You’ve heard having a glass of wine with dinner is good for your heart, right? Well, it’s not that good, according to some research. A meta-analysis published in 2018 in The Lancet found that while alcohol has been shown to provide some protective factors against heart disease and diabetes in women, the positive effects were offset by the fact that alcohol can increase the risk of cancer, accidents, and communicable disease. Another study published March 2022 in JAMA Network Open involving more than 370,000 individuals found that alcohol consumption (even modest amounts) can actually increase the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, it seems the answer to the question of whether drinking even in moderation is healthy varies depending on whom you ask.
What’s more, all that extra imbibing likely isn’t aiding any slim-down efforts. “It’s important to note that alcohol consumption can impact our metabolism and make weight loss more challenging,” says Lori Zanini, RD, a certified diabetes care and education specialist based in Manhattan Beach, California.
Alcohol contains empty calories and doesn’t provide any nutrients for your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic. “Alcohol can not only cause a water weight increase, but it’s also full of calories, so your actual weight can go up, too,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, a Chicago-based advisory board member for Healing Daily, a consumer website that offers healthy-living resources. “The other issue is that once people start drinking alcohol, they tend to lose track of their health and weight goals.” Maybe your plans to have only one drink turn into two or three or four drinks, or you find yourself reaching for unhealthy foods once the alcohol kicks in. According to a previous study, the more alcohol you consume, the more likely you are to make poor food choices.
So, how can you fight back if you’re concerned about your weight but don’t want to abstain completely? Think of alcohol as a treat. “Choose dessert or alcohol for the night, not both,” Kostro Miller says.
The usual advice is to drink in moderation. Moderation is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. But if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a good idea to limit your drinking even more, because drinking less is always healthier than drinking more.
You’ll want to ensure that your overall relationship with alcohol is healthy, too. The previously mentioned JAMA Network Open letter noted that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to or exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. “Be sure you’re enjoying it and not just drinking out of habit or in order to escape real problems that should be addressed with healthier stress management techniques or even therapy,” says Kelly Jones, RD, a certified specialist in sports dietetics and owner of Kelly Jones Nutrition in Philadelphia. “It doesn’t have to mean you never drink alcohol — but do increase awareness around your habits.”
Here are the best and worst types of alcohol to drink if you’re watching your weight.
8 Best And Worst Types Of Alcohol For Weight Loss
5 Best Types of Alcohol for Weight Loss
1. Red Wine (105 Calories per 5 oz Serving)
Enjoying a glass of red wine with dinner has long been considered a “healthy” move because of its purported heart-healthy benefits. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the idea can be traced back to the 1980s. And though there’s never been a long-term randomized trial that proved some of these claims, a dry red wine (like a cabernet sauvignon or Syrah) is one of the lower-calorie adult beverages you can reach for, Zanini says. A 5-ounce (oz) glass of red wine has about 105 calories, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
2. Light Beer (96 to 100 Calories per 12 oz Serving)
If you’re in the mood for beer, go light. It’s another low-calorie option, Zanini says. You’ll save about 40 to 55 calories per 12 oz serving, compared with a regular beer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
3. Dry Vermouth (105 Calories per 3 oz Serving)
A 3 oz serving of dry vermouth contains 105 calories, according to MedlinePlus. And while you’ll generally find it mixed into a martini or a Manhattan, you can save calories by sipping it neat. The reasonable calorie count isn’t the only reason to reach for it. Some research has found that dry vermouth contains significantly more polyphenols than white wine. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in plants that have been shown to help regulate metabolism, weight, and chronic disease, according to a study published 2018 in Frontiers in Nutrition. Keep in mind, however, that there haven’t been any peer-reviewed human studies on the health benefits of drinking dry vermouth, so it’s unclear whether this possible benefit outweighs the general risks of drinking alcohol.
4. Booze on the Rocks (About 100 Calories per 1.5 oz Serving)
Whether you’re into vodka or tequila, gin or whiskey, there’s no real difference in calories or carbohydrates — they all have about 100 calories in a 1.5 oz serving, according to MedlinePlus. Your best bet when sipping alcohol is to have it straight, or with sparkling water or club soda, Zanini suggests. That’s because a whiskey drink, for example, can quickly go from a 100-calorie drink to 300-plus when you add sugary, high-calorie mixers.
5. Champagne (85 Calories per 4 oz Serving)
You’ll save about 35 calories per serving by choosing bubbly over a sweet white wine, according to MedlinePlus. A 4 oz glass of champagne has 85 calories. And while that might not sound like much, it’s also possible that you’ll feel fuller and turn down that second drink as a result of the carbonation. Previous research found that women reported feeling more full after drinking sparkling water, compared with flat.
3 Worst Types of Alcohol for Weight Loss
1. Sugary Cocktails (500 Calories per 8 oz Serving)
Fancy mixed drinks might sound tasty, but they’re often loaded with calories. A Long Island iced tea, for example, will set you back about 500 calories in one 8 oz glass, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That’s more calories than you’ll find in a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s.
2. Frozen Beach Drinks (280 Calories per 5 oz Serving)
A sunny beach day may make you crave strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas — but watch out if slimming down your waistline is a goal. According to the Cleveland Clinic, both daiquiris and piña coladas have about 280 calories per 5 oz serving.
3. Craft Beer (170 Calories per 12 oz Serving)
A 12-ounce craft beer runs about 170 calories (or more), according to MedlinePlus. The reason for this difference, compared with commercial beers, is that craft beers often have extra ingredients and carbs that amp up their flavor. Though the latter may lead you to drink less than you would when sitting with a light beer, ultimately craft beers tend to have higher alcohol content, and more alcohol means more calories.
An Alternative to Booze for Anyone Looking to Lose Weight
Keep in mind: Mocktails are always an option. Going liquor-free is the ultimate way to cut back on alcohol calories. But you’ll still need to keep an eye on what’s going into the mocktails and choose a low-calorie — or better yet, no-calorie — water or sparkling water drink with lime, Kostro Miller suggests. If you do choose to drink alcohol on a given night, she says it’s a good idea to alternate between an alcoholic and nonalcoholic drink to keep your calorie intake in check. “This will spread out the calories from alcohol and keep you hydrated,” she says.
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