Alcohol has calories and breaks the fast. But moderate alcohol consumption can be healthy. When consumed within the eating window, alcohol can complement the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a great tool to achieve your goals related to weight management and health improvement, but fasting is a lifestyle, not a race. You should fit fasting in your life, not your life into your fasting schedule.
After all, we are all human beings and sometimes we just want to have a glass of wine after a stressful working day or share a celebration of our loved ones with some bubbles. Even if you are not supposed to drink alcohol while fasting, an occasional drink might have a place in your eating window.
Alcohol is not included in the recommended list of liquids while fasting.
Even though some drinks like whiskey and vodka are carb-free, and wine and beer contain only 3-4 grams of carbohydrates per serving, you need to keep in mind that everything that contains calories might break your fast and any alcohol is very calorie-dense.
If consumed in moderation and only during your eating window, alcohol is unlikely to negatively impact your fasting routine.
Many studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce heart disease, inflammation, blood clotting, and systolic blood pressure (1, 2, 3). One more beneficial effect of alcohol is raising high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol (4). Surprising fact, isn’t it?
The Normative Aging Study from Harvard University, including its 30 years of follow-up, discovered that moderate intake of alcohol was associated with increased insulin sensitivity and a significant drop in insulin levels and insulin resistance than either the high-intake or no-alcohol group (5). In 2005, the American Diabetes Association found a highly significant 30 per cent reduction in type 2 diabetes with moderate drinking (6).
Alcoholic beverages contain biologically active compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are a category of plant composites that offer various health benefits. One of them is antioxidant property, which means neutralising the harmful effect of reactive oxygen species, also known as free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for cellular and DNA damage and are linked to an increased potential for illness and disease (7).
One of the ways to stop free radical damage is to consume polyphenols with food or drinks. This is why you often hear about the importance of having antioxidants in your diet (8).
Many fruits and berries contain polyphenols, and grapes are one of the most concentrated sources of them. Wine comprises these compounds the most and has a highly concentrated variety (9).
Red wine is produced from the whole grape, including the skin and seeds, whereas white wine is produced without the skin. Champagne is made using red grapes blended with white grapes with no skin contact, so the wine appears white (10).
Because red wine is macerated with the skin and seeds for several weeks this results in up to thirty times the amount of polyphenols, depending upon the specifics of the type of grape and its specific fermentation process, than white or sparkling wines (11).
One of the most beneficial “fighters” against free radicals is resveratrol. It comes from grape skins, so red wine is a significant dietary source.
The benefits of drinking wine are not trivial. When consumed with a meal, it even has the ability to decrease after-meal spikes in lipids and glucose.
Whiskey contains multiple polyphenols that have gone through oxidation in the long ageing process from compounds in oakwood barrels called ellagitannins (12).
Commercial whiskey has been found to contain several polyphenols and aged whiskey appears to provide a similar polyphenol content to wine.
Human trials showed that moderate whiskey consumption can increase cholesterol efflux capacity–the body’s ability to remove cholesterol from cells (13).
Beer contains many polyphenol classes, which occur from malt and hops and are implicated in haze formation in the finished beer. Darker beers provide the most polyphenols (similar to red wine) (14).
One randomized trial examined the effect of beer polyphenols (660 ml beer) in 33 male participants with a high risk of cardiovascular disease. The trial showed that phenols in beer reduced inflammatory biomarkers of health (15).
Beer is not recommended for those who are gluten-sensitive and even small amounts can cause more damage than provide benefits.
Moderate consumption of alcohol implies two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
A standard drink is defined as 14 grams of pure ethanol. Consuming around 12.5 grams of alcohol per day is associated with the lowest risk for coronary heart disease for women, and 25 grams for men.
For most red wines, which are around 12.5 per cent ethanol, about 3 ounces of red wine per day may be optimal for women, and 6 ounces of red wine per day for men (16).
Moderate alcohol consumption provides many health benefits. Intermittent fasting is also beneficial for health. Combining both habits is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.
Because alcohol breaks the fast, you should consume alcohol only during your eating window.
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