Is Drinking Alcohol Good For You?

Much is made of the health benefits of alcohol. But do the potential benefits outweigh the risks?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
5-minute read
Episode #74

How Much Alcohol is Healthy?

Just as a reality check, one drink is defined as 12-ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or an ounce and a half of liquor.  An ounce and a half of liquor is just three tablespoons. A martini can easily contain three or four times that much alcohol, depending on just how big a fish bowl they’re serving it in.  And a draft beer is likely to be 16 to 20 ounces.

The health risks of alcohol also increase sharply when you drink several drinks in a short period of time. So saving up your entire week’s allowance for Friday night isn’t a great idea either.

Easy Ways to Cut Back on Alcohol

Depending on your social circle and habits, reining in your alcohol consumption may take a little effort—especially now that we’re smack in the middle of party season.  Here are some quick and dirty tips on how to cut back on alcohol without missing the fun. (And, really, what’s more fun than taking good care of yourself?)

  1. Choose your drink wisely. Some alcoholic beverages are higher octane than others. Martini-type cocktails tend to contain the most alcohol per drink.  Drinks made with mixers, such as a gin and tonic or a Bloody Mary, contain less.  If the bartender has a heavy hand, let him know you’d like your drink light.  If you’re behind the bar, use a shot glass as a reality check.

  2. Beware of sweet drinks. Studies show that people consume sweet drinks faster.  If it’s going to be a long night, mixing wine with club soda to make a dry wine spritzer is a good strategy.    You can nurse two over the course of an evening and still keep it to one serving of alcohol.

  3. Select a low-alcohol pre-dinner drink. If you’re out for dinner and everyone is ordering a cocktail before dinner, try a classic aperitif such as Campari and soda or a glass of sherry. These are much lower in alcohol—plus they are very sophisticated.

  4. Just say no to refills. Get out of the habit letting people refill your wine glass when it’s half empty.  A bottomless glass of wine makes it very hard to know how much you’ve had. Waiters are trained to keep everyone’s glasses at a certain level so you’ll have to let them know that you’d prefer to handle re-pouring yourself.

Sometimes, simply raising your awareness about how much alcohol you are consuming and how it affects your health is all it takes. But alcohol is seductive on many levels— aesthetically, socially, as well as physiologically. Some of us are more vulnerable to alcohol’s seductive pull than others. 

If you feel that you need some help controlling your drinking, there are some online programs that can help you monitor and moderate your intake.  If you find it impossible to drink moderately, you’re really better off not drinking at all.  And if you don’t drink, there’s no reason to start tippling just for the health benefits. 

Keep in Touch

If you have a suggestion for a future show topic or would like to find out about having me speak at your conference or event, send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com or leave me a voice mail at 206-203-1438. 

You can also post comments and questions on my Nutrition Diva Facebook Page or find me on Twitter.  I answer a lot of listener questions in my free weekly newsletter, so if you’ve sent a question my way, be sure you’re signed up to receive that.

Have a great week and remember to eat something good for me!


Alcohol and Health

Quick Stats on Alcohol Use and Health

Women and Alcohol

Moderate Drinking

Moderation Management

Alcoholics Anonymous

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.