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How Healthy Are Non-Alcoholic Drinks?

Non-alcoholic drinks could prove beneficial for recovering alcoholics who are looking for sobre-drinking options or for people who want to cut down on their alcohol consumption.

However, health experts reveal that the cons of these beverages far outweigh the pros.

In this article, we will be looking at the potential health risks for people who consume the newly available “non-alcoholic” or “de-alcoholised” beverages which may contain trace amounts of ethanol (less than 0.5% by volume).

Speaking to a dietitian, Mbali Mapholi of Mbali Mapholi Inc, she said non-alcoholic drinks make a good alternative for individuals who want to reduce their alcohol but maintain the “alcohol in hand” feeling, or who want to be sociable but remain sobre for driving.

“In terms of the nutritional profile of non-alcoholic drinks, they might be packed with energy and sometimes more sugar compared to alcoholic drinks. Healthy drinks are drinks that are low in added sugar which is normally drinks that have less than about 1 teaspoon added sugar per 100ml. On the food or drink label, ingredients are listed by quantity — from highest to lowest. People can identify if any drink, including non-alcoholic drinks, is low in sugar by reading the ingredients lists.”

The World Health Organization, Mapholi says, recommends that “sugar free” should make up less than 10% of adults and children’s total energy intake. This includes sugar added to food and drinks like non-alcoholic drinks.

“Diets that mainly consist of foods and drinks which are high in added sugar may pose serious health risks, including heart disease, stroke and other metabolic diseases associated with high visceral fat. During alcohol recovery, it might not be a good idea to drink non-alcoholic drinks as they might retrigger the alcoholism behaviour,” said Mapholi.

Asked how much is enough when it comes to consumption, she said that unlike alcoholic drinks, non-alcoholic drinks do not have the quantity limit.

“The concept that is important to grasp is that nutritionally, non-alcoholic drinks are just like sugar-sweetened beverages and that non-alcoholic drinks are okay to drink in moderation as part of a healthy diet. The individual limit depends on individual nutrition needs and health goals.”

Mapholi adds that what they know as a blanket statement is that it is important to consume sugar in moderation which also includes added sugar from the non-alcoholic drinks.

Credit: Lutho Pasiya

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