Who doesn’t love a glass of wine after work? But before you reach for the bottle, there are a few things you should know. Nutrition Expert, Zoe Bingley-Pullin, gives us the pros and cons of alcohol.
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There’s good and bad news when it comes to alcohol and its effects on the brain and body. I know you’re saying, “Stop, I only want the good news”, but to really make an informed decision you need to arm yourself with all the facts.
Starting with the good news:
Drinking moderately – two to three standard drinks per night for men and one to two standard drinks per night for women – has health benefits. Red wine, for example, contains healthy, protective phytochemicals that may reduce the risk of heart disease. This could explain why the French, who consume a diet high in fat, have low rates of heart disease.
Get into red wine and beer
Red wine is also a good source of dietary iron, a mineral that prevents anaemia and the later effects of fatigue. Beer also has a few nutritional merits of its own. It contains significant amounts of B-12, a vitamin important for vegetarians. So overall red wine, white wine and beer in small amounts get a tick of approval.
Here comes the bad news:
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance and the most abused drug in Australia. Prolonged consumption can lead to cellular changes in the liver, heart, brain, and muscles resulting in cirrhosis, pancreatitis, irregular heartbeats, stroke and malnutrition.
Even moderate drinkers have a higher risk of oral cancer, and women who consume alcohol regularly have higher risks of breast cancer.
It can cause deficiencies
Alcohol reduces the body’s ability to produce neurotransmitters such as D-phenylalanine (endorphins), L-Tyrosine (dopamine), L-tryptophan (serotonin), GABA and L-Glutamine, which causes the brain chemistry to change.
Deficiencies in these neurotransmitters spur cravings for more alcohol. A deficiency in L-tryptophan, which is involved in the manufacture of serotonin in the brain, can cause problems with your sleeping patterns, alter your mood and increase sugar cravings.
Chromium, a natural trace element, promotes the passage of natural tryptophan from food through the blood and brain barrier, decreasing sugar cravings. So look for a supplement that contains chromium to keep those trips to the chocolate store under control.
You can feel depressed or irritable
When you drink alcohol, the body is unable to absorb fats efficiently, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids work to reduce anxiety as well as behaviours associated with stress. These acids also keep depression and anxiety at bay, which usually arise when your natural levels of serotonin are low.
Vitamin B goes out the window
Alcohol severely depletes the levels of B-vitamins in your body. This can contribute to mood swings and even depression. Make a point of taking a B-complex supplement the night before consuming alcohol and eat a breakfast rich in Vitamin B, such as porridge the morning after.
Sugar levels go haywire
Alcohol affects our blood sugar levels, causing them to rise and fall very quickly. When this happens, you’ll notice unexplainable changes in your mood. Stock up on B-complex, chromium and omega-3, they are the most effective supplements for curing and preventing the side effects of alcohol.
Appetite gets stimulated
The bottom line for people who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle: it’s harder to feel full when alcohol becomes a part of your diet because it stimulates the appetite. If you’re trying to keep your body lean, reduce your alcohol intake and have at least three alcohol-free nights.
Healthy hangover cure
If you have been overindulging lately and waking up in the mornings craving fat and feeling extremely lethargic, try this hangover recovery diet:
Make a fantastic breakfast with soy and linseed bread, two poached eggs, an avocado and grilled tomatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and drizzle of olive oil. It’ll give your body its required omega-3s and a massive boost of Vitamin B for energy.
Let’s drink to that, water that is!
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