Alcohol is not healthy; if you drink, do so in moderation

November 23, 2018 Providence Health Team

Alcohol is full of empty calories, leads to poor food choices, interferes with decision making, and disrupts the way the body processes nutrients.

If you opt to drink alcohol, drink responsibly.

Many people enjoy an occasional drink at the end of the day. But alcoholic drinks provide significant extra calories and increase the risk of health problems; therefore, minimal use is the better approach. For those who choose to drink but want a healthy lifestyle, the evidence is clear: alcohol is not your friend.

Calories in alcohol

If someone has an occasional glass of wine, beer or drink, the calories don’t matter that much. But if someone drinks to the extent that the calories do matter, then that is a problem and not a healthy lifestyle.

The exact number of calories in an alcoholic beverage can vary by type, brand, ingredients, and portion size. Here are some estimates (and don’t forget to take into account any additional calories added from mixers such as juice, soda, and tonic, cream, coconut cream, and other sweeteners):

•12-ounce beer = 150 calories

•5-ounce glass of wine =120 calories

•7-ounce rum and cola = 155 calories

•Cocktails can contain 300-900 calories per drink!

(Photo: drinkinmoderation.org/facts/)

Alcohol calories are generally considered empty of nutrition. If you’re limiting your calories, it’s especially important to make sure any caloric intake fuels your body in nourishing ways. If you’re tempted to skip a meal to make room for the extra alcohol calories, don’t. Not only are you robbing your body of important nutrients, this method can backfire and lead to alcohol-induced overeating.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average alcohol intake by an adult American is 100 calories per day. In general, men consume more alcohol calories than women, and younger adults more than older ones.

Less than modest drinking, or excessive drinking, can set you back hundreds of calories daily, and involves many risks to your overall health. Even a few drinks a week is linked with increased risk of several cancers.

Alcohol interferes with decision making

If you feel like overeating after drinking alcohol, you’re not alone. It’s a common reaction. Unfortunately, when our inhibitions are loosened by alcohol and we give in to those tipsy cravings, it becomes a time that we make poor food choices and overeat.

One research study, based on the drinking and eating habits of college freshman, shows that nearly half of moderate drinkers reported overeating and making unhealthy food choices after drinking, and demonstrated significant increases in body mass index (BMI), an indicator of body weight. Another study concludes that alcohol’s effect on one’s self-control leads to overeating and making poor food choices. Clearly, this situation isn’t complementary to a healthy lifestyle.

Tips for responsible drinking:

Drinking in moderation is key, if you drink at all (daily limit: 2 drinks for men, 1 drink for women). But the limit of one or two drinks per day is not permission to drink that much. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption recommended.

Eat a healthy meal before drinking.

Hydration is important, and it is easy to become dehydrated while drinking. Drink a large glass of water after every drink; or better yet, have sparkling or soda water with a twist and skip the alcohol.

Avoid high-calorie, sugar-laced mixed drinks. Cocktails with lots of cream and sugars are very high in calories, not good for us, and should be limited. Sugar and cream (fat) in mixed drinks add more calories than the alcohol. The alcohol is toxic to the body, and the sugars and fat add around 200-800 calories per drink to the 100 calories in 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Make healthier snack choices like veggies rather than common bar food and other snacks.

Plan your post-alcohol meal before you drink.

Get regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.

When people drink to the extent that it is a calorie or weight issue, they are drinking too much for good health.

Finally, please review these warning signs and know how to recognize that you or someone you know may have an alcohol use problem. Talk to your doctor about the effects your drinking habits may have on your health. You can find a Providence provider here.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions

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