Nutrition Inspiration

May 17, 2018

Alcohol and Health – can drinking alcohol be healthy?

Cheers to health! Really!? This is the start of a new series I am starting: #Drinkingwithadietitian. Every Thursday I will be doing a Facebook live, sharing a new drink recipe along with a delicious and nutritious appetizer! So follow the ABN Facebook page and tune in. I hope you enjoy it!

I love a good happy hour. In fact when I moved to the Philippines I began organizing a weekly Friday happy hour because, let’s face it, FriYAY! And, going out to drinks is a great way to meet people while getting to know a new city.

But, can drinking alcohol be healthy? Is beer, wine, or liquor a better choice? Let’s look at the science so we can have our cocktail and our health too!

Let me preface this by saying, if you do not currently drink I don’t advise you start drinking for health reasons. There are better ways to improve health. I am simply drawing attention to some research that has been done to shine light that alcohol does have some redeeming qualities if you are going to imbibe either way.

But hey, I like a good cocktail, so let’s get started.

How Much

How much alcohol is healthy? This is the most important aspect. There are serious health risks involved with heavy drinking but some health benefits with low-to-moderate alcohol intake. Low-to-moderate intake is considered one alcohol equivalent per day for women and two for men.

Alcohol intake is measured in equivalents rather than per drink because it will depend on the alcohol percentage and the volume of alcohol in a drink. If you pour a small glass of wine vs. a large glass of wine, both are not counted as one glass…sorry to bust your bubble. Same for a pint of light beer ~4% vs. a pint of microbrew at ~7%.

A 12 ounce 5% ABV beer, 5 ounce 12% ABV wine, and 1.5 ounces of 40% ABV spirits are each described as one beverage. To see a chart click here.

You have to count alcohol equivalents per day (not per week) because you can not save up all your drinks for one night, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Our bodies process alcohol at about one drink per hour. The more you drink the slower we are able to process. So one drink a night is processed differently than five drinks in one night.


Drinking more than the recommended amount increases risks of liver, pancreas and kidney disease, certain cancers, and can affect the health of your small intestine over time.

Drinking and Heart Health

Have you heard red wine is good for your heart? Well studies have shown it might actually not be the antioxidants that provide the health benefits, but actually the alcohol may have some protective benefits for heart health, in moderate amounts. Adults over the age of 45 drinking small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis have shown to increase HDL (the good cholesterol) and prevent blood clots. This is along with a healthy diet and exercise.

So if the health benefits are not necessarily specific to red wine, is one type of drink healthier than another?

What’s the Healthier Choice

I get asked this question often. If I am going to drink, what is the best choice? It comes down to sugar, calories and how fast you tend to drink.

Different drinks have very different amounts of calories.

  • 12 oz Light beer ~ 100 calories
  • 12 oz Regular beer ~ 150 calories
  • 5 oz Red and white wine ~ 120 calories
  • 5 oz Sweet wine ~ 165 calories
  • 1.5 oz distilled spirits like gin, vodka, whiskey ~ 100 calories
  • Martini ~ 120-140 calories
  • Whiskey sour ~ 160 calories
  • Cocktails like margaritas, daiquiri, mojito etc ~ these can vary a lot depending on the mixer and the amount of sugar used and range from 150-500 calories


So if you are going for the fewest amount of calories choose a liquor mixed with soda water rather than tonic water or soda. It has less sugar and calories. If you are a fast drinker, this is a good choice as well because you can stick to the 1.5oz of liquor while adding more soda water.

Wine is also a lower calorie choice but again if you are a fast drinker 5 oz goes pretty quickly and you could find yourself wanting more. Same goes for any drink on the rocks. Adding ice is a good choice as far as calories but make sure you’re sipping slowly because it could be easy to drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol pretty quickly.

Don’t forget to tune into Facebook live to learn more and drink with me 🙂 If you have questions or things you want me to include please leave me a message, I love to hear from you!



  1. […] my last post I talked about health and alcohol. I’m am here to tell you it is possible to including a small amount of alcohol in a healthy […]

  2. Mohammed says:

    Thanks, it’s quite informative

  3. […] I wanted to keep it fun and playful because I think people hear the word dietitian and they think I stick to a strict diet and always eat extremely healthy. I get the question all the time when I meet new people and they ask me what I do. “So do you eat really healthy” or “Uh oh I don’t know if I should order this, don’t judge me, lol” The thing is my nutrition philosophy is really incorporating healthy, mostly whole foods that fit into your diet in a way that can be maintained. It does not mean skipping out on a happy hour with friends because you are following diet, trust me- I have the worst case of FOMO, and relationships and mental health are just as (if not more) important than anything else to keep us living a healthy lifestyle. If you want to read more about alcohol and how that fits in a healthy diet you can read my post here. […]

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