Is alcohol healthy?
In this video we discuss alcohol and whether alcohol has any place as part of a healthy way of eating.
One way to answer that question it to look at alcohol is in terms of nutrients, blood sugar balance, psychological addiction, etc. Viewed in that light there’s no such thing as a form of alcohol that is a pure positive contribution to your health. All forms of alchohol are either a mix of good and bad aspects or just purely bad. For example, red wine does have antioxidants, but it also has alcohol, which is a known toxin so it’s a mix of some good and bad aspects. Meanwhile, beer, doesn’t really contribute anything positive to your health whatsoever and if anything negatively contributes in many ways (alcohol, sugar/carbs, grain-derived).
However, an important perspective to keep in mind is that there is more to health than food and more to life than health. So, while alcohol shouldn’t be a staple of most people’s lives (yes, a glass a day is probably too much), if it’s a legit special occasion and it’s a form of alcohol you really like you’re probably okay to have it.
Tips for drinking:
-Drink earlier in the day
-Have a fattier meal to balance out the alcohol
-Be sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before and the night after to make sure your body processes the alcohol in the best way possible
-Robb Wolf says “Drink enough to maximize your sex life, but not so much that you impact athletic performance” That’s definitely one way to look at things.
Here’s the hierarchy of alcohol from least bad to just plain bad (from the book Paleo Happy Hour)
-potato vodka, tequila, rum (not derived from grains, very little sugar)
-wine, gluten free beer, and champagne (not derived from grains, but more sugar)
-gin, vodka, whiskey, scotch, hard cider (derived from grains, have a few more carbs)
-liquers, dessert wines
-beer, wine coolers, pre-mixed drinks (e.g. Magaritas) (just bad news all around)
Today we’re going to answer the question, “What about alcohol, can alcohol be a part of a healthy diet?” And just like anything else, you know nothing is either purely good or purely bad, it just depends on the context so we are going to give you some relevant considerations to keep in mind when deciding or not deciding to have alcohol. So I think it’s always helpful to kind of frame things in terms of this system or framework that we’ve developed for categorizing foods. On the one hand, there’s your green light foods, these are going to be the things that are, generally speaking, super nutritious, keep your blood sugar in line, they’re antiinflammatory, they’re not addictive, this is real whole food, right? So meat, eggs, seafood, fish, veggies, healthy fats, fruits, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices.
Things of that nature. So alcohol, I don’t think there’s a single form of alcohol that I would put in the green light category as something that you would have on a daily basis as contributing to your health and yes, that includes Red Wine. I’m a fan of what the developers of The Whole30 have said about this which is, “If you really want the benefits of Red Wine, just go have some Red Grapes, you don’t need the Red Wine to get the health benefits of Red Wine.” So there’s not really a form of alcohol that’s a green light food. Now the two other categories are these yellow light foods which are things that kind of have some good aspects and kind of have some bad aspects, and then the red light foods that are just pretty much, generally speaking, pretty bad for you. So soda, pizza, cake, cookies, things of that nature. So I’d say most of alcohol fits in either the yellow light category or the red light category. So before I get to which categories those things fall into with the particular types, let me talk about some general rules for alcohol.
So alcohol’s one of those ones where, again, it’s not a green light food, you do not need it to be healthy, you can go your entire life without a single drop of alcohol and be perfectly healthy. But I would also say it falls into the category of there being more to health than food and more to life than health. So sometimes it’s a way to have more fun at a social event. Now you got to be careful with that, if someone’s an alcoholic or they see alcohol as their only means to having fun, well that’s not good. But a little bit here and there for an otherwise healthy person who’s not addicted to it, that maybe lower their stress levels and thus contributes to their health and while alcohol might not have any nutrients in it, it could contribute to health in kind of that stress reduction way. But then we have to balance that with the fact that it negatively impacts sleep even though you might feel like you sleep better when you have alcohol, from an objective standpoint, you’re actually sleeping worse and they’ve done a number of studies to show this.
So I think alcohol can be had in these contexts and can be something that contributes to other aspects of health but it’s not a nutritious food. So one of my favorite sayings about alcohol comes from Robb Wolf where he says, “Drink enough to maximize your sex life but not so much that you diminish athletic performance.” I think that’s a pretty good teeter totter scale to try to balance yourself on. Another thing to keep in mind with alcohol is, generally speaking, if you want to minimize the negative impacts, try drinking earlier in the day. I know you might be surprised to hear that but that allows you to not have it impact sleep and try to have a fattier meal afterwards to kind of balance out the alcohol that you might be consuming. So I’m going to go through the hierarchy of alcohol here in just a second and this comes from a great book called Palio Happy Hour, which if you’re interested, you should go pickup, but they kind of talk about the hierarchy of alcohol.
So before I go through the hierarchy, just make sure to make a distinction between what you hear and what I’m saying. So what you might here is, “Oh, Robby is saying there’s a type of alcohol that’s the best, that means I can have it every day.” No, what I’m saying is that there are bad and less bad versions of alcohol. So the least bad version of alcohol would be things like Tequila, Rum and Potato Vodka. Why? Because they are not derived from grains and they have very little in the way of sugar. So they are not healthy for you in any way shape or form but they’re less unhealthy for you than other things. Next on the docket would be Wine, Gluten-free Beer and Champaign, they’re not derived from gains but you start to get some more carbs in the mix there when you have those. Next on the list would be Gin, Vodka, Whiskey, Scotch, and Hard Cider, they’re derived from grains and they have a bit more in the way of carbs. Next on the list would be Liquors and Desert Wines.
And then on the generally avoid or you might as well be having a pizza and a soda at that point would be things like Beer, Wine coolers, Premix drinks like Margaritas, yeah. Those are very much going to fall in the red light category. So Red Wine, I would say White wine, generally speaking, I would say those are probably in the yellow light category. Maybe a shot of the harder Liquors that I mentioned like the Tequila, Rum, and Potato Vodka could maybe be in the yellow light category if they’re kept in check and they don’t cause you to have a ton of them. Alcohol, just like chocolate or other things is something where you’re really going to need to be wary of your tendencies and are you more prone to addiction or more prone to wanting it if you have just a little bit or not. But generally speaking, those would be kind of the yellow light items and then your red light items would be your standard Beer, Margaritas, things of that nature. So can alcohol be part of a healthy way of living? Yeah.
I mean assuming, if you have a clinical diagnosis, obviously, you want to stay away from it if you’re an alcoholic, but generally speaking, if you’re otherwise eating real whole food and it’s a way for you to maybe relax with friends or family or for a special occasion then it can be a part of a healthy lifestyle if kept in moderation. But just keep in mind, there is no such thing as healthy alcohol, it’s not positively contributing to your health, it doesn’t have any nutrients in it and it’s got a whole bunch of stuff like extra calories and sleep impact and sugar content that can really harm your health. So if you just keep it in the relevant category of either a yellow light or a red light food that’s only for special occasion and in moderation, you should okay. Alright guys, thanks so much for tuning in, I’ll see you next time.
2018 07 11