Can a healthy diet include alcohol?
That’s the question of the day! So you are aware of the obvious effects of alcohol on the body, it alters our judgment and makes us slower to reflexes. You may be wondering how much is too much and is it healthy to include a diet with alcohol. Read on to find out if alcohol can play a role in a healthy diet.
Your Heart-Drinking alcohol can affect the heart. Drinking in excess can cause a weakened heart because we know it can lead to higher blood pressure and increased risk of stroke. It can also increase your risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder.
Your Nutritional Status- Drinking too much (meaning getting drunk several times per week) can deplete your body of much-needed B vitamins. B vitamins, such as niacin, riboflavin and the much talked about, B12, control your nervous system, nerve transmission and conversion of food into usable energy. This is better known as your metabolism. Having too much of a good time with alcohol can leave you unable to walk and perform tasks involving motor skills.
Your Waistline-Alcohol, in any form, contains 7 calories per gram. That means for a standard alcoholic beverage (14 grams of alcohol), you’re looking at ~98 calories for just the alcohol alone. That’s not including what it was mixed with. Vodka and tonic anyone? You’re getting away with that drink for less than 250 calories! As we know, too many calories can contribute to fat gain on our bodies.
We discussed the risks, now let’s see where the benefits are in moderate drinking. Risks in heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes have been shown in more than 100 prospective studies that there is an inverse association with moderate drinking and these risks. That means, 1-2 drinks (refer to portion size below) per night depending on if you’re male or female can actually be beneficial for your heart. Alcohol can also act as an anticoagulant, making the blood less sticky and less likely to clot. It can also reduce inflammation, which plays a role in heart attacks and strokes. Drinking in moderation also causes the increase in HDL or good cholesterol.
Now that we know the benefits related to moderate drinking and the risks related to excessive drinking, lets break down what moderate drinking is and what excessive drinking is.
What is a drink?
A standard drink in the U.S. contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. Generally this amount of pure alcohol is found in
- 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
- 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
- 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor
What is excessive drinking?
Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or anyone under the age of 21
Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as
- For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion
- For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming
- For women, 8 or more drinks per week.
- For men, 15 or more drinks per week.
What is moderate drinking?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.
There is such thing as having a diet that includes alcohol that is healthy! When drinking though you must be careful that you are not drinking excessively. Drinking on occasion is the safe and healthy way to do it. Keep watch of your intake if you drink now and want to be healthy, but do not pick up drinking just because of the health benefits it can have. If you don’t drink, there are plenty of other ways to get the health benefits, such as from a piece of fruit. An easy way to control your intake when you’re out with friends is to alternate a drink with a glass of water. Don’t order another drink until you have finished that water!
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