Nutritional Content of Alcohol

By James Madeiros


Alcohol and the Food Pyramid

If we were to insert an alcoholic drink into the Food Pyramid, where would it go? Most alcohols are either grain- or fruit-based, so perhaps drinks are not as unhealthy as it seems. Maybe, just maybe, drinking is actually healthy.

Of course, like most everything else in this world, it’s complicated. It depends on what aspect of nutrition we’re talking about, as well as the type of alcohol in question. So, let’s use nutrition as the guideposts.


The best way to “rate” alcohol in terms of caloric content is to set it against the drink’s alcohol by volume (ABV). To start, it is good to know the common ABV comparison between alcoholic types: a 12-ounce beer has the same average ABV as 5-ounce glass of wine and 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

Here is the general calorie breakdown based on those measurements:

• “Regular” 12-ounce beer – 150-300 (“light” beer will hover around 95)
• 5-ounce glass of wine – 105-125
• 1.5 shot of liquor – 80-120

It’s clear that when it comes to the ABV-to-calorie ratio, all drinks are not created equal, but this is only one nutritional measure.


We are flooded with information about “carbs,” and with the health benefits of low-carb consumables. The truth is that there has been no direct link found between the marginal amount of carbohydrates found in alcohol and weight gain. If we’re keeping score between beer, wine and liquor, though, it may as well be said that there are no carbohydrates in liquor.

Vitamins and Minerals

This is where alcohol falls flat. There are really no measurable amounts of essential vitamins or nutrients in any form of “straight” alcoholic beverage.

The Good News

Some scientific studies have revealed that certain alcoholic drinks, specifically red wine, may be “heart healthy.” Red wine contains antioxidants and a compound called resveratrol that may help promote “good” cholesterol and prevent damage to blood vessels.

In the end and after all has been weighed and measured, it is apparent that alcoholic drinks really are “empty calories,” and to gain any type of healthy benefit it should be consumed in moderation.

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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