In these times of the Quarantini and Zoom happy hours, I thought it would be worthwhile to look into potential effects of alcohol consumption on well-being in these COVID-19 times. I asked this question of Google – and got over 600,000 hits! Clearly this is on a lot of people’s minds!! In fact, early on there was a surge of posts claiming that drinking alcohol was actually protective against the virus. After all – the key ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol – so by extension….this might make sense?? Definitely not!!! And thankfully, there have been numerous articles – including from the World Health Organization (WHO) completely debunking this myth. However, liquor stores/distributors were declared essential businesses in the first days of our national shutdown and in March liquor sales increased by more than 55%, while online liquor sales were up by 250%. Restaurants – not yet open for dining – are offering home delivery and carryout cocktails. Clearly, alcohol consumption is up now- as has occurred during previous stressful times such as post 9/11 or after Katrina or Hurricane Sandy. It is not uncommon to turn to drinking for stress relief and our now virtual social interaction. Last Saturday SNL even did a skit entitled Let Kids Drink as a way of relieving some of the stresses of families being isolated together. But what are the dangers here? Long term follow-up studies 3 years after 9/11 and the other stressful events have shown significant increases in alcohol and substance dependence in the general population – and we are likely to be suffering the stress of the current situation far longer than these previous events. And rather than being in any way “protective” heavy alcohol use impairs the immune system and especially lung function, causing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which is a major component of COVID-19. Alcohol consumption also negatively impacts sleep duration and quality. So at a time when it seems tempting to have that evening cocktail or wine to induce sleep, the net effect is interrupted and less restorative sleep.
So what are we to do? For most of us – total abstinence is unrealistic – especially now. The question is how to incorporate some alcohol into a healthy lifestyle – and especially now! The guidelines for healthy alcohol consumption continue to stress 1 drink/day for women and 2 for men and not to exceed twice that amount in any given setting. One way of doing that is to either dilute the alcohol in each drink by making spritzers. This works for wine (inexpensive!!) as well as either sweet or dry vermouth. Or alternate a full glass of water with your drink. Add the water/seltzer to your glass rather than refilling! Try to schedule a couple of alcohol-free days/week. And consider non-alcoholic options. Here are links to a couple of my favorites:
Or check out any number of “mocktails”! One problem I have always had with these drinks is the high level of what is called simple syrup – basically liquid sugar and makes the drinks has high in sugar and calories as the regular cocktails. If you are ok with the taste of Stevia (or Stevia and Monkfruit) as non-caloric sweeteners try making your own 0 calorie syrup:
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add 2 Tbs of stevia, simmer until completely dissolved. Let it cool and then refrigerate.
This is a follow up on the below post from more than a year ago!! This is a great recipe to make now and works with whatever types of mushrooms you can get. The broth alone is wonderful to keep in the fridge for up to a week - or freeze! Enjoy!!
Spicy Noodle Soup With Mushrooms and Herbs Recipe - NYT Cooking 5/11/20, 4:44 PM
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020122-spicy-noodle-soup-with-mushrooms-and-herbs?smid=ck-recipe-iOS-share Page 1 of 2
3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1.5 .pounds mixed mushrooms, suchas maitake, oyster, cremini or shiitake, torn into bite-size pieces1 to 2 fresh red or green chiles, such as Fresno, thinly sliced (or 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes)
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce, plus more to taste
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
8 to 10 ounces noodles, such as udon,soba, rice or spaghetti
2 cups herbs (tender leaves and stems), such as cilantro, mint, chives, parsley or a mix, for serving
Sesame seeds, sesame oil or both, for serving (optional)
Ingredient Substitution Guide
YIELD 4 servings
TIME 45 minutes
Spicy Noodle Soup With Mushrooms and Herbs
By Alison Roman
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add garlic and shallots, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots start to turn a nice golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and half the chile, and season with salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened, released much of their water and turned a deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. (A browned mushroom will have infinitely more flavor than an unbrowned mushroom, because the water inside it evaporates and the flavorconcentrates. So do not skip this step.)
Add 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup vinegar and 8 cups of water. Bring to a gentle simmer and season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until the flavors have melded and the broth tastes good enough to drink (you will be drinking it), 15 to 20 minutes. Season with more soy sauce and vinegar as you like.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water until just al dente. (The timing will depend on the type and brand of noodles, so consult the package.) Add the noodles to the pot with the broth, and let them hang out in there for a minute or two to finish cooking and soak up all that flavor.
To serve, use tongs to divide the noodles and mushrooms among bowls, then ladle the hot broth over the top. Serve with the remaining chile, the herbs and the sesame seeds and oil (if using) for people to dress their own bowls to their liking.
We are now 2 months into this pandemic and I am sure - like me- you feel like it is much longer, and worse yet- unending. There is a lot of information- and misinformation- in the media making its way into our daily lives. I've been working hard to keep up on what information makes sense and is worthwhile and what is not valid- especially when it comes to personal health and wellness. Over these next days to weeks I will be posting regular comments and updates on steps we can all take to promote our health and well being - mental as well as physical.
The best way to stay healthy and strong in this time is to make every effort to eat well and stay active - even while social distancing! The first step we can all take is to be mindful of what we are eating. By now we are hopefully getting past the "stress eating" and ready to move on from that. Think about getting rid of any unhealthy, sugary/fatty/salty comfort foods you might have turned to - and replace them with healthier options of whole fruit, nuts, whole grains, and lots of water. Eat slowly- and not too much.
Next essential step is to start- or continue- to exercise. The weather is improving so walk and walk often. Even with the sedentary lifestyle of working from home or self isolating it is so helpful to get up and walk around!
Upcoming articles will deal with more specific topics including how body fat affects vulnerability to COVID, exercise at home options, recipes, and yes- the safest way to deal with groceries and take out food. Meanwhile - leave a comment and certainly if you have a specific question let me know!