What alcohol is ‘healthiest’? Nutritionists share their top picks


The Secrets: Choosing the Healthiest Alcohol for You

In a world where wellness is paramount, the relationship between alcohol and health has become a topic of significant interest. Contrary to popular belief, the World Health Organization issues a stern warning that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for health, highlighting its association with at least seven types of cancer. The 2023 recommendations from Canada advising no more than two drinks per week reinforce the growing concerns about the impact of alcohol on our well-being.

The Quest for Moderate Enjoyment

Acknowledging the reality that some individuals may still opt to consume alcohol in moderation, experts emphasize the importance of making informed choices for an indulgent yet mindful experience. NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., a certified nutrition specialist, advises, “This is a fun indulgence, so choose wisely for taste, serving size, and calories.”

Navigating the Alcohol Landscape

Is Any Alcohol Healthy?

Despite the lingering notion of red wine offering health benefits, nutrition experts caution that there is not enough documented health benefit from any type of alcohol to significantly impact short- or long-term health. Even the addition of mixers, such as kombucha, orange juice, or tomato juice, fails to justify a genuine “health benefit.” The key, according to Fernstrom, is to choose an alcohol you enjoy while remaining mindful of the caloric content.

Top Healthiest Alcoholic Drinks

Amid the myriad of options, certain alcoholic beverages stand out as the less unhealthy choices. These options not only provide a pleasurable drinking experience but also mitigate some of the potential harm associated with alcohol consumption.

  1. A Glass of Champagne or Sparkling White Wine
    • A 5-ounce serving of sparkling white wine hovers around 100 calories, and Fernstrom suggests enhancing it with a splash of orange juice for a delightful mimosa. Spritzers, a combination of club soda and wine, offer a dual benefit of slowing down the drinking pace and halving the calories.
  2. Light Beer
    • Specifically, beers with lower alcohol by volume, such as Guinness, are recommended. With a comparable alcohol content to many light beers, Guinness is not only satisfying but also fermented, supporting gut health. Pilsners and lagers, lower in alcohol and calorically dense, are additional viable options.
  3. Spirits
    • Tequila, rum, or vodka in their pure forms or mixed with soda water constitute a good choice in the right portion. The key, according to Hultin, is to avoid excessive pouring or sugary mixers, keeping the standard serving size of 1.5 ounces under 100 calories.
  4. Canned Hard Seltzer or Hard Kombucha
    • With approximately 100 calories, these canned options provide good portion control. However, it’s crucial to select products without added sugar for a healthier choice.

Liver Impact: Does it Matter?

While considering the impact on the liver, Hultin emphasizes that all forms of alcohol have a similar effect since the liver processes alcohol regardless of its form. The key factor here is volume, indicating that moderation remains essential for liver health.

Heart Health and Alcohol

Contrary to past studies suggesting moderate drinking has protective health benefits, recent research challenges this notion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that drinking any amount of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, as revealed by a 2022 study.

Calorie Considerations

For those watching their calorie intake, light beer emerges as a favorable choice, containing about 100 calories per 12-ounce bottle. Spirits like gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey also hover around the 100-calorie mark for a 1.5-ounce serving. Mixed drink enthusiasts can opt for a Bloody Mary at 120 calories, a rum and Diet Coke at 100 calories, or a Mojito at 143 calories.

Tips for Healthier Drinking

As you embark on your journey of moderate alcohol consumption, consider these valuable tips to enhance your experience while minimizing potential health risks.

  1. Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach
    • Consuming alcohol while eating slows down its absorption, preventing a rapid impact on your bloodstream.
  2. Stay Hydrated
    • Given alcohol’s dehydrating effect, always have a glass of water on hand, especially in hot weather.
  3. Avoid Fruit Juice Mixers
    • Skip mixers loaded with extra sugar, opting for healthier choices to reduce caloric intake.
  4. Exercise Caution with Tropical Drinks
    • These seemingly innocuous delights can be calorie-laden and contain saturated fats, leading to potential overconsumption.

In conclusion, making informed choices about the type of alcohol you consume, along with adopting mindful drinking habits, is crucial for balancing enjoyment with health considerations. Remember, it’s not about completely abstaining but rather choosing wisely.

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