You know what they say: Eat, drink and be merry. But there’s no reason your holiday drinks can’t still be great without alcohol.
At any given holiday party, you can probably find everything from spiked eggnog to mulled wine to festive mixed drinks. It’s an easy way to get into the holiday spirit when you’re with friends and family.
But that’s why it’s easy to overdo it with alcoholic beverages, oftentimes before you even realize it. And, if you’re indulging in a glass or two night after night, you might be further damaging your body in various ways.
Alcohol has a notoriously negative effect on the liver, and regular imbibing can compromise healthy liver function.
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“An average of three alcoholic drinks a day or higher puts people at high risk for cirrhosis, where healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue,” said Anthony El-Khoueiry, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and medical director of the Clinical Investigations Support Office at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC.
Then, to complicate matters, alcohol may also be behind a phenomenon known as “holiday heart syndrome.” Research shows that the rate of deadly heart attacks spikes during the winter holiday season. While multiple factors likely contribute to holiday heart syndrome — such as sleeping less, indulging more and general stress — binge drinking may be one of them, particularly because it can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm. That may in turn raise your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
Even if the repercussions aren’t that serious (or you don’t have any other risk factors for holiday heart syndrome), it’s still worth taking stock of how much you’re drinking. Research has found that young adults who binge-drink have elevated blood pressure, compared with their peers who only drink occasionally. Even though the consequences are on a smaller scale — and relatively less dire than a full-blown heart attack — binge drinking still impacts your health.
So consider opting for nonalcoholic drinks when you’re on the holiday party circuit. Stick with non-spiked holiday classics, such as hot chocolate and eggnog, as well as coffee-based drinks infused with flavors such as cinnamon and peppermint. They’ll keep you in a festive spirit, but you won’t have to endure a hangover (or lasting health issues) with them.
In place of something sparkly and light for a toast or cocktail party, try seltzer, sparkling apple cider or one of the recipes below. And if you’re nervous about being cajoled by friends into having a drink, just add a lime wedge to your water or soda to give the appearance of a boozy cocktail. No one has to know.
– 5 cups apple cider or apple juice
– 5 cups cranberry juice
– 1 ½ cups guava juice or mango nectar
– ¼ cup lime juice
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon ground allspice
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately reduce heat. Simmer for about five minutes, leaving it uncovered and stirring it occasionally. Sweeten to taste with honey (if desired), and then ladle into mugs.
– ½ cup apple cider
– ¼ cup orange juice
– 1 splash pomegranate juice
– 1 cinnamon stick
Combine ingredients in a glass, garnishing with the cinnamon stick.
– ½ cup pinot noir non-alcoholic sparkling wine soda
– ½ cup ginger ale
– 1 splash fresh lime juice
– Candied ginger
Combine the liquid ingredients in a wine glass. Cut the candied ginger and fit it over the rim of the glass for garnish.
You don’t have to swear off alcohol altogether for the sake of your health. Just remaining mindful about how much and how often you’re drinking alcohol beverages — along with delicious, nonalcoholic drink recipes — can be enough to keep you from overindulging during the holiday season. So maybe the saying should really be: Eat, drink one of these festive, non-alcoholic drinks and be even merrier.
by Deanna Pai
If you’re concerned about your alcohol intake, make an appointment with one of our primary care physicians. To schedule an appointment, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.