Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Alcohol and Clean Eating

One of the things that I miss most from my pre-pregnancy days, aside from soft cheese, sushi, my lovely body, HIIT, and lifting really heavy, is enjoying a nice glass of organic red wine on Friday nights while making homemade pizza with Allan. Now I drink POM with seltzer, mint and lime while Allan has a beer.

However, just because I can’t have alcohol right now doesn’t mean that you aren’t enjoying a glass or two here and there. One of the questions that I get asked frequently is how does alcohol fit into the clean eating lifestyle?

Most sources of alcohol are not clean because of added refined sugars, not being close to the source/excessive processing and distillation, questionable additives/preservatives along with its detrimental effects on the body. However, alcohol can be enjoyed as part of a clean lifestyle in moderation, one to two servings per week as part of a planned cheat meal.

Unfortunately, in the United States alcohol producers are not required to place nutrition labels on their products making it very difficult for clean eaters, like ourselves, to really know how the number of calories and specific ingredients that we are putting into our bodies. This makes choosing a clean alcohol source even more difficult. For this very reason, I strive to choose alcohol that is local, organic, certified sustainable or biodynamic.

Sometimes the liquor store labeling can be confusing, so instead of getting frustrated, simply ask! I find that the salespeople can be really helpful and many times they have tried a lot of the products that they sell and can be a valuable resource.

Organic red wine (without added sulfites) is the best choice when it comes to alcohol. Although it does contain sugar, they are natural occurring sugars. Also, organic wine is less processed, being closer to the fruit's natural state, than other forms of alcohol that are distilled/processed several times. Also, red wine is a good source of beneficial antioxidants, when enjoyed in moderation.

However, it is important to note that some organic wines and most inorganic wines contain preservatives such as sulfur dioxide and potassium sorbate. Although, these preservatives are generally recognized as safe, I always stay away from food additives and preservatives because what is generally recognized as safe today may be carcinogenic tomorrow. I am perfectly happy consuming items that are produced exclusively by Mother Nature with as little human intervention as possible. Fortunately, most winemakers note the use of sulfites on their label so that we can be savvy consumers.

Allan and I have had several wonderful bottles of wine from Frey Vineyards and Morgan Winery. Which organic wines do you like?

Beer is the second best alcohol choice, although some beers contain added refined sugars, flavorings and artificial ingredients that are not clean. Also, beer tends to be very calorie dense. So, if you are trying to loose weight, it may not be your best option.

The basic ingredients that go into beer are water, a starch source (allowing for fermentation, usually malted barley, wheat, rice, oats, rye, corn and sorghum), hops (for flavoring and natural preservation), brewer’s yeast (for fermentation, also adds beneficial nutrients), and clarifying agents (improves the appearance of beer and is not present in ethnic or wheat beers, usually isinglass, seaweed (Irish moss or carrageenan), Polycar (artificial) and gelatin).

Beer has been shown to have some beneficial impact on health due to the nutrients present in brewer’s yeast, specifically magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, and B vitamins; however, the beer loses these nutrients in the filtering process, therefore it is best to consume unfiltered beer. Also, low-alcoholic beers have been found to have strong anti-cancer properties.

It is somewhat difficult to find organic beers in regular liquor stores, so Allan usually purchases locally produced beer from Grain Belt or Schell's Brewery. Is there a brand of organic beer that you have tried and like?

Your third clean choice is vodka and seltzer or vodka and POM. If you cannot order seltzer (carbonated water), soda water is a possible alternative. With vodka, it is best to choose an organic variety to ensure that you are consuming quality vodka without pesticides and processing additives. One other thing to note is that some vodka's are distilled in charcoal (*yuck*). Check out Prairie Vodka, which is made here in MN, certified organic, kosher, and gluten-free.

Most soda waters contain the following ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sodium Bicarbonate (salt), Sodium Citrate (citric acid related salt and preservative), Potassium Sulfate (potassium salt that may produce gastrointestinal disturbances and irritation), Disodium Phosphate (sodium and saline laxative).

As you will notice, soda water contains added salts (80 mg sodium per 8 oz). This sodium can increase the alcohol bloat that many people experience after a night of drinking.

Tonic water is NOT clean as most contain HFCS and the diet versions use artificial sweeteners.

Here are the ingredients in tonic water: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup (NOT clean), citric acid (salt and preservative), sodium benzoate (carcinogenic when combined with Vitamin C to create benzene), quinine (see below), natural flavors (completely unknown ingredients that are added).

Here are the ingredients in diet tonic water: carbonated water, sodium citrate (citric acid related salt and preservative), sodium benzoate (carcinogenic when combined with vitamin C to create benzene), saccharine (artificial sweetener and carcinogen), quinine (see below).

Quinine is a controversial ingredient that must be called out on the front label to alert consumers of its presence. Some of the known side effects of quinine ingestion are constipation, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea, symptoms mimicking septic shock (fever, hypotension, and blood abnormalities), and hearing impairment, to name a few.

I hope that this helps to resolve some of your questions along with clearing up some prevalent alcohol misconceptions.

1 comment:

Scott said...

For a beer suggestion, I had Peak Organic Beer (bought it at Whole Foods) and found it really good.