The term “healthy’ is rather subjective and relative when it comes to alcohol. Although most alcohol will have some antioxidant benefits if consumed very moderately, it contains calories and too much is definitely not good. Also, many mixes add calories. The warm weather inspires us to look and feel better as we spend more time outdoors. A cool, alcoholic beverage can certainly enhance that enjoyment. However, choosing one that won’t pack on the calories and is actually somewhat healthy is a huge issue. For our purposes, a healthy drink means one with fewer calories that contains some vitamins and nutrients. Here are a few suggestions.
Vodka and soda is one of the best drinks if you are watching your weight. As vodka contains around 96 calories per 1.5 ounces and soda contains none, it’s a low-cal winner. However, it contains no nutritional value and generally is lackluster.
If you’re looking for more flavour, try any whiskey or gin straight up, on the rocks or with soda. Both weigh in at about 97 – 110 calories per 1.5 ounces each. Although no nutritional value and just a bit more calories than a vodka and soda, you get oodles more flavour.
One of the most flavourful drinks is a Manhattan and it’s actually reasonably healthy. It contains bourbon (approximately 97 – 110 calories per 1.5 ounces), sweet vermouth (around 45 calories per ounce) and angostura bitters. Vermouth contains various herbs, some of which are good for you. Bitters supposedly have restorative properties and can cure an upset stomach.
A Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, salt, pepper) is one of the healthiest of all with low calories and lots of nutrients. Tomatoes contain lycopene, catechins and zeaxanthin that protect the prostate (in men), skin and eyes, respectively; vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as carotenes, xanthins and lutein; and Vitamin C and potassium that protect against cancer. Horseradish defends against the common cold, is an analgesic, has antibiotic properties, and protects against UTI’s, cancer-fighting properties called glucosinolates. Celery has a reputation for fighting cancer, lowering high-blood pressure, easing insomnia, preventing kidney stones, and helping with digestive problems.
A light beer is a good bet, but Guinness is even better. At only about 128 calories per 12 ounces, it’s made from more whole grains than most other beer. It’s full of nutrients, has similar antioxidant properties as red wine and may even reduce blood clots and heart problems. It’s actually quite good for you.
When it comes to wine, a little is pretty good for you, especially red. It contains iron, potassium, magnesium, flavanoids, non flavanoids like resveratrol and has about 110 to 130 calories for a five ounce serving. Sangria is a fun and tasty way to enjoy wine and gain benefits. Although not low-cal because of added sugar, all the fruit included provide vitamins, flavanoids, polyphenols, potassium, fibre and beta-carotene. Although not exactly low-cal either, bubbly and fruit juice is a good option. Bubbly, usually white, does contain some antioxidants, although different from those found in red wine. Fruit juice contains all kinds of nutrients. Orange juice in a mimosa delivers Vitamin C and B6, Potassium, Folic Acid, Calcium and Thiamin. Peach juice in a bellini adds Vitamin C, A and B, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Enjoy some of these “healthier”, alcoholic beverages responsibly this season, but remember not to overdo it as overindulgence definitely negates any positives.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, author, TV and radio host, educator, judge.