With the Fourth of July fast approaching, you’re probably gearing up to celebrate — and it’s very likely alcoholic beverages will play a part of the festivities. The question is: How big or small a part should alcohol play? The good news is that drinking alcohol in moderation has health benefits. That said, drinking in excess will negatively affect your health. Want to make sure you reap all the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption while avoiding the bad stuff? Read on.
What Is Moderate Drinking?
Moderate drinking is defined as 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.
One drink/serving amounts to:
- 12 ounces of beer (average glass bottle)
- 5 ounces of wine (about 1/5th of a standard-sized wine bottle)
- 1.5 ounces of liquor (one shot)
Each serving has around 100 calories.
How Alcohol Affects Your Body
Alcohol takes over your body’s metabolism, which means that your body prioritizes breaking down the alcohol you’ve consumed ahead of anything else. When alcohol is consumed to excess, the body gets so busy processing alcohol that any food eaten is not fully metabolized. This is why alcohol results in altered levels of blood sugar and triglycerides (a form of fat that floats in the bloodstream). Your body also uses up vitamins and antioxidants when it processes alcohol.
Eating a balanced meal before you drink will help slow down the absorption of alcohol and ensure your body has enough nutrients to detoxify the alcohol.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic, preventing your body from retaining water and resulting in multiple visits to the restroom. This fluid loss is part of what causes dehydration and hangovers. Drinking additional glasses of water between alcoholic drinks and before going to bed will help counteract these effects.
It should also come as no surprise that alcohol is linked to weight gain. One pound of body fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories. Consuming high-calorie drinks on a weekly basis can quickly add pounds and inches to your waistline.
Red, White and Antioxidants
When talking about the health benefits of alcohol, red wine is usually touted as the most heart-healthy drink. The truth is, you can consume any kind of alcohol in moderation to get some heart-healthy benefits. Of course, if you want more bang for your nutrition buck, then stick to red wine, which contains antioxidants that other types of alcohol don’t have.
Fun fact: The type of antioxidants in red wine, called anthocyanins, are the same antioxidants that give eggplant skin and blueberries their purple-ish color.
Beware of “Skinny” Marketing
All alcohol contains the same number of calories (7 calories per gram). If you come across a “skinny” alcohol brand in the grocery store, such as “skinny vodka,” chances are it’s made with a lower proof alcohol. In addition, companies may make the serving size smaller to make it seem like it has fewer calories.
How to Order a Healthy Drink
Whether you’re ordering at a bar or fixing a cocktail at home, you can make some quick and easy adjustments to decrease the number of calories in your drink.
All of these modified cocktails have less than 150 calories each (based on 1.5 oz of liquor):
- Margarita: Tequila, juice of one lime, club soda, splash of Triple sec
- Mojito: Rum or vodka, mint, juice of one lime, club soda, splash of simple syrup
- Cosmo: Vodka, juice of one lime, splash of cranberry, splash of soda water
- Gin and Tonic: Stick to the classic recipe of one part gin to two parts tonic water
- Bloody Mary: Vodka, tomato juice, splash of lemon juice, splash of Tabasco and Worcestershire
- Seabreeze: Vodka, club soda, splash of cranberry juice, splash of grapefruit juice
- Tequila Sunrise: Tequila, club soda, splash of orange juice, splash of grenadine
Here’s drinking (in moderation) to your health.
Bobby is the community and social media manager at Zipongo. He has a degree in nutrition and dietetics and previously worked as a health educator.