Alcohol and Health
The 5 Best and 5 Worst Cocktails
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Across the board, studies keep telling us that
a bit of alcohol in your diet enhances health and lengthens life span. But last
time you hit the bar, you woke up feeling like someone was using a rototiller
on your brain, leaving you to wonder, "How can this have been good for me?"
The truth isit isn't. A hangover
means you've done damage that needs to be reversed. Unfortunately, a common
remedy is a greasy meal, which further damages your system and hinders all
weight loss plans. But there's no doubt that a drink every now and then can
help lift your spirits and diminish stress. But all cocktails are not created
equal. Just like making smart choices with the foods you eat, imbibing with a
plan can be the difference between extending your life and getting to know your
Domino's guy on a first-name basis.
The Best Cocktails
wine. Much has been written about its high antioxidant content and how
wine drinkers are the healthiest sect of those who imbibe regularly. The
difference between red and white wines is the grapes' skins. Whites don't have
'em, and they also contain more residual sugar, and sugar and alcohol is a bad
Downside . . . The
sulfates in red wine affect many people poorly, often leading to an inability
to sleep. And if you can't sleep, you're offsetting all of the positive
- Light beer. Beer is a blend of barley and hops and,
essentially, fairly healthy. It has some food value and its alcohol content is
low. Light beer has about a third fewer calories than regular beer; a bottle
generally contains less than 100. It's not a terrible snack by any means.
Downside . . . It's hard
to drink just one. Because it's mainly water, it's not uncommon to see light
beer drinkers wielding a 12-pack after work and 1,200 calories of beer will
ruin anyone's diet.
- Guinness stout. In Ireland, the saying goes that
Guinness is food. And, sure enough, it tastes like it. Thick, rich, and syrupy,
one Guinness can feel as satisfying as a case of Bud Light. However, it's not
all that high in calories or alcohol and has a high iron count.
Downside . . . It can be
addicting. When one doesn't do the trick anymore, you can quickly pile on
calories. "Food" as it may be, most of beer's calories still comes from
- Top-shelf alcohol of any
kind. Straight, on the rocks, or with water. The means of producing
hard alcohol ensure that you're getting what you pay for. Cheap stuff isn't
made with a high-quality distillation process, leaving it with all sorts of
impurities and a taste that renders its main use to be mixed with
non-alcoholic, and usually highly caloric, substances. Top-shelf stuff, whether
it's bourbon, vodka, or even rum, is made to be consumed alone, or with water.
Slowly savoring your drink is a great way to make sure that you don't overdo
it. Cost is another. It's much better to slowly relish a glass of Blanton's
than to power down a fifth of Old Granddad and Coke.
Downside . . . The cost
of providing for your top-shelf-only habit could lead to enough extra stress
down at the office to offset the stress you're relieving with your drink.
- Vodka soda. Vodka
is the purest of the hard alcohols and soda is mainly water. Add a couple of
limes and you've got a clean and refreshing cocktail with very few calories.
Downside . . . It's so
clean and refreshing, it's hard to be restrained. If you have four of these,
you might as well have just had that strawberry margarita you wanted in the
The Worst Cocktails
- Scorpion. Or just about anything you'll find at the Kon
Tiki, Trader Vic's, or any place where drink is referred to as "grog." If
there's anything worse than mixing a lot of sugar-based alcohols together, it's
mixing them with a bunch of sugary juices in a bowl that's big enough for six.
Drink one of these and be prepared to skip the entire drunken process and head
straight to the hangover.
- Long Island Iced
Tea. Forget the word "tea." There are no antioxidants to be found in
this concoction of five different alcohols, sweet and sour mix, and Coke. A few
of these and you might as well put in a wake-up call to Domino's.
- Red Bull and
vodka. If you want to be a supercharged drunk, here ya go. One of the
main offenders of the hangover is your inability to sleep well after a night on
the town. Nothing enhances the chance of seeing dawn's early light like a
couple of these. The only positive is that maybe you'll dance all night and
work off the calories. Hopefully, you don't have to work the next day.
- Jack and Coke. You might as well just mainline
your whiskey. Nothing's better than Coke at creating a sugar rush. Adding
alcohol to this mix creates the perfect atmosphere for a bar fight. The only
saving grace is that being drunk impairs your reflexes. Losing a couple of
late-night melees could lead to some restraint.
- Piña Colada.
The only thing more densely caloric than alcohol is fat and this baby
combines the two, along with all the sugar you need to guarantee a hangover.
The result is a virtually nutrition-free milk shake that contains half of your
daily caloric requirement. The only possible bright side is that you're only
likely to feel comfortable drinking one of these on an island where you have
ample opportunity to shed the pounds you gained the night before.