Healthiest alcoholic drinks to buy: hard liquor, beer, and wine.
Whether or not you decided to partake in Dry January, most of us can agree that the need for a relaxing alcoholic beverage feels real right about now. In fact, there are more than a few reasons we could dig up for why we’re eager to get back to tipsier times. However, for those of us looking to maintain our health goals, the addition of alcohol can be problematic. After all, alcohol is not necessarily considered “healthy.”
Alcohol doesn’t provide any nutritional value to our diets but it does pack on the calories, which can make weight management a challenge. What’s more, certain alcohols can increase toxicity in the body. “The liver, one of the main organs that detoxifies the body, is also the main organ that filters alcohol,” explains functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, FNTP. “Chronic alcohol consumption can actually damage and destroy the cells of the liver and can cause buildup of fats in the liver, which prevents it from doing its job.”
Of course, all alcohol isn’t bad, especially when consumed in moderation. In fact, there are some health benefits to moderate drinking, like lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, and possibly diabetes, says to Roger E. Adams, PhD, doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. One study published in the British Medical Journal even found that light-to-moderate drinking yielded a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study published in Diabetes Care found that it lowered insulin resistance, which is the main symptom of diabetes.
Recently, there’s been a surge in “healthier adult beverages,” from lower sugar to lower alcohol and even “clean” ingredients. “Keeping the sugar lower or drinking alcohol that is a lower ABV will ultimately have a better impact on your blood sugar levels and your gut,” explains Rodgers. “Sugar and alcohol are really rough on the gut in high amounts, so taking one out of your diet, or lowering it, is a great way to move in the right direction.”
It’s the concept of clean ingredients, however, that Rodgers believes is the most important thing. “When the ingredients are clean and your body knows how to break them down, an alcoholic beverage will have less of an impact than those that have a lot of preservatives and unclean ingredients,” she says. “If someone is going to drink a wine, for example, I highly recommend that they look for a wine that is organic, has no added sulfites, and is biodynamic.” If you prefer liquor, opt for that is in its purest form with little to no additives.
If you’re on the hunt for the healthiest alcoholic drinks to add to your bar cart, we asked experts to share the liquor, beer, and wine they recommend and why.
Healthiest Alcoholic Drinks: Hard Liquor
When it comes to hard liquor, tequila is typically touted as the healthiest option. Opt for an organic blanco tequila (also commonly called silver) as this is the purest form of the spirit. Made made with 100 percent blue weber agave and no additives, this dietitian-approved pick is bottled soon after distillation to lock in the sweet agave bouquet and herbaceous flavors. This means you can enjoy it straight, the healthiest way to indulge in liquor, or in a cocktail with only one or two ingredients.
Rodgers is a personal fan of this gin, which is made from locally-grown grapes using a signature blend of 11 botanicals. “Health-wise, you are getting the polyphenols and antioxidants and quercetin from the grapes, as well as all the botanical benefits,” she says. “It’s also a lighter liquor that’s lower in congeners, a natural substance made during the fermentation process that our bodies can respond negatively to — think headaches and hangovers.”
Hard seltzer fans rejoice: Lisa Richards, CNC, nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet, likes to recommend this category of alcoholic beverages for those seeking a low-alcohol drink that is also low in calories. “At 5 percent alcohol by volume, 100 calories, and just 2 grams of carbs per serving, this is a healthy alcoholic beverage that will help prevent weight gain common to alcohol use while also reducing hangovers,” she says.
This organic alcoholic beverage also has the gut-friendly benefits of kombucha, which is rich in probiotics and antioxidants. “Brewed using green tea and fruit juice, the only added sweetener is honey, as it’s needed for feeding the probiotics,” says Nicole M. Avena, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University, and author of What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant, noting that it only contains 3 grams of sugar. “This kombucha eliminates all harsh artificial colorings and doesn’t cause stomach discomfort because of the good bacteria.”
If you’re partial to hard seltzers because of their distinct taste, you have to give these a shot. Made from real fruit juice and vodka — not malt liquor — they’re so flavorful. “Each 100-calorie can contains vodka, sparkling water, and juice, such as pineapple, grapefruit, lime, peach, watermelon, and black cherry,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist, Karen Cooney, MA, CN, CHHC. “Plus, the canned alcoholic drink is gluten-free and has no sugar added.”
“Guinness Draught (in a bottle) is only 126 calories and has far more flavor than most of the watered-down, low-calorie beer brands that try to stay under 100 calories, greatly sacrificing taste,” says Dr. Adams. “While the calories are a bit more, the flavor and enjoyment, as well as the filling feeling you get from Guinness, will likely keep you from drinking too many.” What’s more, it contains higher amounts of folate (a B vitamin) and fiber than other brews.
If you’re a fan of hoppy IPAs, good news: They’re often healthier than other beers, especially when they’re craft and locally made. “Research has shown that IPAs may actually help to counteract osteoporosis,” Rodgers says. “This is because of the humulone, which is found in the hops and can help inhibit bone resorption and is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.” She is a big fan of Troegs, which uses quality hops and works with local farmers, orchards, beekeepers, and businesses to use the freshest ingredients.
If you’re looking for a light lager that doesn’t taste like tainted water, Dr. Adams recommends Shiner Blonde Light. “It’s 99 calories and has a crisp and clean taste,” he says. “For lighter beers, this is a favorite.” It’s also a low-carb option at only 3.8 grams, and will it the spot for anyone who is limiting carbohydrates in their diet.
Red wine is one of the healthiest alcoholic drinks around, since it contains antioxidants that can protect your cells from damage and polyphenols that promote heart health, explains Cooney. This one is certified organic, with no manipulation of the grapes used, and free of sulfates. “It is also a biodynamic wine, therefore having a more complete ecosystem process and a higher quality overall,” adds Rodgers.
Not only are FitVine wines low in headache-inducing tannins, histamines, and sugar, but they are also fermented. “The fermentation process allows for less sugar in the end product and more benefits,” explains Dr. Avena. Of course, it offers all the antioxidants of red wine, too.
Though not technically a brand of wines, this company only sells all-natural, 100 percent organic wines that are free of sugar, toxins and additives. They even lab test each and every bottle they sell for impurities. Lisa Richards, C.N.C., nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet recommends this wine supplier, not only because their wines are sugar-free, low in carbs and lower in alcohol (12.5 percent, which is well below the industry standard), but also because of their adherence to strict pure wine standards—low sulfites at 75 ppm and zero toxic additives.