PHOTO: don’t kid yourself into thinking alcohol is a “healthy drink” – it’s not. But if you do drink, there are ways to make it less unhealthy.

Alcohol, Toxins & What To Drink

Today’s nutritional tip is all about alcohol. This is a complicated topic of discussion and it’s always one that’s pretty emotional. It’s difficult because alcohol is associated with religious ceremonies, with spiritual ceremonies, with the church, with temples, and with all kinds of different things. It’s really integrated into our culture. And it’s also, for the most part, pretty bad for you. All that said, it seems to be something that’s pretty well tolerated by our body. In the same way that stress is really bad for us, but if it’s managed well we seem to be able to handle it.

So with all that said, how do you drink alcohol and be healthy? Well, the best way to drink alcohol and be healthy is not to drink it at all. I think without exception, even the red wine, the less you drink of it the better. Now, for me that’s a little bit too much, too extreme. It’s really helpful to adhere to social rules, to be able to go out and have a drink with people once in a while.
If you’re going out and having a drink, what are the best things to drink? What are the healthiest things to drink?

One of the worst ones is one of the more common ones, which is beer. I really like beer, but it tends to be relatively toxic in terms of things that are added to it and things that are growing in it. It’s not a very clean ferment. Some of the cleaner ones would be dry red wines, spirits. As far as spirits go, vodka’s actually the cleanest while whiskey would be the dirtiest. By their color can be a good way to associate: beer is that same brown color as whiskey, tends to be the dirtiest. One of the worst things about alcohol is the sugar. People with healthy livers can usually handle the toxic effects of alcohol pretty well.

The sugar itself is what really, really gets people and can lead to big problems. The other thing about alcohol which is interesting is a lot of people use alcohol to fall asleep, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this myself. It’s actually really terrible for sleep. Initially it makes your blood sugar drop and that makes you go to sleep or makes you tired. But then it wakes you up about two hours later, and it gives you very, very poor quality sleep.

In men, alcohol consumption is also associated with increased cortisol levels, which is basically a stress response. It’s not seen as much in women for whatever reason. So what happens is you get home from a stressful day at work, you have a couple of drinks, feel relaxed, you fall asleep, you wake up, have a bad sleep and you’ve basically got stress hormones pumped through your body. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that feeling, where you’ve just had a drink or two, fell asleep, felt nice and relaxed and you wake up in the morning and feel like utter crap. That could be what’s going on.

As with everything, moderation is certainly the key. But clean alcohol is very helpful. Drinking something that has a lower amount of toxins in it and has lower amount of bacteria and molds can be helpful. And so choosing a dry, red wine, choosing something even like vodka with ice and fresh lemon juice is going to be better. Tequila’s actually not bad either, if you drink a clear tequila with fresh lemon. Hopefully you’re not drinking the piña colada that comes out of a bag from Wal-Mart. I saw those recently. That was some freaky stuff.