The weekend is a time of family, friends, and extra calories. Many of those calories can come from alcohol, but with a little forethought, you can be as svelt after the weekend as you were going into it! Most people aren’t aware of the strong connection between your brain chemistry and how it affects your appetite and behavior around food. Healthy eating helps maintain good levels of serotonin and dopamine…those ‘feel good’ hormones. But unhealthy choices can increase those levels too, in an unhealthy way. Be especially cautious about high carb foods and alcohol. Alcohol decreases inhibition while carbs increase serotonin, creating a pleasant neuro-cocktail that leaves you prime for over-indulgence. If you are dining out, start with something non-alcoholic like Pellegrino and pomegranite, skip the breadbasket and ask for wine to be served with the meal. Food buffers the effects of the alcohol creating less temptation for dessert or an aperitif!
While drinking in moderation, alcohol can reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even some cancers. When over consumed, it packs on pounds, stresses the liver and accelerates aging. However, if you choose to imbibe, choosing wisely can net you some good nutrients. A 12-ounce beer offers B vitamins, 5% of your daily folate, contains about 1 gram of soluble fiber, and may reduce kidney stones. Red wine gets kudos for heart healthy resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, and being lower in calories than beer. While hard spirits don’t contain much nutrition, they can be diluted to save calories with low calorie mixers. Cocktails that offer antioxidants like crushed mint, pomegranate, citrus and veggie juice may offset some of the toxic effects of alcohol. Bloody Marys, Mojitos, and Greyhounds are good examples of antioxidant containing spirits. But it all comes down to knowing your limit.
The USDA 2005 Dietary Guidelines declare that six ounces of wine, a 12 ounce beer, or one and a half ounces of hard spirits each count as one drink. Since alcohol significantly raises the risk of breast cancer for women, the ladies need to be especially thoughtful about limiting their intake to one drink a day, or no more than 7 drinks a week. Men should limit intake to two drinks a day, with no more than 14 drinks in a week and it’s best for everyone to have a few days a week with no alcohol at all. (Your liver needs time off too.) And you already know the answer to this one, you can’t drink all 7 or 14 all at once!
Whatever you choose to drink this weekend, making just a few healthy choices can increase your nutrition, lower your calorie intake, prevent gaining a few pounds, or just make you feel better! Cheers to a healthy life!