Imagine having to give up alcohol for NINE WHOLE MONTHS?!?! Giving it up for a measly two weeks doesn’t seem so bad then, does it? But why cut alcohol at all? Is it really that bad?
Alcohol has no nutritional value, so truly does not belong in your diet. What does that mean, “no nutritional value”? Nutritional value is how we describe the amount of life-sustaining nutrients (e.g. protein, vitamins, and minerals) contained in a particular food. Alcohol has no such nutrients.
It does, however, contain calories. Calories are the numeric measurement of energy (aka fuel) provided by food. Our bodies need calories to function, but as you may have heard, not all calories are created equal. The source of the calories matters a great deal. Calories come from carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and yes… alcohol. Here are the calories per gram for each:
1 GRAM CAL
The key to a healthful diet is to be efficient with your calorie intake –give your body all the nutrients it needs, and as many different vitamins and minerals as possible, using a small amount of calories. In other words, consume foods that have a high nutritional value, with relatively few calories. Alcohol adds only empty calories, drastically cutting your efficiency.
Besides not providing any nutritional benefit itself, alcohol also hinders your body’s ability to properly metabolize other foods. When consumed, alcohol is perceived as a poison and the body’s top priority is to rid itself of the incoming toxin. Unfortunately, this also prevents the absorption of nutrients from other foods. Minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc are just passed through. Carbohydrates and fats that would normally be processed into energy are instead converted to body fat and immediately stored.
Furthermore, alcohol lowers your inhibitions. Since most alcohol is consumed in social settings where you’re surrounded by pretzels, crackers, pizza, fried food, etc., lowered inhibitions generally lead to bad food choices. Eating poorly during and after drinking only adds to the body’s fat storage.
What about that intense hunger that comes on when drinking? Alcohol disrupts healthy blood sugar regulation causing dramatic drops in blood sugar, which triggers the body to desire MORE food! We have seen this cycle before – the body’s mixed signals confused by sugar consumption. Over time this can create glucose intolerance and possibly lead to diabetes.
Although alcohol as a whole provides no nutritional value, certain types, specifically red wine, do provide some health benefits. One glass (5 oz.) of red wine a day has been shown to reduce the risk of high-blood pressure. Red wines contain flavonoids and heart-healthy antioxidants or polyphenols. One such polyphenol, resveratrol, is known to help prevent damage to blood vessels and prevent blood clots. It’s also been shown to reduce inflammation and decrease LDL (low density lipoprotein aka “bad cholesterol”). Despite these great benefits, don’t count on red wine for all of your antioxidants. Make sure you’re eating a colorful diet of fruits and vegetables, to maximize your antioxidant intake!
Remember, everything in moderation. Your charge for the duration of this challenge is to give up alcohol completely. But after the challenge, if you choose to consume alcohol, use the following guidelines: