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Let’s Talk About Alcohol!

Do you love having a glass of wine with dinner?

Is this part of your relaxing evening routine?

This was us!

And we felt pretty good about enjoying a glass of wine with dinner because we have all heard,


"Antioxidants in red wine provide health benefits."

So, last fall, here we "empty nesters."  We found ourselves in new territory...our youngest had just left for college.  Now, with two kids in college and away from home we were actually enjoying this newfound "freedom!"

Keep in mind, we love our kids and they mean the world to us -- but we were a little excited and fascinated with this new phase of may know what it's much less laundry, the house staying picked up (no random teenage shoes left by the door), fewer dirty dishes, and no half empty water glasses sitting around the house ( this just a teenage boy thing?!).

By now you all know how much we enjoy cooking at home and eating delicious REAL food meals.  And we also love pairing these flavor-loaded meals with the right glass of wine or a really great craft beer.

Over the years on our REAL food journey,

we also developed a passion for researching good wines, learning where they came from and how they were made, and comparing wines from various regions.  We also love doing the same with beers, especially with local breweries who creatively use locally sourced ingredients in their batches.

So, we were in our daily routine of dinners at home, savoring those crisp fall evenings on the patio, and enjoying a glass or wine or beer with our meals.


We also took our first "no children at home anymore" trip to Colorado/Utah/Idaho/Montana/Wyoming to enjoy the fall colors and visiting family and friends.  (It was absolutely breathtaking by the way -- if you have never been to Montana, and especially Glacier National Park in the fall, you should definitely add it to your bucket list!). 

Whether enjoying dinner with family, at our Airbnb, or out at a restaurant, we found ourselves in the habit of finding the perfect wine or beer to complement our meal.

As you can probably tell, our glass of wine or beer with dinner quickly became a much-loved routine!  And, when I say routine, I mean almost every night we were enjoying a glass of wine or beer with our dinner.  Then it became, "we might as well just finish the bottle of wine" with dinner (or with our piece of dark chocolate after dinner...after all, red wine and dark chocolate are perfect together!).

Neither one of us were experiencing any issues or side effects from our routine (that we knew of).  At the same time, we started asking ourselves, "should we really be drinking a bottle of wine every night?"  For a while, we rationalized it by saying, "well, a lot of the healthiest diets include a glass or two of red wine with their meals."  


And then there are all of the conflicting headlines and messages about alcohol consumption...


we have probably all heard:


"Too much alcohol is bad, but moderate drinking is actually good for you."

"If you are going to drink, make it red wine because of the beneficial antioxidants."

"Never mind what we said before.  All alcohol is bad, and no amount is good for you."


We wanted to get past the headlines and understand what reality is.

We did some research and started to confirm our unease about our routine of 1 or 2 drinks every night with our meals.  One podcast we found helpful was:

What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health - Huberman Lab

Dr. Huberman is a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the department of neurobiology and by courtesy, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford School of Medicine.  We found his podcast extremely helpful and appreciated that he was very clear to state he was not trying to tell you to NEVER enjoy a glass of wine, but to be aware of what it can do to your health.  We are not going to try to summarize all the scientific nuances here (but we recommend listening to the podcast if you are interested).

A few of our key takeaways were:


  • Alcohol is a toxin in your body.  Because it is toxic, it is converted into something called acetaldehyde, which is even worse.  Your body deals with this by converting the acetaldehyde into something called acetate, which is something your body can actually use a fuel.  It's obviously important that your body be able to do this conversion very quickly.  This is done within the liver, which takes a beating in this process, which is one reason why people who drink a lot can develop liver disease.  Unfortunately, the calories created by alcohol consumption have no real nutritive value (they are so-called empty calories).
  • Your brain has a fence around it called the blood-brain barrier.  Many things can't pass through this barrier, but alcohol CAN because it is water and fat soluble, so it cruises right through into the brain.  This is part of why it makes you feel a little (or a lot) tipsy, depending on how much you drink.
  • Brain health?  Studies have shown that even for people drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol (one to two drinks per day), there is evidence of thinning of the neocortex (brain).
  • For people who drink 1 or 2 drinks per day, they tend to experience increases in cortisol release from their adrenal glands when they are not drinking.  What does this mean?  They feel more stressed and more anxiety when they aren't drinking.  So, that temporary stress relief with that first drink or two may actually be increasing overall stress and anxiety throughout the week.
  • Alcohol creates a disruption in the gut microbiome Just like alcohol was once used to clean wounds and kill bacteria, it can also kill good bacteria in your gut, contributing to an unhealthy imbalance.
  • Alcohol disrupts the mechanisms required for optimal sleep.  {While people may fall asleep more easily after drinking, they don't STAY asleep}
  • Alcohol increases cancer risk in two ways - it increases tumor growth and reduces the molecules that suppress and combat tumor growth.
  • The red wine antioxidant myth!  While resveratrol (a protective and beneficial antioxidant) is found in the skin of grapes, the amount of red wine you would have to drink in order to get enough to provide meaningful health benefits is so high, there is no way it would outweigh the negative effects of consuming that amount of alcohol.  {By the way, resveratrol is also found in peanuts, pistachios, red grapes, cacao and dark chocolate, and other REAL foods.}


Some other information you might find interesting:


  • There are many studies addressing alcohol as a cause of cancer, including breast cancer and other types of cancer.  Dr. Greger has also shared a quick video discussing alcohol as a cause of cancer.
  • Canada has shared some recent guidance on alcohol and your health, including the level at which they believe weekly drinks start to affect your health (more than 2 drinks / week).


What did we decide to do?


We made our March, as we were heading into Lent and doing our 47 days of "What Do We Eat" videos, we thought it was an ideal time to change our routine and only enjoy wine or beer with our meals on Friday and Saturday evenings.  And that's what we did!  Believe it or not, it was easier than you might think!

Of course, we learned a few things:


  • Sparkling water, or seltzer water and juice (Healthy Soda Pop) saves the day!  This was a great alternative when we wanted something more interesting than just water.  (And, for what it's worth, enjoying Healthy Soda Pop in a wine glass helped make the transition easier!)
  • We both lost a couple of pounds without changing anything else!  We weren't trying to lose any just happened.
  • Our sleep quality noticeably improved.  We both thought we were sleeping good before, but when alcohol was removed during the week, we realized that we were sleeping even better and felt more rested the next day.  We often hear people talk about how enjoying a glass of wine actually helps them sleep better.  For what it's worth, our experience has been that our sleep improved after we removed the nightly drinks.
  • Our weekend wine and beer tastes even better!  Like anything else, when something is more limited, it makes you appreciate it that much more.  I think we actually enjoy those glasses of wine and great local beers that much more because we are now more mindful and intentional with them.


Based on everything we researched, the best decision for your physiological health is probably to drink NO alcohol.  However, we did not decide to give it up completely.  We still LOVE a good drink with our meals.  And we still LOVE good wine and beer.  And we LOVE sharing a good bottle of wine or a beer while sharing stories and socializing with our family and friends.  So, we don't plan on giving those things up entirely, but we are happy with our decision to scale it back to better balance the benefits vs. the risks of how it may be affecting our health.

Do we have a drink every Friday and Saturday?  No.  Are there occasions where we might have a drink on other days?  Yes, especially if we are enjoying time with family and friends.  We are simply trying to be more mindful about it and be on the right side of the slippery slope of unintended health consequences.

One sidenote...we have decided we like the word "coaches" better than "empty-nesters" because we feel like we are still on the sidelines giving advice and supporting our kids...and Scott would add "and nobody is listening!"  If only parenting came with an instruction manual!


If you are so inclined to share your experiences and "guidelines" with alcohol, we would love to hear them!


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7 Responses to Let’s Talk About Alcohol!

  1. Scott and Krista,

    I really loved reading this article because of all the health information. It really does make a difference in sleep from what I have found as well. Let’s still go grab a beer some Friday evening though 😉

    I love the term “coach” as we are headed that direction soon enough.

    As always, thank you for sharing your information and for doing all the research for us!

    • Julie – Thank you for the feedback, we are so glad the info was helpful! We would love to spend time with you and enjoy a “good” beer – any Friday or Saturday! 🙂 Thank you!

  2. Thanks for presenting this important info AND modeling your choice of moderation for yourselves. How great that you both agree with what you’ve landed on! (and will no doubt remind each other when 3 nights and 4 nights might become tempting again!).

    Since I prefer to avoid alcohol, the trick is getting others around me to accept that. Peer pressure is tough! Even when you’re 60! For instance, went dancing to live music last weekend and my friend to the right and to the left said “try this flavor of craft hard cider…it’s really good!” (they each had a different one, and the winery we were at is well known for these). I was really thirsty, and I just decided to drink icey cold water all night, as it was hot and water was hitting the spot (and I didn’t want the calories). The next day my friend didn’t sleep well and had a headache. Not me! 😉 I find a lot of benefits to staying well hydrated and just saying no thanks!

    • Great article! I used to have a glass of wine most evenings but had to stop after a recent surgery as I was on pain meds. I did loose a few pounds so have decided to not to go back to wine every evening! I always knew it was empty calories but all the other info is great! Tks

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