Alcohol is not a health drink. We know this fact and begrudgingly accept it, but there are ways to sip smarter. To find out how, we enlisted the help of Dr. Etti Ben-Zion, a holistic nutritionist and psychotherapist who’s also the VP of Research & Development at Dr. Smood, a chain of organic cafes. Here, she offers tips on how to prep your body for drinking, how to make better choices and what you can do to recover after a night of cocktail indulgence.
Pre-game (the Healthy Way) Before a Night Out
Nothing is going to stop a hangover in its tracks if you overindulge, but Dr. Ben-Zion suggests that making nutritious food choices before a night out can certainly help. “Whip up a healthy smoothie, or eat a wholesome meal and drink water or coconut water (electrolytes) before you go out drinking—you need those nutrients in your system to help digest alcohol more efficiently,” she says. “It’s also very important to hydrate before, during and after drinking alcohol.” It also doesn’t hurt to opt for a lower ABV cocktail that’ll dehydrate you less than other drinks.
Choose Your Drink Wisely
While drinking alcohol will never be considered healthy, there are some orders that are better than others. “Drinking red wine or organic vodka in moderation will not hinder your health and might help reduce stress,” Ben-Zion says. “Red wine contains resveratrol [which can promote cardiovascular health and slow the growth of certain cancerous cells].” She suggests adding fresh lime juice to a Vodka-Soda or vodka on the rocks to give it a satisfying, citrusy kick with no added sugar.
But brown liquor drinkers needn’t feel left out. “Whiskey, brandy, scotch and Cognac are full of healthy antioxidants, and are only about 64 calories a serving and contain zero carbs,” she says. So pour yourself a dram and relax knowing it’s not the worst choice you could make.
Skip the Mixers
Although making your own juice from scratch is way better than drinking the bottled stuff, Ben-Zion still warns of its sugar content. “Mixing alcohol with sugary drinks is overburdening your liver, and those drinks are also loaded with empty calories,” she says. “Instead, learn to love plain lemon or lime juice to spruce up a drink. That will help your liver metabolize everything faster.” If you’re not quite ready for straight spirit with a spritz of citrus, these low-carb cocktails are delicious and won’t derail your diet.
Replenish Your Body the Right Way
Instead of reaching for a greasy breakfast sandwich after a long night out, replenish your body with whole foods and nourishing ingredients to help banish toxins. “Dr Smood makes a drink called Damage Control, which can help the liver purge out toxins that have accumulated due to alcohol consumption,” she says. “It contains activated charcoal, which may absorb up to 60 percent of the toxins in your body.” Ben-Zion also suggests infusing coconut water with things like lemon, raw honey, Himalayan salt, grapefruit and ginger to help detox your system.
And, of Course, Drink in Moderation
Making better choices (and sometimes sitting one out) will make a world of a difference. “Volunteer to be the designated driver,” Ben-Zion says. “That way you help your friends, and your health.”