Drinking alcohol can be considered to some, particularly in the Australian culture, an essential part of socializing. Abstaining from this can be challenging to justify, despite the plethora of reasons to stop drinking alcohol such as new medication, pregnancy, personal reasons, moral reasons, or religious reasons. The statement “I don’t drink” can definitely be a significant head-turner, especially in a pub or bar.
Whatever your reason is for not consuming alcohol, knowing some benefits of non-alcoholic beverages helps. It may help you convince a friend to join you in your decision or help persuade you to stay away for good. Knowing these benefits could also give you ground to stand on if confronted with the question, without needing to disclose personal details.
Non-Alcoholic beverages refer to drinks other than pure water that have no alcohol or less than 0.5% alcohol content. They have their alcohol content extracted—non-alcoholic wine and beers— or naturally have no alcohol content and are non-intoxicating. A non alcoholic beverage, which can be known as a virgin drink, is one that contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. There are usually no legal restrictions on non-intoxicating beverages.
Types of Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Some non-alcoholic drinks can be used to dilute alcohol and give them a better taste. There are three broad categories of non-alcoholic beverages which are;
1. Refreshing beverages – As the name implies, these are taken to refresh the body. They are categorised broadly as aerated and non-aerated water.
Aerated water is also known as carbonated beverages. They have dissolved Carbon (IV) oxide (CO2) in them mixed with water, sugar, and artificial or natural flavour. They are sold in a variety of flavours and are often the more unhealthy non-alcoholic beverages. Examples of aerated water are soft drinks, flavoured mineral water, soda, and tonic water.
Non-aerated water is a family of refreshing drinks with no carbon compound dissolved in them. Examples are:
- Natural mineral water
- Squash or concentrated fruit extract
- Syrups which are used as sweeteners but never served as drinks alone
2. Nourishing beverages are typically associated with milk and fresh juices. Fresh Juices can be either fruit-based or vegetable-based. Milk can be fresh milk, or milk-based beverages such as cocoa/coffee drinks.
- Stimulating beverages are beverages that raise the level of nervous or physiologic activity in the body, with the purpose of relaxing or alerting the body. They can be artificial drinks like stimulating energy drinks, or they can be natural, like tea or coffee.
Coffee and tea can stimulate alertness because of their caffeine content. However, not all types of tea have caffeine. Most types of tea are for relaxation and have a soothing effect. Black tea and green tea usually contain traces of caffeine.
Benefits of Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Every type of non-alcoholic drink has its specific benefits and side effects. While there are many broad benefits of drinking non-alcoholic beverages, here are the top seven.
Because alcohol is made from ethanol, it can have a burning or bitter taste. People who do not notice this taste are usually those that consume a lot of alcohol, or are alcohol dependent. Most non-alcoholic beverages are either neutral-tasting or sweet.
However, there are bitter tasting non-alcoholic drinks like tonic water and some that give the burning sensation like ginger drinks. One benefit of non-alcoholic beverages is the wide variety of flavour options with little addictive potential.
When trying to drink less alcohol, it is difficult to transition straight to typical non-alcoholic beverages. Dopamine is the chemical associated with drinking alcohol which can make it addictive. This chemical is where non-alcoholic wines and beers come in handy, as they also cause the brain to release dopamine. That way, the body feels like it has alcohol, helping you reduce your intake.
Some other non-alcoholic beverages are capable of causing the release of dopamine, however the output is usually quite small in comparison. Green tea, caffeine, and Ginseng tea are also associated with dopamine release, thus can potentially assist in cutting down drinking. However with chronic alcoholics, non-alcoholic wines and beers are a better choice for the taste above the dopamine effects.
Although not every non-alcoholic drink is healthy in large amounts, most non-alcoholic beverages are quite healthy. Alcohol causes your liver to work double-time to excrete it, while most non-alcoholic beverages stimulate liver health. Some other health benefits of non-alcoholic drinks are:
- Improvement of cardiovascular health by improving blood flow.
- Boosting mood by dopamine release.
- Prevention of dehydration – Alcohol is known to cause dehydration but drinks like tea and fruit juices are more
- Coffee is a diuretic (increases urine output) which can help remove alcohol from your body faster.
- Some non-alcoholic beverages are good sources of vitamins and minerals.
- Milk and some non-alcoholic beverages are sources of proteins and calcium for tissue repair and bone growth.
A unit of alcohol contains 56 percent of empty calories, which is as much as a teaspoon of sugar. Although some non-alcoholic beverages contain more calories, healthier non-alcoholic beverages contain more useful calories.
Not Getting Drunk
Most of the time, a night out getting drunk comes with a lot of regrets. Some of these regrets or effects can be:
- Making a fool of yourself.
- Decreased productivity the following day.
- Hangover headaches and anxiety.
- Inability to drive home.
- Occasionally dark thoughts and excessive emotions.
Most of them are natural
Finding natural alcohol can be a challenging task. Local alcoholic drinks can be natural and healthy but are less common to find. However, natural and even organic non-alcoholic beverages are available worldwide, and many have homemade DIY options for a cleaner, healthier option.
Most non-alcoholic beverages contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the body. Some benefits of antioxidants include:
1. Prevention of cognitive decline caused by oxidative stress in the body
2. Protection of the vision and eyes due to vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene
3. Reducing aging effect on the skin caused by a free radical build-up
4. Slowing the effects of aging by reducing free radical damage
5. Potentially reducing the risk of cancer malignancy
6. Helping prevent free radical tissue damage
Helpful Tips for Alcohol Recovery
Alcohol dependency makes alcohol a significant part of your life, and functioning without it can be painful. When recovering from alcoholism or alcohol, the best non-alcoholic drinks to buy aren’t low-alcohol drinks, rather, drinks that do not have any alcohol as a part of them in the first place – the reason being that these beverages have undergone processing to remove their alcohols so they may not be 100% pure.
With alcoholics or alcohol-dependent people, the taste of alcohol may cause a relapse. If you are switching to non-alcoholic options, some helpful tips are:
- Try having soft drinks or non-alcoholic beers between rounds to reduce your total alcohol consumption and keep you hydrated.
- Try having an accountability partner. Your accountability partner could be a friend or an honest drink diary that you keep.
- Ask for alcohol-free options at the bar or pub
Abstaining from alcohol and toxic ingredients/foods is one of the fastest ways to stay healthy. When most people think about being healthy, their focus is usually on mental health and physical health. While eating right is key to good health, drinking right is also essential. The wait for organ donation is long and painful, so do everything in moderation, but remember your happiness is paramount and can lead you to a clearer and healthier future.