The holiday season with its flood of party invitations to celebrate is upon us. Think good cheer and parties with those we like and want to catch up with. But parties mean alcohol! And of course who does not enjoy a drink in good company! Often we are not aware of just how much our holiday traditions involve drinking and we can easily exceed our limits. So, why is it important to choose drink wisely, when raising a glass this holiday season? There are many reasons.
Research demonstrates that a small amount of red wine can be beneficial to health. But here we are talking about only one glass for women and two for men per day. At the same time scientific findings clearly demonstrate that regular alcohol consumption increases the chance of developing cancer, including oral cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer.
Furthermore, alcoholic drinks have little nutritional value but contain a lot of calories. Of course the number of calories varies between different drinks, but for a standard drink containing 10g of alcohol, count on consuming 70 calories from just the alcohol, plus additional calories from other ingredients such as sugar.
At the same time, alcohol disrupts the normal process of nutrient absorption and the calories being burned in our bodies. Most of the alcohol we drink is absorbed by our small intestine and then comes to the liver. In the liver, enzymes that normally would convert glucose are now used to metabolize alcohol and glucose conversion is put on hold. So, removing alcohol from the body takes preference over normal functions. This causes weight gain and in many cases water retention. Furthermore, if one has diabetes, drinking alcohol will cause the blood sugar to rise, thus causing other problems.
Even at a moderate levels, alcohol consumption can interfere with medication in potentially dangerous ways. Medications are also processed in the liver and are not broken down as quickly, so drinkers taking them can react to them inconsistently.
Alcohol is also a sedative. When it reaches the brain, it slows the transmission of impulses between nerve cells that control the ability to think and move. That is why thinking processes may become unclear, speech slurred, vision blurred, and mobility and balance diminished.
There are some clever and not unenjoyable smart choices of festive drinks. to keep in mind at a party:
- Follow every drink with a glass of water. It will help with the calorie intake and your head will thank you the next morning. And after a party, rehydrate yourself – drink a few glasses of water. It will reduce the bloating and your body (read head) will thank you for that, too!
- If it is difficult to control the number of drinks, control the volume. Just like with food, ask for a small portion each time instead of accepting a full glass.
- Choose non-alcoholic alternatives or even bring your own with you to a party. You can try interesting, tasty and exotic drinks like, for example, a Bellini – a non-alcoholic cocktail that contains peach juice and lemonade or sparkling water. Also try pomegranate punch by mixing pomegranate juice with sparkling water and lemon. Alternatively you can make ginger pineapple punch which is based on orange juice, unsweetened pineapple juice, some grated fresh ginger, ginger ale and thinly sliced orange. Or how about a mocktail? Mix together pineapple juice, guava juice, peach ice tea, some lime juice with non-alcoholic ginger beer. Stir together and serve.
- If sweet drinks are not your thing, a delicious, simple dry drink is sparkling mineral water or soda water with a dozen drops of angostura bitters, ice and a slice. One super drink that is also widely available is the Campari-like San Bitter. Serve it with sparkling water and ice.
A non-alcoholic drink doesn’t mean the drink is non-festive! Santé!
Irina Schirov, Scientific consultant, nutrition & health professional inspiring healthy living.