Bar Food and the Bar Flies That Love the Stuff: Part 2 of the series: Weird Bants and the People who Love Them.

Bar Food and the Bar Flies That Love the Stuff: Part 2 of the series: Weird Bants and the People who Love Them.

I drink, and I have gone out with friends to bars and had a good time. I am fully aware of the negative health effects of drinking, however it can be a ton of fun and some foods taste better with beer or wine. I do not drink regularly, it is expensive, bad for me and I loathe the idea of developing a tolerance. These days I try my best to minimize alcohol consumption even when I do drink, which is rarely. When I was younger I use to “party” but I must admit I have never battled alcoholism.

I have seen people battle alcoholism and it is tragic to witness, the bottle will break a home faster than anything else. Beating alcoholism is very hard, but it is possible. Depending on how far gone from reality an alcoholic is, beating alcoholism may require professional help.

Not all “bar flies” are alcoholics (well I would not consider all of them to be) some go to bars to be social and drink a beer or two. Some people who go to bars or clubs DON’T DRINK. I am going to examine liquor, beer, pickled eggs and other pickled things, and the infamous nut/popcorn bowl.

Before we don the rubber gloves and ask the patient to bend over for an uncomfortable examination, we should in all fairness shout to the world: BAR FOOD CAN BE REALLY TASTY. Life can’t be about eating healthy all the time, because well that would be miserable. I personally recommend that my clients schedule dieting “holidays”: a day or meal where they can take a guilt-free break from their diet. I find that doing this gives them something to look forward to and near magically prevents “little cheating.” The food people eat when they are cheating will add up to a lot more calories, and the body will absorb more of those calories. I think this practice of taking a diet holiday should be done once to a maximum of twice a month. Perhaps your next diet holiday could be at the local bar (go easy on the alcohol you will find your tolerance dropped significantly, if you are underage obviously you should not drink).

It is worth it to ask the “regulars” or the bar tenders what is good at the establishment. Sometimes the local bar could be a hidden source of amazingly delicious foods like: artichoke dip, Buffalo wings, burgers and big meaty sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, cheese fries, nachos and all kinds of other really tasty definitively bad for you food. This food is bad for you, it is after all, designed to make you drink more alcohol, largely by being high is thirst inducing sodium. If you ate at the bar everyday it would be hard to stay on a healthy diet (not impossible, but really hard).

Alcohol as a Health Food??????

General proposed health benefits of alcohol are a hot topic these days. For a few years now wine has had a good reputation when it is to be consumed in moderation. Moderate alcohol consumption is commonly considered to be 1-2 drinks. It was the antioxidants in wine that we thought was what made it have a health improving effect. For me I think it is silly to drink wine for antioxidants, when antioxidants can be found in so many foods and beverages. Recent research is actually suggesting that moderate consumption of any form of ethanol alcohol be it wine, beer, liquor or cocktails could have some health benefits: Higher HDL, increased insulin sensitivity, and prevention of bone loss.

The problem I have with these studies and pushing alcohol as a health food is two things: 1. Alcoholic beverages do not have many nutrients in them (and yes I am counting the antioxidants of wine), 2. There is such a fine line between helpful and harmful and for some who have natural intolerances it might be a very fine line.

One thing that I take as a bad sign is pregnant women should never drink, it has again and again been shown to cause complications… this spooks me a bit. When one part of the population MUST be excluded when it comes to health recommendations, I always question if what is being recommended is really healthy.

In case you missed it: PREGNANT WOMEN AND INFANTS SHOULD NEVER DRINK!!!

I highly doubt that moderate consumption of alcohol is actually bad for you, I am just not sold that it is good for you either. It is probably not bad for you to have a glass of wine or a mug of beer with dinner or even having a shot afterwards (this is not an uncommon tradition). Adding orange juice to your vodka (it’s called a screw-driver it is nummy and a common cocktail), may add vitamin C but that does not mean you have made your vodka a health food; it just means that you added vodka to a health food. (Juice as a health food is actually debatable, because the fruit’s fiber is largely removed and this lack of fiber causes blood sugar spikes.)

When people add something as a health food to their diets they do so in a number of ways. But the common way that alcohol is added is simple addition. People don’t remove something and replace it with alcohol, they just add alcohol: meaning people are now habitually consuming more calories. More calories = weight gain = you probably don’t want that. If however, you subtracted all the soda you consume (absolutely not a chance in heck that soda is good for you in any way) and replaced it with moderate alcohol consumption, it might be a slightly good thing.

I do drink soda from time to time, but yes it is bad for you.

Never drink denatured alcohol it has things added to it to make it “unfit” for consumption.  

Ethanol alcohol is metabolically considered a carbohydrate (and a poison, to the low-carb people: carbs are not poison, alcohol just happens to be). Because there is nowhere in the body to store alcohol, your body makes metabolizing alcohol a priority, and it gets it done quickly. About 20% of what is consumed gets absorbed in the stomach; the rest is absorbed in the intestines. Alcohol metabolism gets very complicated, but it primarily happens in the liver. Alcohol can stimulate increased insulin secretion resulting in low blood sugar; increased insulin secretion can also stimulate fat storage.

Exercise and alcohol do not mix well the combo causes really low blood sugar.         

Liquor:

The ethanol alcohol in liquor is the result of fermentation of sugars into alcohol by yeast. Not to gross you out but the alcohol is a metabolic byproduct of the yeast. To get liquor to be more alcoholic than what naturally occurs with fermentation alone, the liquor is distilled. Distilling is essentially a boiling off of the alcohol into a gas leaving some of the water and other components behind. This gas is condensed and collected to make a beverage that is more alcoholic than it originally was. Ethanol fermentation is what causes bread (that has yeast) to rise, the yeast also gives off CO2 which is what makes things rise.

Liquor is usually about 40% alcohol by volume with the rest being almost entirely water and some impurities. Alcohol is a carbohydrate, and liquor has no protein or fat; meaning it is off limits for most low carb diets as it is entirely carbs. It is in the “impurities” that liquor has its unique substances like flavonoids and things that are good for you, but simply put there is just not enough there to count. The average shot of liquor (1.5 ounces) has about 100 calories. Liqueurs are flavored liquors, and are packed full of sugar and of course more calories. Darker liquors have more of these good for you flavonoids, but again not enough to count for anything: liquor is not a health food (this really should not have surprised you).

Beer:

Unlike liquor beer actually has some protein in it, and is a much more complicated beverage. It is sometimes called liquid bread, this is a misnomer. Bread has a higher amount of protein in it then beer, by percent of calories, white bread is about 11% protein and beer is about 4%. The protein in beer is not enough to justify drinking beer as a source of protein, or choosing beer over other alcoholic beverages. The amino acid profile of beer is very bad and does not compare to that of bread or other grains. Beer protein typically provides absolutely zero of the essential amino acids and for this reason should not be used when adding up total protein intake.

Moderate consumption, 1-2 beers, has (like moderate consumption of all ethanol alcohol) been shown to perhaps have health benefits. I however, have to disagree… at 200-300 calories 1-2 beers is 10-15% of the total calorie intake on a 2000 calorie diet, but it provides nowhere close to 10-15% of the nutrients we need. In beer, there is often some calcium, iron, folate, thiamin, b vitamins and even a little bit of other good stuff but again it is simply not enough to count. Beer is not a health food.

Pickled Eggs and Other Things:

Pickled things in bars are often packed with tons of sodium, which makes you thirstier. It seems like bars will pickle just about anything. I have to tell you I love pickled eggs and I have never tried pickled pig’s feet. Pickled eggs are an acquired taste, as are most of the pickled things you find available at the bar. Pickled things you may find in a bar: pickled cucumbers (a pickle), olives, okra, peppers, watermelon rinds, snakes (yeah some bars will do this), fish, eye balls (I have personally seen this one), onions, sausage, pigs feet, and of course pickled eggs. Bars really prove that you can pickle just about anything.

The common pickle made of cucumbers is low in calories because the cucumbers are low in calories. Many pickled things are similar nutritionally to their non-pickled counterparts. Pickling causes chemical changes in foods changing texture, flavors and even color. Diffusion of salts and seasoning into the food happens with pickling. Heat affects protein is a similar way as the acids, alcohols and salt found brining and pickling solutions, it helps predigest it. Pickling preserves food and this was the original purpose to pickling. By being acidic and or salty pickling creates an inhospitable environment for most bacteria, enzymes and microbes which is why it prevents food’s decay. Pickling can also use fermentation, not all pickling uses it, with “friendly” bacteria (Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Lactobacillus plantarum) to prevent spoiling.

Pickling can be done at home, and for many things does not require much or any salt, making homemade pickles and pickled eggs potentially much better for you. Homemade pickled things have the potential to be health food.

The acetic acid in vinegar used in pickling does increase your fat burning metabolism but the effect is very slight. Adding vinegar to a meal slows the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, this can have a noticeable effect on blood sugar levels.     

The Bowl of Nuts or Popcorn:

Nuts are good for you, and popcorn is not good for you. To be fair popcorn is not that bad for you either, many foods fit into this category popcorn happens to be one of them. Bar popcorn typically does not have much more than a bit of salt on it, so it is not high in calories. It is not what is in the bowl, it is the fact that the bowl is communal and everybody can put their hands in there.

The acidity of the brine has a protecting effect on the pickled food in the jar that sits on the bar, but (sometimes people don’t even have to reach into the jar because of tongs)… that little bowl has no such guardian. There can be all kinds of gross stuff like germs, urine, and fecal matter. That guy that just got back from the bathroom and reached into the bowl may not have washed his hands. The good news is that little bowl could help you lose weight… the bad news if it does help you lose weight it will be due to food poisoning.

Please don’t try and get food poisoning to lose weight.

Bar food does not sound like it is a diet plan but for many it is. For those that eat at the bar THAT much usually it makes them fat and unhealthy pretty quickly. The bar diet is unfortunately pretty common, you may even know a bar fly that eats his dinner of unhealthy food at the bar every night after work. I do not recommend the Bar diet.

Alcoholism is often considered a disease by society, medical professionals and friends and family of alcoholics. I am still of the opinion that anything which can be cured through pure will power and a common sense detox program is not a disease. Alcohol is physically and psychologically addictive yes, a disease… NO. Alzheimer’s, Birth defects, Cancer, Diabetes, Epilepsy… the list goes on and on, all can be considered a disease. It is good news if you don’t consider alcoholism a disease, because you can’t always beat a disease, you can always beat alcoholism.

If you are fighting alcoholism right now, keep it up, I believe that you can do it.

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