The Benefits of Moderate Drinking and Low Calorie Alcohol
I think all of us out there wish that by some miracle, a zero calorie alcohol will be invented so it wouldn't disrupt all of the good work we put during the week eating right. Whether it is after a frat party or open bar wedding, we all know that excessively drinking alcohol is not good for us. Alcohol is not a protein, carbohydrate, or fat and therefore cannot be stored by the body. When alcohol is being consumed, up to 20% of it is directly absorbed into the blood stream through the stomach; the rest is primarily metabolized through the liver in order to keep the alcohol from destroying cells and organs. Alcohol drank in excess can also lead to abdominal obesity and heart failure among other risks. However, studies are now showing that drinking alcohol in moderation may have some benefits to your health.
Research done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that moderate consumption of alcohol appeared to be more substantial in lowering the risk of heart disease than attempting to do the same through good diet and exercise. Medical research showed that alcohol can be more helpful on reducing cholesterol level and adding alcohol to a diet could be more effective in the long run than just following the diet alone. Having said this, moderate drinking is most beneficial for those who are older and have pre-existing risk factors for heart disease. If you must drink alcohol, do so in moderation which is described as one drink a day for women and two a day for men by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Binge drinking, four to five drinks in a few hours, does not have any benefits to you and can cause serious problems such as weight gain. In order to maintain healthy weight, you must monitor what types of alcoholic drinks are lowest in calories. The amount of calories per drink varies based on the type of drink you have.
Beer: A 12 ounce glass of regular beer contains about 149 calories on average. The better alternative to drinking a heavy beer would be lower calorie light beer which contains 110 calories and 4.5 grams of carbohydrates on average. Miller and Amstel Lite have 96 calories per serving each.
Wine: After it was observed that French people have a lower rate of death from heart disease than Americans despite eating similar high fat foods, exercising less, and smoking more, a Danish study showed that people who drank red wine have lower risks of cancer, stroke, and total mortality than beer and liquor drinkers. Franzia “Refreshing White” white boxed wine is both low-cost, and the best for you with about 90 calories per 5 oz serving. On average 5 oz of either red or white wine has around 120 calories.
Distilled Spirits: 80-proof gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, and tequila have around 98 calories each. Brandy and cognac have 98 calories per 1.5 fl oz serving. A vodka and cranberry with tonic mixed drink is a great substitute for a high calorie alcohol drink. A drink with one shot in it has around 98 calories if a low calorie cranberry juice is used. Another good drink option for a low calorie alcoholic beverage is Captain and Diet Coke. This drink has 86 calories and is available at almost every venue. Vodka and sugar free red bull is another low calorie alcoholic option.
While there are better options out there when having a good time, staying on a low calorie diet means having to ration your drinks. Although drinking in moderation has been found to be beneficial in some studies, all signs indicate that heavy drinking can add very serious risks to your health. Whatever alcohol one chooses to drink, moderation is the way to go to keep calories down.
Sayon-Orea C, Martinez-Gonzalez M, Bes-Rastrollo M. Alcohol consumption and body weight: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. August 2011;69(8):419-431. Available from: SPORTDiscus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 9, 2012.
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