Haley Hughes: Can alcohol be a part of a healthy diet?
How do we include alcohol in a healthy diet?
Moderation, moderation, moderation, right? Except it’s a little more complicated than that.
On one hand, we know alcohol is linked to violence, motor vehicle crashes, cirrhosis of the liver, certain cancers and multiple chronic diseases.
On the other hand, there are studies that show alcohol is also linked to increased longevity, decreased risk for heart diseases and anti-inflammatory mechanisms, as well as red wine’s famous antioxidants. As a dietitian, I believe it is critical to assess the appropriateness of drinking based on individual medical history, family history lifestyle and diet.
It’s important to look at how much you’re drinking, why you are drinking and your health goals. If you are mindlessly topping off your wine glass five times at dinner, I would recommend measuring out five ounces of wine to see what that actually looks like (and maybe you should have some water, if you are truly that thirsty). If you immediately walk in the door after a crazy day at work and reach for alcohol, let’s look at better ways manage stress. If you are working on weight management and spending excessive empty calories on booze, reviewing the importance of a balanced diet and focusing on choices would be more beneficial.
So, can I have it?
If you don’t drink now, I would not suggest you start, but for those of us who do, the U.S dietary guidelines recommend it should be in moderation. This means one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men (and no, you cannot save a weeks’ worth and drink them all at once). The World Health Organization suggests not exceeding two drinks per day and having at least two non-drinking days per week.
This is what I mean by moderation.
• One beer: 12 fluid ounces.
• Wine: five fluid ounces
• Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces
This also means you can’t order a giant margarita and count it as one drink.
Clients always ask which of the three are better for you. I usually respond with, “Pick what you enjoy.” I personally enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or dessert and other times a beer when I’m out camping or at the lake. Treat it as a treat, and don’t overdo it.
If you have questions or concerns about drinking, reach out to your physician or a registered dietitian for more information.
Haley Hughes MS, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who provides nutrition counseling, diabetes management education and nutrient analysis services at RDRx Nutrition, LLC, in Greeley. She has written for “Women’s Health” and “Shape” magazines.