What are you drinking?

The nutrition story

Some people think that drinks are empty calories, but that is not the whole story. Beer, wine, and spirits do have calories. There are about 7 calories in one gram of pure ethanol. There may be additional calories in your drink from flavorings, residual or added sugars, and proteins. Calories from alcohol are not as efficiently metabolized as those from food, and the question of whether or not light drinking increases obesity is unclear. Still, you should consider the calories you receive from your drinking as part of your overall intake.

While beer, wine, and spirits contain additional, naturally occurring nutrients, you never should rely on your drinks for nutrition – especially because drinking too much will have negative consequences. Remember that drinks vary widely in alcohol content, calories, and other nutrients depending on the serving size and how they are made.

Beers are brewed from four primary ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. Some products add additional grains and other ingredients for color, flavor, or clarity. The final product includes small amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, phosphorus, and niacin.

Wines are made by fermenting the juice from grapes or other fruits or grains. Wines contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium, although, as with beer, the amounts are small.

Distilled spirits are produced from raw agricultural materials such as grapes, other fruit, cane sugar, molasses, grains, potatoes, etc. After fermentation, the liquid is heated to purify the alcohol, and then the evaporated alcohol vapor is cooled to a liquid. This product, called a “distillate,” is often aged and flavorings may be added, some of which contain additional calories and nutrients. As a result, distilled spirits vary in flavor, color, type, and strength.