FOOD & NUTRITION

How to Drink Alcohol and Still Be Healthy

by
Robin Berzin, MD
Doctor

I’m constantly asked if alcohol is healthy—probably because everyone wants a doctor to say “yes!” But the answer is really yes and no.

Healthy drinking is possible: Some research shows that alcohol in moderation can be heart healthy (1), but regular overconsumption of alcohol can wreak havoc on your short term and long term health (2).

Effects of alcohol on your health:

  • Interferes with your sleep (3)
  • Alters metabolism (4)
  • Interferes with digestion (5)
  • Can imbalance hormones (6)
  • Increases cancer risk (7)

That doesn’t mean you need to stop drinking, it just means you need to drink smarter. You can have a healthy relationship with alcohol as long as you don’t drink too much, too often and look at the quality of what you’re drinking. Read on to learn about my top tips for healthy drinking.

Here’s how to have your booze and drink it too.

1. Set limits on what you’ll drink.

Men and women are both able to metabolize about one drink an hour. Yes, that means you shouldn’t be leaving happy hour sloshed. The CDC guidelines put a limit at up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men (8).

One to two drinks on days you are drinking is a good general rule for healthy drinking, but it also depends on the amount of alcohol in your drink. Standard servings are 1.5 ounces of liquor, 5 ounces of wine, and 12 ounces of beer. Keep yourself in check by serving yourself or asking the bartender to go easy on pours.

2. Give your body a few days off a week.

I’ve seen that even when patients are only having one or two drinks a day, the steady stream of alcohol can still have negative effects on their health. Anxiety, depression, digestive issues, weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, poor sleep, and fatigue can all result from regular drinking.

Try to take 3-4 days off of drinking a week. There’s no deprivation here. You can still have a social weekend and enjoy a cocktail with a friend during the week or a glass of wine at dinner. If you’re having trouble cutting back and figure out healthy drinking, check out our complete guide to biohack boozing.

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3. Look at quality, not just quantity.

If you’ve ever had a really cheap glass of wine or a cocktail with bottom-shelf liquor you know what I’m talking about. Poor quality ingredients can leave you with headaches, bloating, and more.

For healthy drinking, I usually recommend avoiding beer and wine, which have a lot of sugar and carbs, and switching to mezcal, vodka, or tequila, which are lower in sugar and toxins. Try it on the rocks, with soda water, or with a twist of citrus. One of my favorite healthy cocktails is this mezcal guava paloma.

If you’re going to drink wine, look for biodynamic, natural wines. These aren’t treated with pesticides or chemicals and don’t have added sulphites, so you might feel better than you usually do after indulging in a glass.

References

1. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/136/15/1434

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12970584?dopt=Abstract

3.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acer.12621

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10539756

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11151864

6. https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article-abstract/35/5/417/206575?redirectedFrom=fulltext

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23409916

8. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

by
Robin Berzin, MD
Doctor

Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

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