Do you struggle with energy, sugar cravings, or weight gain?
If so, there are many important reasons to limit (and periodically to avoid) coffee and alcohol, especially if you’re female.
I recommend taking inventory of the two most commonly consumed psychoactive substances– particularly those who are crazy busy, and you know who you are (takes one to know one!) – because you’re more likely to suffer from a cortisol, progesterone, or estrogen imbalance, which may heighten your risk for breast cancer, memory loss, and depression(I discuss my reasoning in depth in The Hormone Cure). Yet, I realize that for many people – myself included– completely cutting caffeine and alcohol from our lives may feel unrealistic.
I am often asked if there are healthy sources of caffeine or alcohol. You may not like my response, as it’s my sacred duty to hold you accountable for the addictions in your life. When I was flying from New York to San Francisco last week, I heard a great definition of addiction: it’s when you keep doing something in the face of mounting consequences. Coffee and alcohol? Highly addictive, especially if your chronically stressed and/or have a genetic predisposition.
The truth: there isn’t a miracle drink that can deliver substantial quantities of these substances to your system without some negative side effects.
There are, however, beverages that contain lower concentrations of alcohol or caffeine and those that supply nutrients instead of toxins or sugars.
Get Your Caffeine Fix
There are times when we all could use the extra energy and focus that caffeine provides. Below I’ve ranked some popular caffeinated drinks in terms of their overall impact on your health.
- Energy drinks often contain as much caffeine as five cups of coffee, and are laden with large amounts of sugar or dangerous artificial sweeteners. Energy drinks also fall under the category of supplements (instead of food), and are therefore unregulated by the USDA. If it looks like battery acid and tastes like battery acid, don’t drink it!
- Conventional coffee, i.e. nonorganic coffee, made the USDA’s “dirty dozen list” of foods with the highest levels of residual pesticides. Add conventional milk (also one of the “dirty dozen”) and sugar (a Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino provides a whopping 64 grams!) and you might as well just take a nap. Your body will thank you.
- Organic coffee may be fine in moderation, as long as you don’t have trouble sleeping at night, experience anxiety, or feel that you absolutely depend on it to start your day. Try taking a week off from coffee to reset and see how you feel. The harder it is to quit, the more serious your dependency.
- Organic black and green teas contain less caffeine than coffee, and green tea in particular has many health benefits, including possible cancer risk reduction.
- Decaffeinated organic coffee is the caffeinated beverage I personally enjoy. Decaf coffee still contains a small amount of caffeine; I find it is enough to feel noticeably more alert. My favorite is Dave Asprey’s DecafBulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee.
- Decaf green tea might not even belong on a list of caffeinated beverages. Since green tea already has a very low amount of caffeine, the decaffeination process leaves it with virtually none. If you aren’t looking for much of a jolt but want the benefits of green tea this is an excellent option.
How to Drink to Unwind without Coming Undone
When I mentioned Bulletproof® Upgraded™ Coffee during a recent speech, an audience member asked, “So, is there a ‘Bulletproof’ alcohol?”There isn’t unfortunately, but as long as you stick to three drinks or less per week,certain alcoholic drinks are better than others.
- Sugary mixed drinks/cocktails are by far the worst, especially if you are concerned with weight loss. In this department they pack a double punch; the alcohol sidetracks your fat burning mechanisms while the sugar spikesinsulin (the hormone that tells your body to store fat).
- Beer is on my “black list” because of gluten and carbohydrates. While there are gluten free beers, they’re hard to find, and you’re still feeding you body refined carbohydrates.Studies are continually finding that gluten contributes to far more ailments than celiac disease alone. A gluten-free diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, adiposity, and insulin resistance, which is a major factor in the onset of obesity and type-2 diabetes.The good news for beer lovers is that organic gluten-free beer varieties are now widely available, but again – if you have a beer belly, think twice about the carbohydrates.
- Organic red wine is far superior to conventional in terms of pesticide exposure, as grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed fruits, both in the US and France. Fungicides also inhibit the growth of wild strains of yeast that would otherwise live on the skin of the grapes and add complexity to the flavor of the wine as it ferments.
- Filtered water. Not glamorous, but most of us are dehydrated. On a recent trip to the Caribbean, I got a great tip from a plastic surgeon: drink a full glass of filtered water when you go out for drinks with your partner or girlfriends.
- Kombucha is not going to pack a punch, with approximately0.5% alcohol per serving, but this delicious fermented mushroom tea is great for parties – or anytime you want to have something bubbly and tasty in your glass without the booze. Kombucha has also been shown to be a powerful detoxifier, antioxidant, and supporter of immune system function.
Take this Advice with a Lump of Coal
Before you have a drink, I suggest taking a couple of tablets of activated charcoal. When a patient is admitted to the ER for a drug or alcohol overdose, doctors administer activated charcoal to absorb and filter the toxins in their stomach. It’s not a miracle fix, or an excuse to drink more than three drinks, but it does give your liver a little boost.
My online clients tell me daily that when they kick alcohol and/or caffeine to the curb in my Detox, they sleep another 30 to 60 minutes each night, and their energy is more consistent. Is that true for you?
What if you committed to drinking a glass of filtered water at each party or night out, before indulging in alcohol?
About the Author
Sara Gottfried, M.D.
Sara Gottfried, M.D. teaches women how to balance their hormones naturally so they can rock their mission. She is a Harvard-educated physician, speaker and New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure (Simon & Schuster, 2013). She is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is regularly featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, O Magazine, and Yoga Journal, and TV including The Ricki Lake Show and 20/20. Known for effortlessly blending the seriousness of women’s health with playfulness and humor, Dr. Sara’s mission is to help women lose weight, feel great and vital from their cells to their soul.