When something sounds too good to be true, it often is....especially when it comes to nutrition. Consider the following 2 scenarios:
- You find a box of ice cream bars that have only 50 calories per bar only to open up the box to find out just how small one bar actually is.
- You spot a bag of chips with just 100 calories per bag only to open up the bag to find that there are just 10 chips in the bag…maybe 12.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. Cases like these are what I call "nutrition mirages" -- close, but no cigar.
So when people started saying that alcohol was actually good for you, I was skeptical. Don't get me wrong. I love my wine…and my tequila...and my gin, so I was more than happy to jump on board. But, I was also always told that alcohol was full of empty calories and toxins, so I needed to find out the truth for myself.
Well, it turns out, this mirage isn't such a mirage after all. Alcohol actually has been shown to be strongly associated with reduced overall mortality, reduced heart disease risk, and improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And while you're probably thinking that this is only the case for red wine, think again! This is the case with all alcohol. That's because the health benefits come from the ethanol, and ethanol exists in all alcoholic beverages.
But, what about those studies that say that red wine is the healthy alcohol of choice?
Those studies are talking about the resveratrol that’s found in red wine, which has cancer-fighting properties. However, the amount of wine it would take to actually get those cancer-fighting benefits far exceeds the amount you’re getting from 1-2 glasses.
So why not just take down the whole bottle?
Well, that actually brings up one small, yet important caveat to this whole issue, which is that the health benefits of alcohol only exist for moderate drinking. That's 1-2 drinks per day for men and just 1 drink per day for women. More than that and alcohol can actually be detrimental to your health.
Now no one is saying that's easy.
First of all, most of us don’t even know what a serving of alcohol even is. (FYI: one drink is a 12 oz beer, 5 oz glass of wine, or 1-1.5oz of hard liquor, depending on the alcohol content of the liquor.) And the servings that we tend to pour likely exceed those. That means that even on our first drink, we’re failing.
Then add the fact that it's not always easy to stop at one...You grab a drink at the bar while you wait to be seated. Now you've hit your quota and your night has barely begun. You're at dinner and your waiter just keeps refilling your glass, so you've already totally lost count. Or you've had one drink and plan on stopping, but then your friend just told you he landed his dream job and orders a round of drinks for everyone to celebrate.
Bottom line? Moderation isn’t always easy to achieve, and there's the rub.
And for some, having any alcohol at all might not be the best idea. If you have any history of alcohol or substance abuse/addiction, it goes without saying that abstinence is best. Or, if you don't currently drink, this should definitely not be a reason to start. Finally, if weight loss is your main priority, the extra calories from the alcohol are just simply not worth it.
Alcohol can be good for you. All alcohol -- not just red wine. But only in moderation.
Oh, and one more thing:
Saving up your week's worth of drinks for one big night of drinking doesn't count as moderation...I checked ;)