Mulled wine, Champagne, hot toddies… the holidays are here. And many of us are tempted to drink a little more alcohol than we’re used to. But what’s the story? Should you down that Irish coffee pushed on you by your host? Or pass?

Several studies over the last 10 years have found that moderate drinking actually may have some benefits. For instance, it seems to lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But before you overindulge, remember that the healthy definition of “moderate” is pretty low. Furthermore, the definition of moderate is different for women than for men.

Moderate drinking means no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink translates to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that two-thirds of women and half of all men usually drink more than this.

Ladies, be especially cautious! According to the Harvard School of Public Health, one drink per day increases your risk of breast cancer by 10 percent – and two to five drinks per day increases your risk by 40 percent. The good news is that increasing your intake of folate may erase the cancer risk (according to an Australian study in the British Medical Journal). Foods high in folate include beef liver, spinach, great northern beans, asparagus, green peas, broccoli, avocado, lettuce, and turnip greens.

Once you exceed “moderate” (as defined above), your risks start to increase – linked to a 70 percent increased risk for high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and dangerous belly fat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So for better health this holiday season, try to keep your drinking down to the true definition of moderation. When it comes to alcohol, more is not better!

Comment on this article