A Guide to the Healthiest Alcohols + Skinny Margarita Recipe
What do skin breakouts, brain fog, excess belly fat, period cramps and digestive issues all have in common? Inflammation. Think of chronic inflammation as a roaring fire inside the body that is a culprit for nearly every disease on the planet from depression to cancer to diabetes and even heart disease.
While numerous factors fuel the inflammatory fire such as stress and toxin exposure, the foods and drinks we consume on a daily basis can be some of the biggest drivers, namely sugar and alcohol. I am often asked by clients whether having a couple glasses of wine after work or a few margaritas on the weekends will affect their inflammatory levels.
In this post, I’ll answer the question: “how much alcohol you can get away with when you’re trying to keep inflammation down?” while also providing you with a definitive guide to the healthiest alcohols for when you choose to imbibe. PLUS you’ll get my no-sugar-added skinny margarita recipe… just in time for Labor Day celebrations!
hOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS INFLAMMATION
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. However, when it comes to keeping a lid on inflammation, even this is too high when we look at the research. Large amounts of alcohol can create intestinal inflammation through multiple pathways. Alcohol also puts a strain on the liver. Your liver will prioritize the metabolism of alcohol above other macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbs), leading it to slow down the burning of fat, which can contribute to inflammation-based weight gain.
So, how much alcohol can you get away with without causing too much inflammation? One drink three times a week or less. As a refresher – one drink is a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.
Now you know how much you can drink, let’s talk about what you should be choosing when you hit up happy hour.
GUIDE TO THE HEALTHIEST ALCOHOLS
Not all alcohol is created equal so learning how different types of booze can affect you will help you drink smarter. My top picks: wine, distilled spirits, and clean cocktails.
Wine has many health-supporting properties, providing antioxidants such as resveratrol, shown to reduce stroke and blood pressure and provide anti-aging properties. But when it comes to choosing wine, quality is of utmost importance.
The quality of wine refers to the conditions in which the grapes were cultivated, fermented and processed. Conventionally grown wine grapes are one the most heavily treated crops with pesticides. Wine can also be high in carcinogenic mycotoxins from moldy vats or poor fermentation practices. During processing, 76 different additives can be added to typical wine, none of which are required to be disclosed on the label. Artificial coloring, ammonia, defoaming agents, metals, additional sulfites, added sugar, and all kinds of other odd chemicals contribute to increased inflammation, not to mention a potentially crushing hangover.
For these reasons, I recommend Dry Farm Wines. This company sources high-quality natural wines from small, sustainable family farms that meet their strict standards of health, i.e. no added sugar, low sulfites, no additives, etc. They also lab test all their wines to ensure they are mold-free. That means minimal inflammation and little to no hangover the next morning.
Distilled spirits (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whisky) contain zero grams of carbohydrates and zero grams of sugar which means they are the least likely to negatively impact your blood sugar and metabolism. This all goes out the window, though, if you add sugary mixers like ginger beer, tonic water, store-bought margarita mix, etc. My recommendation is distilled spirits consumed neat, or mixed with sparkling water, fresh citrus juice and/or fresh herbs.
Need gluten free sips?
Rum is distilled from sugarcane and therefore most varieties are gluten-free.
Most vodkas and gins are made from potatoes or fermented grains such as corn, sorghum, rice, rye or wheat. People with gluten allergies or sensitivities should opt for Tito’s, Chopin or Hendrick’s.
Tequila and mezcal are distilled from the agave plant so they are both naturally gluten-free. Some tequila may include fillers such as corn, while mezcal must be distilled from 100% agave, making it the cleaner choice of the two.
Try this clean cocktail recipe
My Skinny Margarita is a healthier take on a classic margarita because I use Swoon zero sugar simple syrup instead of traditional agave nectar. Agave is super high in fructose, a type of sugar that is difficult for the liver to metabolize and therefore is readily stored as fat. Swoon simple syrup is made from monk fruit, a naturally sweet melon native to Southeast Asia, that is calorie-free and won’t raise blood sugar or inflammation levels.
1.5 ounces silver tequila like Casamigos, Espolon, or Jimador
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1.5 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
Salt for the rim – add chili powder for a kick!
Rim the glass: Pour a thin layer of salt (and chili powder if using) onto a small plate. Rub a lime wedge around the top edge of your glass to moisten it, then dip the glass into the salt so that it sticks, tapping all the way around. Fill the glass with ice and set aside.
For one drink: fill a small cocktail shaker with additional ice. Add the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, and Swoon simple syrup. Tightly close and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain into the rimmed glass over the ice. Enjoy immediately.