disrupted motor skills – Physically, alcohol causes your motor skills, coordination, reaction time, and speech to deteriorate. Of course, never drive after you’ve been drinking. Most people think they are in control, but we know that reaction time is slowed after even one drink. If you are going to drink, find a designated driver.
So what’s considered moderate drinking? The U.S. guidelines for men are no more than two drinks a day and for women no more than one drink, and no more than four on any one occasion. More than that is considered a binge. Of course, it’s going to vary from person to person, based on their physical size, health, family history of health and alcoholism or other addictive diseases.
Lighten up your liquor
We know that one drink is equal to one (12 oz.) beer, 5 oz. wine, or 1. oz. hard liquor. Each has about 100-150 calories. Mixed drinks – margaritas, mojitos, martinis – are loaded with calories due to the sugar syrups, flavored liqueurs, and juice that’s added to make it taste so delicious. Here’s how to ask the bartender to lighten it up…
Mojito – ask the bartender to cut back on the sugar by half and add a few splashes of club soda or diet sprite to lower the calorie count. At home, swap the sweetener for Stevia.
Margarita – order on the rocks instead of blended. Also ask for no salt on he rim.
Gin and tonic – switch the tonic for club soda, seltzer, or diet tonic. Add a wedge of lime. Request a brand of gin that’s 80 proof, rather than 90 or 100 proof. The higher alcohol content adds calories.
Sangria – Lots of antioxidants (yea!). Lots of calories (added sugar, soda, or juice, as well as liqueur). Make your own at home – For 1 glass, use 4 oz. red wine, 1 oz. diet lemon-lime soda, fruit slices
Beer – Choose light beer (less than 100 calories/bottle). At a bar, ask for beer from a bottle rather than tap – bartenders usually pour more, so you’re getting more calories.
Also, utilize the strategy of alternating alcoholic drinks with water. Doing this keeps you hydrated, which will help prevent a hang over. No one wants one of those!