Living mindfully is all about moderation. Of course we all have to be careful about the hazards of alcohol abuse (for more information, see the bottom of the page), however a few drinks with friends can have all sorts of stress-reducing effects.
It’s always a good time to consider tiny adjustments that can be made to make all celebrations just a little bit healthier. There are plenty of things you can do alongside drinking to help out your body- getting plenty of water, pacing out your drinks- but what about the content of the alcohol itself?
When it comes to choosing healthy foods, we all hear again and again about going organic to avoid all those nasty additives, GMOs, and pesticides. It’s much more difficult, however, to find healthier options when it comes to alcohol. This is especially important to consider because, unlike packaged food, where ingredients must be labeled, alcohol companies are generally not required to disclose the contents of alcoholic beverages. This paves the way for all sorts of surprising things to sneak into your bottle- remember the Scandinavian recall of Fireball Whiskey (because of the presence of propylene glycol, a toxic ingredient found in antifreeze) that made social media news last fall? Other than this incident, however, the issue is rarely discussed.
To ramp up this discussion, we’ve done a scan of what’s out there. Hopefully, this will make it just a little easier for you any time you plan on a little bit of indulging.
Photocredit: Suma Specialist Wholesalers
With the huge amount of recent coverage on celiac disease and gluten intolerance, beer companies have started to expand their lines of gluten-free beers. Some stellar breweries are working hard to create beers that are not only healthier, but also taste great. Crowd favorites include many brands that can be found in large supermarket chains or health food stores. Redbridge is one of the most popular. Bard’s Tale, New Planet, Daura, New Grist, and Greensare also great options. Other problematic ingredients that can be found in beer include GMOs, pesticides, and carcinogenic coloring agents such as caramel color. Peak Organic Brewing Company, Bison, Wolaver’s, and Eel River all provide organic alternatives. New Grist is both gluten free and certified organic.
Recent studies have found that pesticide residues can survive the fermentation process and remain present in wine. To combat this, many organic wine companies have developed. Look for labels that read “Biodynamic Wine-“ this means that not only in the wine organic, but the producer is working towards making the entire growing process more sustainable. The next best is wine that is “100% Organic.” Remember that products (be they food or alcohol) labeled just “Organic” are only actually required to contain 95% organically grown ingredients. Organic wine selections can be found at health food stores, some supermarket chains, and specialty shops. If you’re looking to keep it simple, check out some of the options at Whole Foods. For vegans and vegetarians, it is important to note that many wines actually contain animal products, including egg whites and gelatin. Although companies are not required to provide ingredients, the Ecovine Wine Club has a list of wines free of animal-derived products.
Information about harder alcoholic drinks is much more difficult to come by. Because whiskey and many vodkas are made with corn, it’s highly likely that GMO corn and pesticides have made their way into the bottle. Two bourbon companies- Four Roses and Wild Turkey– claim that they only use non-GMO corn in their products. While organic whiskeys are easier to find in Europe, getting them in the United States requires a little more searching around. Companies such as Koval Distillery, and Brenromach Organic Whiskeyare organic and American-made. A number of organic vodka options are also available, including Square One, Prairie Organic, Vodka 14, and Ocean Vodka. These can be ordered online, or found in specialty shops. And good news for those who are gluten free- according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, distilled alcohols (gin, vodka, whiskey) and wines are generally free of gluten, as the peptide is too large to carry over through distillation.
Of course these healthier options may be harder to come by if you’re out on the town. But, unless you have a history of substance abuse, if you’re enjoying the beautiful spring weather and feel like cracking open a beer, why not try out some of these body and environmentally friendly options?
Information from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Drinking Levels Defined:
Moderate alcohol consumption: According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
Binge Drinking: NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days.
Heavy Drinking: SAMHSA defines heavy drinking as drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.
Low Risk for Developing an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): As defined by NIAAA, for women, low-risk drinking is no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. NIAAA research shows that only about 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits have an AUD. Even within these limits, you can have problems if you drink too quickly or have other health issues.
Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who: Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery, take medications that interact with alcohol, have a medical condition that alcohol can aggravate, or are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
Celebrating More Mindfully: Gluten Free, Organic, and Environmentally-Friendly Alcohol Options