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Calories and alcohol: your drink’s nutritional value

Published on December 16, 2019 at 12:30 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 12:36

Although we’re constantly bombarded with warnings about the dangers of alcohol, it’s as popular as ever and has a large following. Should we ban it from our lives altogether or consume it only on special occasions? More specifically, what place do alcoholic drinks have in your diet? Let's shed some light on the subject.

The nutritional value of wines

Followers of the Mediterranean diet have been growing in number in recent years. In fact, multiple studies have shown that this diet provides benefits to cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of certain cancers. Among the foods involved in this diet, there’s an abundance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and red wine. So, when consumed in moderation, wine can be part of a healthy diet. Also, phenolic compounds, substances from the solid parts of grapes extracted during fermentation, are said to have several positive health effects, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases and depression.

Remember, however, that wines also have a variable sugar content, called residual sugar. This is the amount of sugar remaining in the wine after alcohol fermentation. Thus, the types of wines are categorized according to their residual sugar content in this way:

  1. Dry wine: 0 to 4 g/L  
  2. Semi-dry wine: 4 to 12 g/L
  3. Full-bodied wine: 18 to 45 g/L
  4. Sweet wine: more than 45 g/L

The sugar content can sometimes seem high, but you have to put everything into perspective according to the quantity consumed. Thus, if we take the example of a Chardonnay containing 9.3 g/L of residual sugar, we see that for a standard 142 ml glass, there is only 1.3 g of sugar. Wine is therefore a slightly sweet drink when compared to carbonated beverages. On the other hand, by including the calories from alcohol, which provides 7 calories/gram, the total calories are similar so these drinks are to be consumed only occasionally.

The nutritional quality of beers 

At first glance, you might think that beer is bad for your health, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, when consumed in moderation, it can provide essential nutrients to the body. It is a thirst-quenching drink, mainly made up of water, and contains proteins, minerals and B vitamins. In addition, some studies have shown that moderate consumption of beer can increase HDL cholesterol, or the good cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, pay attention to their carbohydrate content. Regular beers (5% alcohol) contain around 14 g of carbohydrates, while light beers (4% and less alcohol) have about 3 times less with 5 g. As for low-carbohydrate beers, they contain an average of 2.5 g. Here is the carbohydrate content per bottle of some of the most consumed beers:

  1. Budweiser: 10 g
  2. Coors Light: 5 g
  3. Heineken: 3.2 g
  4. Molson Canadian 67: 2 g
  5. Beck's non-alcoholic beer: 13 g

The carbohydrate content of cocktails

When it comes to cocktails, it’s important to pay attention to their carbohydrate content, since they are often made with fruit, fruity liqueurs or creams and juices. Below is the average amount of carbohydrate consumption for some popular cocktails:

  1. Margarita: 5g
  2. Bloody Mary: 4 g
  3. Sangria: 7 g
  4. Mojito: 20 g

The amount of calories in alcoholic beverages

As for calories in an alcoholic beverage, they come from the alcohol itself and the presence of sugar. More specifically, each gram of alcohol supplies 7 calories to the body. Excessive alcohol consumption can therefore contribute to weight gain. Below are the amount of calories for the various categories of alcoholic beverages:

Wines (142 ml or 5 oz), with 9% to 12% alcohol:

  1. Red or white wine: 80 to 110 calories. Dry wines are those with the least calories, as they have less sugar.
  2. Champagne: 105 to 108 calories

Fortified wines, with 15 to 20% alcohol:

  1. Port (60 ml or 2 oz): 90 calories
  2. Vermouth (150 ml or 5 oz): 170 calories for a dry vermouth and 190 calories for a sweet vermouth

Beers (340 ml or 12 oz):

  1. Regular beer (5% alcohol): 140 calories
  2. Light beer (4% alcohol): 90 calories
  3. Beers at 0.5% alcohol: 60 to 85 calories

Spirits (45 ml or 1 ½ oz), with 40 to 45% alcohol:

  1. Rum, vodka, whiskey, gin: 98 to 105 calories 
  2. Brandy and cognac: 110 calories


  1. Gin and tonic: 153 calories 

  2. Margarita: 139calories
  3. Bloody Mary: 123 calorie
  4. Cosmopolitan: 198 calories
  5. Mojito: 160 calorie

In conclusion, you can maintain a healthy and balanced diet while consuming alcoholic beverages, but don’t overdue your consumption frequency and the amount you drink. Keep in mind that one drink is equal to 142 ml of wine, 340 ml of beer and 45 ml of spirits. In addition, the recommendations state that women should not have more than 2 drinks per day and no more than 10 per week. As for men, they should limit themselves to a maximum of 3 drinks per day and a maximum of 15 drinks per week. In the end, the key word is moderation.

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier

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