A question I have asked myself time and time again: “Can I drink alcohol and still be healthy?”  I am assuming if you are reading this you like to enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage or two yourself.

Obviously, we all know that alcohol should be consumed in moderation, if not, it can lead to serious health complications overtime. Excessive use of alcohol can lead to inflammation of the liver, cirrhosis and certain forms of cancer.

So what exactly does “moderation” mean???

According to the CDC, moderate drinking for women is one drink a day and for men two drinks a day (lucky guys). When we talk about a “drink” there are actual limits and it differs depending on the type of alcohol you drink. 

I personally know a few people who are a little heavy-handed on the pouring side….LOL!

Limits include:

Beer: 12 ounces at 5%

Wine: 5 ounces at 12% (sometimes my glass is about 10 ounces, but hey we all have our things we need to work on!!)

Liquor: 1.5 ounces at 40% (80 proof)

So with all of that being said, if you are going to consume alcohol you want to do it in the “healthiest” way possible.

Avoid Sugary Mixed Drinks

At times, you make may want to enjoy an ice cold drink and in some cases that may be a vodka/cranberry or a rum/coke or even a strong margarita (one of my personal favorites). Even though these are very common choices, they are terrible for our waistlines and skin if done on a regular basis.

When sugar is consumed it breaks down into glucose, which is the fuel our body uses for EVERYTHING. If we don’t use glucose in the form of energy (physical activity, metabolism, etc.) then the body will store the excess in adipose tissue or in other words as  FAT!

Sugary drinks raise your blood glucose levels which in turn raises your insulin levels. Overtime, your body can develop insulin resistance which can lead to Type II Diabetes. So you want to limit your sugar intake as much as possible.  

Lastly, ladies we love our skin and want to keep a youthful appearance. Well…..sugar is the devil when it comes our skin! As stated before, sugar can cause insulin levels to spike and that can lead to inflammation (biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli). As a result of inflammation, enzymes are released that can break down the elastin and collagen that help to keep our skin firm. The result……..saggy, wrinkly skin!!

Alternatives to sugary mixers are sparkling water, pure lemon or lime juice, fresh fruits, or club soda.

Drink Wine Instead of liquor

Wine is LIFE!!! Sorry but I love me a good glass of wine! But all wine is not created equal. Red wines would be considered healthier than white wine for a few reasons.

To start off with, red wine tends to have less sugar and have a higher percentage of minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium (but of course we are not consuming wine for the minerals).  Red wine also has lutein and zeaxanthin which are carotenoids. Carotenoids are plant pigments that can provide protective health benefits including helping to prevent macular degeneration. Wine can literally help your vision last longer…….WIN!!!

In addition to the above, red wine has antioxidants, which can help to prevent free radicals. Free radicals are harmful substances that can cause damage and wear down cellular tissues. Antioxidants help to stabilize free radicals and improve cell health, ultimately reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

I myself just recently changed over to red wine after being a chardonnay drinker for years…knowledge is power!

Consume Plenty of Water While Drinking

Water is one of the secrets to helping maintain our overall health. Drinking water while consuming alcohol can help in preventing dehydration, which can lead to a nasty hangover. Hangovers can cause nausea, headache and other annoying symptoms that can deter anyone from wanting to EVER drink again…….believe me been there done that!

To explain, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it will stimulate increased production of urine. Increased urination helps to prevent the intoxicating buildup of ethanol in the blood (our bodies are soooo amazing). The more we urinate, the more the body becomes dehydrated and as we continue to drink the cycle continues leading to a horrible hangover.

To prevent this, pre-game with a little water, or ask for your shot “on the rocks” this will help to water down the alcohol as the ice melts. Another option would be to consume one 8 ounce glass of water between every alcoholic beverage. This may make you urinate even more but heck drinking alcohol will do that anyway. At least with this approach you can help to prevent a potential hangover.

Avoid Eating Fatty Food Before, During and After Drinking

This one is going to be hard but so worth it! There’s nothing like having a drink and scarfing down some hot wings. Or getting that burger at two in the morning after a night of drinking, I call those the “good ole days”….LOL!

But there is something better, making a decision to be healthier!! To break this down, when you are consuming alcohol your body has no choice but to put the work in and get it metabolized. The liver makes this a priority because alcohol cannot be stored (thank God!) so it has to get rid of it. In doing this, everything else is put on hold including metabolizing that fatty food that will now be stored as fat.

If you are going to eat before, during or after drinking try to choose foods that are more nutritiously dense such as fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grain pasta etc.

So to sum it up, yes you can be healthy and still drink alcohol. The key is to make HEALTHIER choices when drinking!! 

So drink up but always drink responsively and within the recommended quantities.


Find Health in Every day,

Dr. Lindsay