When trying to turn over a greener leaf, one of the treats that often gets the boot first is alcohol because of its bad health rap. Too much over a long period of time can lead to heart damage, stroke, high blood pressure, liver inflammation, cancer and pancreatitis, not to mention, it weakens the immune system, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Oh, and some drinks are ridiculously high in calories; one piña colada has more calories than an entire Hershey’s bar.
But what if we told you it didn’t have to be that way? Just because you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to be sober all the time—unless you want to be. In moderation, alcohol can be less detrimental to your health, or even beneficial to it in some cases, if you use these tools. So, you can have your … beer, and drink it, too.
Almost all wines contain sulfites (artificial preservatives that come about during fermentation), which is unfortunate because they have a handful of adverse side effects and so many people love their wine. Reactions to sulfites range from dermatitis, urticaria, flushing, hypotension, abdominal pain and diarrhea to life-threatening anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions. They’re often responsible for that pesky wine hangover or headache you get after a little too much. An estimated three million Americans are sensitive to sulfites, according to research from a company called Üllo. That same company set out to find a solution. They created a filter that purifies any wine, removing sulfites and restoring wine to its “natural state.” What looks like a little teabag sits in a sleek black filtering device that is set atop your glass or carafe. You pour the bottle over the device and proprietary polymer technology filters away sulfites (and their bitter taste), while allowing other compounds in wine to flow through unaffected. This means, you can continue to buy your $8 bottle of wine and filter out the headache inducing ingredients and cheap taste.
When it comes to food, making your own is an easy way to remain healthy because you can control everything that goes in the dish. The same goes for vodka. The Vodka Zinger is a lot like a soda stream, but churns out flavored vodka. Infusing your own flavored liquor—the Vodka Zinger isn’t only limited to vodka—allows you to use the best all-natural elements—like fresh fruit—and avoid added sugars or artificial ingredients.
If you’re too lazy to concoct your own flavorful drink from scratch, just have RIPE Bar Juice on hand to mix with your favorite liquor. This is the nation’s first pure squeezed, cold pressed drink mixer. RIPE Bar Juice is free of high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and GMOs, the very ingredients that can turn many cocktails into cockfails … too weird? You get the point.
Instead of using those sugary drink mixers found at the grocery store, keep it simple—and salubrious—with lime juice. This zesty elixir’s health benefits balance out the negative impacts of alcohol. With tons of vitamin C, the citrus fruit is good for your immune system, which is handy since too much alcohol weakens the immune system. Oh and at only about three calories per lime wedge, it doesn’t have all the crap and calories many drink mixers have. Try squeezing fresh lime juice into your tequila for a super stripped and much healthier take on the margarita.
Believe it or not, there’s a cup that can get you on the nutritious track. Vessyl, which is still in development but will retail for $200, looks like a sleek simple cup, but it’s actually ridiculously high-tech: the Vessyl always knows what’s inside it. Using built-in sensors, it automatically analyzes the molecules of whatever liquid you pour in—whether its coffee, beer, juice or wine. Vessyl then wirelessly passes information to an accompanying app. It provides a breakdown of things like calories, sugar, protein and caffeine. This way, if you dump a beer into your cup, you know right away what kind of effects it can have on your body. It also gets personal by providing an analysis of your own hydration levels—good for hangovers and health.
If you want beer but not a beer belly, and the health issues that can come along with it, DIY, because most macro domestic breweries pasteurize their beer, which removes live yeast. Even some craft breweries do it. However, small breweries and home brewers usually don’t pasteurize (one reason being because it’s expensive). Why do you want live yeast in your beer? Brewer’s yeast contains B-complex vitamins and chromium, according to the University of Maryland Medical System, which have many health benefits. Studies have shown that brewer’s yeast may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, according to the University of Maryland Medical System. Other studies suggest chromium supplements “may help people with diabetes control blood sugar levels.” Chromium has also been proven to help reduce body fat (albeit minimally), and brewer’s yeast has been used as a protein supplement and energy booster, says the University of Maryland Medical System. So, get your own home brew kit, and skip the pasteurization step. Don’t worry; your beer will still be boozy and delicious.
No, we are not suggesting you grab some leaves from the bush outside your house and put them in your drink. Shrubs are syrups made of fruit, sugar and vinegar. You can make your own, which allows you to control the amount of table sugar that goes into it, or buy it premade. Why shrubs over simple syrup? Because of vinegar, which has been proven to have antioxidative, anti-diabetic, antitumor, anti-obesity and cholesterol-lowering effects.
Maggie Parker is the assistant health editor of Paste Magazine.