Enjoying an alcoholic beverage now and then can drastically increase your caloric intake if you don't monitor what you're drinking. Several low-calorie alcoholic beverages are available to choose from, and some types of alcoholic drinks might have beneficial effects on your health. If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are taking certain medications, you should not consume alcohol, but you should check with your physician.
Calories in Alcohol
Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram, and the amount of grams of alcohol varies by drink. Generally a 12 oz. can of beer, 8 oz. of malt liquor, 5 oz. of wine and 1 1/2 oz. of 80 proof liquor all have approximately 13.7 g, or 0.6 oz. of pure alcohol, totalling about 96 calories from alcohol alone, not including other ingredients. Moderate drinking is defined as having one of these alcoholic beverages per day for women or two for men.
Enjoying a glass of red wine, such as merlot, with your meal can enhance the flavor of your dish. A 5 oz. glass of merlot is only 120 calories. According to research published in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2005, moderate consumption of red wine can have positive effects on your cholesterol. Researchers have concluded that adding a glass or two of red wine to your daily diet can improve HDL cholesterol by as much as 16 percent. This is the "good" type of cholesterol that helps your body excrete harmful LDL cholesterol. Enjoy your red wine and all of its benefits by making a red wine spritzer. Mix half a glass, about 2 to 3 oz., of red wine with soda water or diet lemon-lime soda. This beverage has half the calories and alcohol as a full glass of red wine.
Liquor and Diet Drinks
A 1 1/2 oz. shot of 80-proof gin, whiskey, rum or vodka provides approximately 96 calories. Blending them with a diet beverage keeps your calories to a minimum. For example, mixing whiskey with diet cola, or gin with diet tonic, keeps your caloric intake to less than 100 calories. Shake up 1 1/2 oz. of vodka with 4 oz. of light cranberry juice; this refreshing cocktail provides around 120 calories.
Many of your favorite beers come in a light variety at around half the calories. Depending on the brand, light beers provide 70 to 110 calories per 12 oz. serving. If you drink draft beer, many establishments serve it in a pint glass, which is 16 oz., slightly increasing your caloric intake. Moderate beer consumption might be beneficial for your heart, according to research found in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition," published in 2001. Beer can help maintain or lower homocysteine levels in blood, which is a biomarker used to evaluate your risk of heart disease. Additionally, folate -- a B vitamin that is a by-product of fermentation, might also help protect your heart by decreasing inflammation. While you might experience these heart benefits from beer, binge drinking or drinking heavily every day leads to weight gain and can counteract any benefits.
- "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; "A Population Study of the Influence of Beer Consumption on Folate and Homocysteine Concentrations"; O. Mayer Jr. et al; July 2001
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; "Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions"; July 2010
- "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; "Effect of Red Wine and Red Grape Extract on Blood Lipids, Haemostatic Factors, and Other Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease"; A.S. Hansen et al; March 2005
- USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference