Which is more healthy? Low Carb Beer or Red Wine?

Which is more healthy? Low Carb Beer or Red Wine?

Well, what do you think?

Do you even think about your health when drinking alcohol? Or do you just drink what you like?

Do you count your alcohol calories?    How do you even DO that?!?!?

I hate to disappoint you, but as with all other nutrition recommendations, I think the best answer depends on bio-individuality. Keep reading to find out if you are better off a beer drinker or a wine drinker or perhaps something else!

“How much alcohol do you drink/week?” is a question I ask my 1 on 1 nutrition clients. It can be such a touchy subject because no one wants to give up their cold beer after mowing the lawn and at BBQs or the nightly glass or two of wine to relax after a long day. Many people respond with, “But I NEEEED (insert favorite alcoholic beverage here)!” Many of my female clients add, “You just don’t understand – I would go CRAZY if you took my wine away,” while many of my male clients say flat out, ” I’m not giving that up.”

If any of the statements above resonated with you, the first thing I encourage you to think deeply on is  what is your dependency on alcohol? Are you joking around when you say that you “NEED it”? Then why is it so hard to give up? I bet if I did a survey and asked everyone who drank alcohol on a regular basis what their favorite part about it was, a very small percentage would respond with “the taste.”

Then why is alcohol consumption so prevalent?

I’m not a psychologist or counselor, nor am I going to pretend to be one today. So I will leave you with those thoughts and hope that you can find some answers for yourself.

What I am going to dive into is the misconception that alcohol is bad for you because it either contains a lot of sugar or turns into sugar in the body.

Let’s first get something straight. I am not a hater of alcohol. I love a wine tasting (it’s inherited from my parents 🙂 ) and a good margarita on a hot summer day. I love the creativity a good bartender has with alcohol and herbs and fruit and all the things that give it a complex taste (that is the foodie in me). But I also do NOT love the effect too much alcohol has on my body and brain for the next days (yes, multiple days) after I indulge. I am 34 years old, and I have known the wrath of a 4 day hangover for the last 10 years. Let’s just say I made some major changes to my life fast!

Or was it the other way around? When I cleaned up my diet and really focused on my fitness and health, the desire for alcohol became less and less and therefore my consumption reduced. And when I did drink, the hangovers got worse.

I don’t ask most people to give up alcohol entirely, I just explain what it does to the body and give a recommendation, but what you decide is your choice which means you must also accept the consequence.

So, the question of the day…..low carb beer or red wine? which is healthier?

Here are the facts on beer:

  • Beer is made of barley, hops, and wheat – grains that in the Paleo community are known as “Anti-nutrients” because of their high amounts of phytic acids which prevent our bodies from properly absorbing minerals
  • Barley, Hops, and wheat are all gluten containing grains, which for some people can cause digestive upset such as very uncomfortable bloating and chronic diarrhea. Yes, even from a beer!
  • Sure, there are gluten free beers if gluten is an issue. A
  • Low carb beers usually = light beers, which means they’re easier to put down, which means you might drink more of them!
  • Does beer have any beneficial nutrients? Sure, it has minerals and depending on the type of beer can have a small amount of protein. However we are unsure of how much of those nutrients are left in a beer as well as how many our bodies will actually be able to absorb.
  • It is said to be good for heart disease because it thins the blood (something that all alcohol does), but is the benefit really worth the risk?
  • Beer can range anywhere from 4-12% ABV but most beers are 4-6% ABV on average.
  • Low Carb Beers are usually less than 100 calories per serving (12oz)

Here are the facts on wine:

  • Wine is made from grapes, a food that does not fall on the common food allergens or sensitivites list.
  • Sulfites are commonly produced through the fermentation of wine, which is bad news for people who get migraines and chronic headaches
  • Red Grapes have resveratrol in the skin, which means the wines with a deeper pink or red color also have resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, which acts like an anti-oxidant to protect the body from free radical damage. This means that wine MAY help in heart disease and cancer prevention. I am not saying it does for sure because there is not enough clear research yet!
  • Most wines are 11-13% ABV
  • Most wines are around 100-120 calories per serving (4oz)

Based on the above information, I would say that if you are a healthy individual with low risk for disease and have no gluten sensitivities or digestive issues, you could enjoy a few beers every now and then. Low carb or not.

Based on the above information, if you do not get chronic migraines or headaches, you could enjoy a glass of wine or two every now and then.

If both affect you, maybe you are better off a clear liquor drinker – GF Vodka, Tequila, or Gin. Just make sure to mix these with a non-sweetened 0 calorie beverage like water, seltzer water, or club soda. None of that high fructose corn syrup soda crap or sugary juices. And remember that the serving size for liquor is MUCH smaller than beer or wine. 1.5oz. or 1 shot is considered a serving of liquor.

Or, perhaps abstaining altogether is your best bet! Everyone handles alcohol differently and that can change in different phases of life too. It may have nothing to do with how your body handles it, and more of a desire to nourish from the inside out.

What studies up to now are showing, is that 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men is the max you should consume or your risk for health conditions rises. And no, this doesn’t mean if you only drink once/week you can have 7 beers or a whole bottle of wine. It is specifically a per day amount.

What about the calories and sugar?

Here’s how it works. Beer and wine contain alcohol AND carbs. 1g of carbohydrate = 4 calories. 1g of alcohol = 7 calories. The carbs digest into simple sugar molecules called glucose and either get used or stored. The alcohol is literally poison to our system. We do not get any nutrients from it, quite the opposite actually. It strips your body of nutrients while slowing down sugar and fat burning, as well as many other organs while the body works hard to get this poison out of our system! Ever get a little foggy, can’t see straight, lose your balance, slur your speech after a few drinks? Not only are you getting drunk, but your body is prioritizing metabolizing alcohol over brain function! Drink enough alcohol, and you may be feeling the effects of it for 24-48 hours, or possibly even longer! Does this make you re-think your alcohol consumption?

There are a lot of components to consider when drinking alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, sugar is not the most detrimental part to an alcoholic beverage….it’s the alcohol itself!

I found this guide to low carb drinks, in case you are also watching your carb count and I see no need to re-invent the wheel. So if you plan to count the carbs in your alcoholic beverages, check out this article.