The Good and The Bad of Alcohol

To drink or not to drink? – that is the question. With holiday parties in full swing, many find it extra festive to enjoy some eggnog, champagne, or fun “holiday” drink. While alcohol consumed in moderation can have some health benefits, it can also pack on the pounds and increase your risk of cancer. What’s a girl to do?

What does “Moderation” mean?

What a vague term – Moderation – and one that’s so casually thrown around. Do you know what it even means? One drink = 5 oz. wine, 1 oz. spirits (hard alcohol), or 12 oz. beer.  The recommendation is that women consume no more than 1 drink a day, while men should stop at 2 drinks a day. These are daily recommendations, which means you should not “bank” your drinks and consume more over the weekend. This would be considered “binge drinking” and can raise you risk of elevated blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

The Good

When consumed in moderation, certain forms of alcohol provide antioxidants that can improve your heart health. Wine (red) and champagne contain antioxidants that protect your heart. Alcohol also can raise your HDL (the “good” cholesterol), but so can exercise. Currently, it’s very trendy to mix alcohol with antioxidant-rich juices, like pomegranate or cherry juice, which create the perception of a “healthier” cocktail. Heck, even the good-old Bloody Mary could be considered a healthy drink because of its tomato juice!

The Bad

Before you go and fool yourself into thinking that a pomegranate martini is good for you, you should know about the downside of alcohol consumption. First of all, alcoholic drinks contain a lot of calories which leads to weight gain, especially around your middle. If you drink a light beer every night, that adds up to 770 extra calories a week, which will cause a weight gain of 12 pounds a year (all in your gut)! They don’t call it “beer belly” for nothing. Plus, alcohol intake also increases appetite, leading you to reach those high-calorie, high-fat munchies that you would normally stay away from.

Alcohol is a toxin, which directly impacts the liver, your body’s primary detoxifier. Heavy drinking can cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), and lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), and possible death.

Heavy drinking can increase your risk of certain forms of cancer, including liver, esophagus, mouth, colon, ovarian, and breast. People who drink regularly and smoke are at even higher risk of developing these diseases as well as increasing their risk of heart attack.

Should pregnant women be allowed to consume alcohol? Heavy drinking during pregnancy is associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition characterized by reduced growth, facial and neurological malformations, and physical deformities. Some doctors feel that a pregnant woman can safely consume small amounts of alcohol once or twice a week, but it’s best to play it safe and abstain.

Alcohol consumption can also impair brain function and decision-making. Slurred speech, slowed reflexes, decreased inhibition, and clumsiness can lead to accidents to one’s self, or worse, to others if one were to get behind the wheel.

How many calories are in that?

Did you ever want to know how many calories are in that drink? Click on the link to check out the calorie content of your favorite party cocktail.

http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeStudents/calculator/alcoholcalc.aspx

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