Abstaining From Alcohol? Plant-Based Alternatives Might Help

The “sober” curious movement is sweeping the world. If you are planning to celebrate Dry January, commit to long-term sobriety, or simply want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, know that there are plant-based alternatives to alcohol you can enjoy. Read on to learn more about your alcohol-free options.

Key takeaways:
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    Whether you are sober curious, planning a Dry January, or considering long-term sobriety, know you have plenty of plant-based alternatives to alcohol.
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    Some alternatives to alcohol include zero-alcohol versions of popular brands or herb-infused “mocktails”.
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    Contrary to popular belief, not all plant-based beverages are vegan. Make sure to check the labels.

The benefits of opting for alcohol-free drinks

Longevity

Did you know that alcohol kills 255 people per day in the US? Data published in 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows there are 93,000 deaths in the US each year, shortening those by an average of 29 years. These numbers alone

should make anyone who drinks alcohol in excess consider zero-alcohol drinks.

Preventing chronic illnesses

While an occasional drink likely won’t harm anyone, many people consume alcohol in excess. Binge drinking or drinking too much over time can lead to serious health consequences, including liver and other digestive conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer.

Know your options

Zero-alcohol versions

Liquor stores and grocery stores carry zero-alcohol versions of popular sparkling wines like Prosecco and Freixenet or beers like Guinness, Heineken, and Budweiser. Most non-alcoholic beers and wines still contain small amounts (i.e., 0.5%) of alcohol.

These products are a great option for those who miss the flavor of alcoholic drinks but are without the buzz.

If you go to a restaurant, ask for a zero-alcohol cocktail. Another option is to look for alcohol-free restaurants and bars.

Proprietary herbal blends — without the hangover

For decades, scientists have been looking to create drinks that enhance sociability and relaxation but are alcohol-free. Just like alcohol, these drinks activate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the naturally occurring brain chemical responsible for calming and relaxed feelings.

One company from the UK called GABA Labs created Sentia, an all-natural herbal blend that recreates the feeling of a drink but without alcohol or hangovers.

Some of Sentia’s ingredients include magnolia, passion flower, licorice, ashwagandha, hawthorn, damiana, rose, and gentian. While the drink is alcohol-free, it is not recommended for anyone under age 18 or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Additionally, the American brand Hyphae contains a mix of mushrooms like reishi and cordyceps, along with cannabidiol (CBD), kava kava, and ginseng.

Plant-based alternatives

Kombucha

A great alternative to beer, kombucha is a fermented tea made by introducing a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) into brewed black or green tea and adding sugar. Kombucha contains small amounts (0.5%) of alcohol and can be found in most grocery and health food stores. Although it does not have the psychoactive effects of alcohol, it can be a great choice when going out with friends who enjoy beer. Furthermore, kombucha is also a healthier option than soda.

Juices

Full-flavored, colorful juices like pomegranate and cranberry can successfully replace red wine. For white wine drinkers, combining lemon juice, apple juice, and diluted apple cider vinegar is a refreshing substitute. Other herbs and fruits for cocktails include lavender, ginger, mango, strawberry, coconut, and rose water. These juices may not induce the same effects as an alcoholic drink, but they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian root can be very helpful for those who consume alcohol to relieve anxiety and for those who have sleeping problems because they stopped drinking or for other reasons. Valerian root is available as a tea, liquid, or capsule.

Kava-kava (Piper methysticum)

This herb closely mimics the effects of alcohol. A member of the pepper family, kava-kava has been used for centuries as a recreational drink and ceremony in Oceania.

Its key active ingredients, called kava pyrones have effects similar to alcohol, such as relaxation, talkativeness, and euphoria, while affecting mental clarity.

Researchers have studied kava-kava primarily for its anti-anxiety and sedative effects. Numerous restaurants in the US offer non-alcoholic beverages with kava and other herbs.

Kava-kava is widely available in supplement stores; however, seek professional advice before using them. There are reports of liver injuries associated with kava kava supplement use.

Attention vegans: read the labels

Most people assume alcoholic beverages are vegan. After all, wine and ciders are made from fermenting fruits, while beer and spirits are fermented by barley, rye, and other grains.

However, alcoholic drinks may contain animal products. Milk and cream are found in creamy liqueurs and cocktails, while whey and casein are often used as ingredients Honey, egg whites, gelatin, and chitin (a fiber derived from insects to shellfish) are also common animal-based ingredients used in alcoholic drinks

If you are a vegan, your best options are to choose single herbs like valerian root, fruit juices, or herbal drinks like Seedlip, Lyre’s non-alcoholic bourbon, and Ôpia Organic wines.

Other great alternatives to alcohol

Like alcohol, exercise makes you feel good, more relaxed, and sociable. Unlike alcohol, exercise promotes deep, restful sleep, a better mood, a healthier heart, and a stronger immune system.

Alcohol may take years off your life, while exercise promotes longevity. The reason why exercise feels so good is that it positively impacts brain chemicals. For example, these include GABA, the calming, anti-anxiety brain chemical, as well as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, the neurotransmitters that make you feel happy, satisfied, more social, and focused.

From zero-alcohol versions of popular beers and wines to fruit juices, kombucha, and herbal blends, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives to alcohol. Experiment with various ingredients and different combinations to find your favorite.

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