by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.
Each day our bodies are fighting. Fighting off that cold your son brought home from day care. Fighting to build and repair your muscles after an intense training session. Fighting to reduce the amount of inflammation in your body when exposed to pollution, toxins, and a lack of nutrients. While this hard work goes unseen, there are times that the body can’t fight off everything. That’s why it’s important to help out our systems as much as we can.
There are many ways we can help the body fight to reduce inflammation and here we are going to zoom in on hydration. Why start with beverages? Well, when we look at what we are drinking, it may be either helping or hurting our health. When we aren’t drinking enough water, consuming sugary drinks, or enjoying a few too many cocktails, we are promoting inflammation in our body. However, when you increase your water intake, find ways to make those choices tasty and healthy, and choose wisely your adult beverages, your body will be able to reduce inflammation and help you fight off many diseases.
Sidenote: Before we dive in, it should be noted that the best form of hydration is water and we should be aiming for 64 ounces or more (based on your activity level, body size, and general needs) of non-caffeinated, non-sugary, non-alcoholic drinks a day. This can be water, fruit-infused water, tea, etc. We talk about alcohol in this article, not to promote it, but to educate and help you make healthy choices in all areas of your life. Choose what is best for you and what will make you feel healthiest.
First… Let’s Talk Infused Water!
Yes, “infused” waters are everywhere now … however, that’s not what we are talking about here. When you see bottled infused waters you are often purchasing waters that have been artificially flavored and have had the chemical version of vitamins and minerals added. While these can be ok on the go, what I want to focus on here are the homemade infused waters. When you are prepping your meals and find you have leftover strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits toss them in a pitcher of water. Or have some fun with it and freeze some with water in ice cube trays and toss them in your drink to melt slowly.
While you are not ingesting the fiber and all the nutrients from the fruit unless you eat the whole fruit itself, there are many other (inflammation-reducing) benefits to infusing your water with this goodness.
- Hydration! This biggest bonus of creating a tasty drink is that it is hydrating your body. When you are properly hydrated your brain and body work better, you have more energy, you have fewer cravings, and you may even sleep better (every Moms dream!)
- Even though you may not get all the nutrients as you would eating a whole blueberry, you are still getting some additional nutrients. Play around with the flavors and think outside the box by adding cinnamon, lemon, mint, and other spices.
- You can double up these ideas to get the hydration and the nutrients in a smoothie! Mix your favorite produce together and drink down the nutrition. You can add an extra boost with some MCT oil (great for brain health and this good fat keeps you full) and any protein of choice.
Again, asterisk (*) here: when I mention enjoying fruits I will often get asked about the sugar found in fruit. Yes, fruit has sugar in the form of fructose. If you are sensitive to sugar, suffer from diabetes, or have another reason for severely cutting sugar you do want to limit the amount of fruit you enjoy. For everyone else, enjoy fruit, balance it with veggies, healthy grains, proteins, and fats for a well-rounded diet.
You Mention Alcohol, Tell Me More?
I find that there’s a peaked interest in the positive impacts of alcohol on the body, and why not? It can be enjoyable to kick back with a sip of wine. About a decade ago there was a surge of research into the health benefits of alcohol, and you likely saw the headlines, but what’s the real deal? It has been widely confirmed that moderate alcohol intake can decrease inflammation in the body. This is seen in the decrease of c-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood stream. CRP is the main way we can measure inflammation in the body and can be done with a simple blood draw, so in the research world this is key (researchers love simple, consistent way to measure key indicators!).
In several studies the moderate drinkers were seen to have lowered risk, specifically of, cardiovascular disease based on these CRP levels. However, there is evidence that lowering CRP can help lower our risk of many other diseases. It is important to note, that all these studies showed a U-shaped curve in the results. Meaning non-drinkers and heavy drinkers at the ends of the “U” had higher CRP concentrations in the blood than moderate drinkers who were found at the base of the “U”. One studyeven showed this U-shaped curve when they corrected for lifestyle factors such as age, BMI, cholesterol levels, education and income.
Cheers To That!
While this is very good news to many, like many nutrition things there’s an asterisk (*) to these findings. During studies, participants were given moderate amounts of alcohol, usually the recommended one drink per day. It was at these amounts that the best results were seen. One drink? Quick review:
Beer = 12 ounces
Liquor = 1.5 ounces
Wine = 5 ounces
Additionally, WHAT you drink matters. While all alcohol can decrease CRP, studies found that red wine has a greater impact than other alcohols. The reason for this is because red wine has the highest amount of resveratrol. Resveratrol is found in foods and is a natural antioxidant that can stop the reaction of free radicals with other molecules in your body, preventing damage to your DNA as well as long-term health effects.
For comparison, here are some reservatrol amountsin different food and beverages:
|Food/Drink||Average amount of Reservatrol in 1/3 cup|
|Red wine (Pinot noir and St Laurent are highest)||0.27mg|
|Grapes (specifically in the skin)||0.93mg|
Thinking about what you drink is essential to your health. There are a few key takeaways the science shows us:
- Enjoy alcohol (specifically the reservatrol-rich red wines) in moderation, no more than 1 drink per day… and this doesn’t mean you can “save up” your drinks and have 7 glasses of wine (35 ounces) on a Saturday
- Drink more non-caffeinated, non-sugary beverages! A great way to make it more exciting and add things that will help decrease inflammation in your body is by infusing fruits in your water or mixing up a smoothie.