Let’s get one thing clear, even though some types of alcohol may have health benefits, drinking alcohol is something you do for enjoyment, not for your health.
The general recommendation is to drink alcohol in moderation. But what does moderation actually mean?
1 drink per day; 21 and older
2 drinks per day; 65 and younger
1 drink per day; older than 65
A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (80 proof).
Not sure which type of alcohol to choose? We created a list of alcohol from most to least healthy to make your decision easier!
Alcohol with potential health benefits
1. Red wine
Even though red wine has more calories than other choices on our list, its potential health benefits put it in the top spot.
Red wine is rich in polyphenols, which have been shown to support heart health and increase the level of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood.
Red wine is high in a polyphenol called resveratrol that has been associated with heart disease prevention. This is why red wine is a staple in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
The health properties of red wine can also be attributed to quercetin, a flavonoid that supports blood flow. Quercetin is also a powerful antioxidant that may have protective effects throughout the body.
Getting drunk on red wine on a daily basis is not going to do your health any favors, but moderate amounts of red wine is a great option when choosing between alcoholic beverages.
Calories: 125 per glass (5 fl oz.)
These adult beverages will allow you to enjoy a night on the town without adding too many calories to your day!
Have you tried agave nectar as a natural alternative to other sweeteners? Tequila is actually made from the same plant that agave nectar is derived from.
Tequila is named after the region in Mexico where a specific type of agave plant is grown. Fun fact of the day: only alcohol made from the blue agave plant can be called tequila, while alcohol derived from other types of agave plants is called mezcal.
Agave is a source of a group of sugars called agavins which may help lower blood sugar and lead to weight loss. Some media sources have claimed that drinking tequila has these same benefits. However, this has been debunked since tequila only contains a minimal amount of agavins.
Tequila is famously used to make high-calorie margaritas. The best way to keep the calories low is by ordering tequila neat or as a shot with lime and salt around the rim. No additives, please!
Calories: 96 per shot (1.5 fl oz.)
3. Rum, whiskey, vodka, and gin
It’s a four-way tie for third place!
With roughly the same amount of calories per shot, these four drinks are all better choices if ordered without sugar-filled mixers.
Rum is made from distilling sugarcane byproducts (usually molasses) and aged in a barrel. Skip the piña coladas and daiquiris and stick to rum on its own or mixed with diet cola.
Fermented grains give whiskey it’s distinct flavor. While whiskey is often made from grains that contain gluten (like rye), it’s considered gluten-free according to the National Celiac Association.
Keep in mind that whiskey alone is lower in calories, but a whiskey sour has added sugar which can double or even triple the calories in your drink.
Vodka vs. gin
Vodka and gin are both colorless alcoholic beverages that can be made from a variety of grains. One of the main differences is that gin is distilled with natural flavorings like orange peel, licorice, or cinnamon to add a fuller flavor.
A gin and tonic is going to have more calories than gin alone, but you can save calories by ordering gin and diet tonic instead.
Calories: 97 per shot (1.5 fl oz.)
4. Light beer
It’s just like beer, only lighter!
Contrary to popular belief, the term “light” has nothing to do with the color of the beer and actually just refers to the fact that light beer is lower in alcohol and calories.
While regular beer is around 5% alcohol by volume, light beer is closer to 3% alcohol. Choosing light beer will save you about 50 calories compared to regular beer, per 12 ounce bottle.
One thing to watch out for is falling into the trap of doubling the amount of light beer you drink. It still contains alcohol and will still cause intoxication when consumed in excess.
Calories: 103 per bottle (12 fl oz.)
5. White wine
White wine is lower in calories than red wine, but doesn’t have the same potential health benefits because it’s much lower in resveratrol and polyphenols.
When compared to the options toward the end of our list, white wine is an excellent (and classy!) choice.
Calories: 119 per glass (5 fl oz.)
Higher in Calories
Calorie-wise, beer is going to be a better option than most sugar-filled cocktails. It’s higher in calories per serving than wine and distilled spirits.
Just keep in mind that when it comes to beer, one drink can quickly turn into many because the effects of the alcohol are felt more gradually than with spirits.
Calories: 153 per bottle (12 fl oz.)
7. Piña colada
If you like piña coladas…then you better save them for special occasions only!
These summertime cocktails are made with rum, pineapple juice, and coconut milk. They’re high in sugar and clock in at a whopping 437 calories per 8 oz serving.
If you can’t resist this island favorite, order a smaller size or share a single drink with your significant other.
Calories: 437 per serving (8 fl oz.)
Tequila, triple sec (orange liqueur), and lime juice give the margarita its famous flavor. Standard margarita mixes also often contain added sugars.
While a single 8 ounce serving will set you back 455 calories, many restaurants have made 12 ounces (or more!) the standard in order to woo customers with a huge glass.
The good thing about margaritas is that they’re meant to be shared! Invite your friends to pull up a straw on your next taco night instead of polishing off an entire margarita by yourself.
Calories: 455 per serving (8 fl oz.)
No matter which type of alcohol you choose, it’s important to enjoy it in moderation. The next time you’re headed out for a night on the town, consult our list to help you make a more health-conscious choice!
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