For some, January's list of things to do includes a month-long fast from alcohol -- a cleanse. Others argue that alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle and red wine actually helps lower your risk of heart disease.
What's the bottom line? One word: moderation.
And just what does that mean? Moderate alcohol consumption means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Different types of beer, wine and liquor have different amounts of alcohol. But in general, a drink is one 12-ounce regular beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, such as bourbon, vodka or gin.
The other end of that spectrum is binge drinking. Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk for many health problems, including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, depression, suicide and alcoholism.
If you're pregnant, under 21, have certain health conditions or take certain medications, you shouldn't drink at all.
For the rest of us, it's moderation.
Here's what science tells us about alcohol's effects on the body.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of some fats in the blood known as triglycerides. A high triglyceride level combined with high levels of low-density lipoproteins ("bad" cholesterol) or low levels of high-density lipoproteins ("good" cholesterol) has been associated with fatty buildup in the artery walls. That, in turn, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Excessive drinking can also lead to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and even death from alcohol poisoning. And it can interfere with the brain's communication pathways, affecting the way the brain works.
And then there are all the extra calories from drinking alcohol, which can lead to obesity and a higher risk of developing diabetes.
As for red wine being healthy, no research has proved a causal relationship between drinking alcohol and having better heart health, according to the American Heart Association.
The bottom line is this: Have a drink, with food and in moderation, if you enjoy that. But also get enough physical activity, stop smoking, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Q and A
Q: Should I wash my chicken before cooking it?
A: It may actually do more harm than good, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Raw poultry can be contaminated with harmful bacteria, which is destroyed by cooking it to the proper temperature: 165 F. While many people think rinsing chicken before cooking it will wash off the bacteria, the practice may spread germs over the kitchen from the small droplets of water. Better ideas include keeping raw poultry refrigerated until ready to cook; using a separate cutting board for raw chicken and meats; and washing, rinsing and sanitizing those cutting boards and countertops. Remember to wash hands thoroughly after handling raw poultry.
One of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is to roast them. How do you do that? Cooking Light offers this recipe for Roasted Broccolini. It will work for all vegetables.
2 pounds Broccolini, stems removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Preheat oven to 450 F. Toss together Broccolini and olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with zest, salt and red pepper; toss well. Roast at 450 F on top oven rack until slightly crispy and stalks are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Serves 8 (serving size: 3/4 cup).
Per serving: 70 calories; 4 grams protein; 3 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fat; 3 grams fiber; 218 milligrams sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com