Consuming alcohol is detrimental to health and has long term social and physical ramifications. No matter what you read about “healthy” alcohol or “health benefits” of alcohol, know that alcohol is no tonic. Moderation is key and also what alcohol to consume is crucial. Alcohol is addictive and toxic when consumed in large quantities. In a social setting however, one can enjoy a drink if one makes informed decisions. In this article I tell you what to ask your bartender for. Wines, spirit on the rocks, and a low carb beer are some alcoholic beverages that may be least harmful. Your choice of drink and how much you choose to consume will determine how much of an impact the drink will have on your body and mind.
What Happens When You Drink Alcohol
So, let me share in brief what happens when you drink alcohol. When we drink alcohol, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase metabolizes the liver into acetate. Our liver can process only a certain amount of alcohol at a given time. While our liver processes 90% of consumed alcohol, the rest exists in our body through urine, sweat and breath. While, a safe amount of alcohol depends on a person’s body weight, size and whether they are male or female. Women absorb more alcohol from each drink in comparison to males, so they are at greater risk of liver damage. Consuming 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks daily can harm one’s liver. Furthermore, binge drinking, or drinking 4 or 5 more drinks in a row, can also result in liver damage. If you are taking certain diabetes tablets or insulin, your risk of hypoglycaemia or “hypo” may be increased with alcohol. Drinking alcohol heavily can cause liver cirrhosis, fatty liver, jaundice, high blood pressure, stroke and can also cause liver failure. Drinking alcohol can also gain weight specially it increases visceral fat i.e fat which is deposited in between the organs. Alcohol provides “Empty calories” which means it provides no nutritional value to us. When we drink alcohol, it stops our body from burning fat, it also makes you eat extra snacks and makes you feel hungry. Many people mistake drinking alcohol for drinking water, but each gm of alcohol provides 7 calories which is almost close to 9 calories for a gm of fat.
List Of Least Harmful Alcohols
Let us underline that no alcohol is actually a health booster. But here is a list of drinks that may be less harmful than the others.
1. Wine- red and white wine
Order wine by the glass instead of ordering a bottle. Be aware of the volume of larger wine glasses. Choose a wine spritz (wine with soda water that will lower the alcohol % by volume and lengthen your evening. Red wine is made by crushing red grapes. Red Grapes are a powerful source of antioxidants, resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins which are believed to have health benefits. Although red wine provides health benefits, it should not be consumed more than 200 ml per day with 2-3 days alcohol free days in the week. While red wine is often seen as the healthier option. The reason is that grape skins are included when red wine is fermented. White wine, on the other hand, does not use the skin of grapes. The skin is separated from the juice before it is fermented into white wine. Grape skin contains healthy antioxidants that have been shown to promote good health.
2. Spirits on the rock
Spirits aren’t the healthiest of the drinks as the alcohol percentage is fairly high in spirits approx. 38% alcohol by volume. Hence, 30 ml is considered a standard drink over a regular 60 ml and 90ml (which are basically equivalent to 2 and 3 standard drinks respectively). There is evidence that gin and tonic when consumed within the recommended range like toddy can provide health benefits. Choose plain, mineral or soda water or on the rock and do not drink more than 60 ml per day and keep 2-3 days alcohol free days.
Rose’ is a type of wine that incorporates some of the colour from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. Rose’ wine in a glass 175 ml contains 12% alcohol by volume. So, it shouldn’t be consumed more than 200 ml in a day with 2-3 alcohol free days in the week. 4. Sparkling wine: Most sparkling wines are 90 ml for a standard drink. A glass of 170 ml of any sparkling wine is equivalent to 1.5 standard drinks, hence if you want to enjoy sparkling wines, pour 2 x 90ml in a glass or enjoy “A glass” of 170 ml.
5. Low carb beer
Choose “Light” or “Low alcohol” beer instead of regular strength beer due to its alcohol percentage by volume. Choose a pot of beer rather than a schooner or stein. Be aware that at “low carb” drinks may have the same alcohol content as regular drinks. Light beer of 375 ml approx. has 10gm of alcohol, hence 2 x 375 ml of a low carb beer is an upper limit for beer intake on any day while consuming alcohol. A Regular beer of 285 ml has 4.9 % alcohol /vol as compared to 2.7% alcohol/ vol in a light beer of 375ml.
How Much Alcohol Is Ok To Consume?
At any given setting, one must not drink more than 2 standard drinks, a standard drink is equivalent to 10gm Alcohol. 1 standard drink is 375 ml light beer, 30 ml spirits like scotch, whiskey, gin, vodka or 100 ml red or white wine. Cocktails, mocktails, premixed drinks with soft drinks and energy drinks should definitely be avoided.
Further tips to lower alcohol intake:
- Quench thirst with water, diet soft drinks or plain mineral water instead of alcohol.
- Wait until after a meal to consume alcohol or sip slowly during your meal.
- Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages.
- Offer to be a designated driver.
Disclaimer: Above is just a guideline on alcohol intake, if you have a medical condition, are on certain medications, pregnant or breastfeeding alcohol is definitely a No and refer to your general practitioner for a guide. Above guideline is for a general healthy population. Swati Bathwal Dietitian, Nutritionist
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