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Can I Put Alcohol In The Healthy Column?



Understanding the conflicting information about alcohol

Dr Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

Can I Put Alcohol In The Healthy Column?

(Joe and me in Italy 2013.  The house wine was always good)

A healthy lifestyle is more than just one specific food or one specific exercise.  Lifestyle refers to the entire sum of what we eat, breathe, and drink.  Lifestyle refers to the entire sum of how we deal with stress, work, and family in general.  A great book to read is  The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.  The author is a National Geographic reporter who spent an extended period of time in each of five “Blue Zones”.  The Blue Zones are five areas in the world where people enjoy tremendous health and longevity.  Of note, the people from the Blue Zones don’t see a lot of doctors, don’t take a lot of medications or vitamins, and don’t spend hours on end at the gym.  The Blue Zones are Icaria Greece, Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica, Sardinia Italy, Okinawa Japan, and Loma Linda California.  Buettner examined the lifestyles of people in these areas to see what their secrets were to living such long and incredibly healthy lives. 

(Amalfi Coast, Italy)

I start with a discussion of the Blue Zones in a blog about alcohol because I want to look at the habits of truly healthy people in order to decide whether alcohol is healthy .  The people in the Blue Zones had three main things in common despite coming from such varied locations and cultures.  They, all, ate a plant-based diet.  They all walked about 5 miles a day.  They all had close, fulfilling relationships with family, friends, and their communities.  Most of the people in the Blue Zones consumed some alcohol, except for Loma Linda where they avoided alcohol.  But the areas where they consumed alcohol, the amount was moderate.  It tended to be wine. 

(Mt. Etna Sicily, where the locals hike regularly for mushrooms)

Alcohol is, after all, a processed food.  Alcohol has refined sugars and empty calories.  Empty calories are definitely something to avoid if you have heart disease, diabetes, gout or liver disease.  Moreover, for some people alcohol may exacerbate heartburn and destroy good gut bugs.  But if you do not have medical problems, are adhering to a low-oil, high fiber, plant-based diet and getting a lot of physical activity in your day, then alcohol, in moderation, is in the neutral column, neither good nor bad for you

I enjoy having a nice glass of "something’' after work, while I am cooking in the kitchen and watching Judge Judy.  I tend to pick low calorie alcoholic beverages like vodka and soda or Prosecco.  A five ounce serving of these types of drinks is roughly 50-100 calories depending on the brand.  A five ounce serving of wine is 120 calories.  Word of caution, most people don’t have just 5 ounces of wine.  Some wine glasses are enormous and fool us into drinking a lot more than 5 ounces.  So my opinion is, after looking at the Blue Zones, that for a healthy person, alcohol is neutral.  For someone with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, or liver problems,  alcohol is a processed food with empty calories and should be avoided.

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