Let’s be real: “Healthy” isn’t necessarily the first word you’d think of to describe alcohol. But whether your drink of choice is a cosmo or a double IPA, there are benefits to sipping in moderation. Here are some of the seriously surprising perks that may come with imbibing your favorite beverages — plus what to keep in mind when ordering another round at the bar.
RELATED: Your Body…on Booze
7 Surprising Health Benefits of Alcohol (Plus, the Fine Print!)
The Benefits: Who knew brewskis could be so good for your bod? From lowering your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to strengthening your bones and lowering your risk for kidney stones, there are plenty of legitimate science-backed reasons to tip back a pint of your favorite brew.
The Fine Print: We hate to break it to you, but all the health benefits of beer go out the window when you have more than a couple drinks. The CDC recommends sticking to one or two beers a day, or it all goes bust.
The Benefits: Pop, clink, fizz — faster memory? One 2013 animal study found that drinking one to three glasses a week might help improve your memory and delay the onset of degenerative brain disorders, like dementia. That’s because Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, two red grapes used in the production of champagne are high in phenolics compounds, which the researchers believe have brain-boosting benefits.
The Fine Print: If you do decide to pop a bottle, keep in mind that champagne is notorious for its hangovers: The gas from the bubbles speeds up the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream, so sip slowly to avoid going overboard. And always open the bottle away from your face. No one needs a champagne cork injury!
The Benefits: Vodka could be the ideal drink for your next post-work happy hour. Experts have found it helps relieve stress better than red wine. Who knew? And that vodka and cranberry juice might even help boost creativity, according to one study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. Researchers found that men who sipped this pink cocktail performed 30 percent better on a word-association test than sober dudes.
The Fine Print: The taste of vodka is easily masked by juices and other mixers, so make sure you know how much liquor is poured into your drink. The National Institues of Health says one “standard drink” should contain no more than 1.5 fluid ounces of liquor (one-and-a-half shots). Just because you can’t taste it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Plus, be aware that sugary mixers can add tons of extra calories to every sip — and maybe even exacerbate your hangover, too.
“Many people report that drinking tequila makes them act ‘crazy’ or angry. What’s more likely is that your mood affects your choice of drink.”
The Benefits: Your gin likely gets its pine-y flavor from juniper berries, which can act as a diuretic, helping to release extra salt and water from your body — and possibly making you feel less bloated. Those berries are also full of healthy antioxidants that may block free radicals from doing damage to your cells. Plus, they’re oh-so refreshing!
The Fine Print: If you thought the tonic in your G&T was just glorified seltzer water, we’ve got bad news for you. One popular brand of tonic packs 130 calories, 55 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbs and 32 grams of sugar per eight ounce serving — and lists high fructose corn syrup as its second ingredient. (Sparkling seltzer water, on the other hand, contains no calories and is strictly carbonated water.) Go easy on the ‘T’ if you’re watching your calorie intake.
The Benefits: Aside from making a mean margarita, moderate consumption of tequila might be good for your ticker: Drinking spirits increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which could help lower your risk for heart disease. But be wary of other research you read about tequila — much of it is based off the benefits of agave, found in the plant used to make tequila. Unfortunately, that good-for-you agave doesn’t actually end up in your glass!
The Fine Print: Ever experienced the tequila crazies? While research doesn’t support the idea that different liquors have different emotional or behavioral effects, many people report that drinking tequila makes them act “crazy” or angry. What’s more likely is that your mood affects your choice of drink, experts say. (Today was the worst! Give me a tequila shot!…Sound familiar?) Pay attention to what you order — and how much you consume — on days when you’re already feeling off kilter.
The Benefits: Wine has become the very definition of a ‘guilt-free’ treat — and for good reason. Polyphenols, the antioxidants in red wine, may limit the development and progression of atherosclerosis — plaque build up in your arteries that can lead to heart disease. Plus, one to two glasses a day can increase HDL (aka good) cholesterol by about 12 percent, research shows.
The Fine Print: While experts aren’t quite sure what causes it, the infamous red wine headache some sippers experience could easily ruin a night out. Drink plenty of H20 between glasses to keep headaches (and hangovers) at bay.
The Benefits: Wine’s not the only beverage with antioxidants: Whiskey also contains polyphenols and offers up heart-healthy benefits similar to wine, research shows. And while it won’t prevent or cure a cold, a hot whiskey drink can give you some symptom relief, one doc says.
The Fine Print: Like any kind of hard liquor, whiskey packs the same amount of alcohol into a smaller serving than beer or wine. Taking shots can quickly backfire, so opt for a whiskey you enjoy and savor it slowly.
Know Before You Drink
While these benefits all sound great, they’re nothing you can’t attain through exercise and eating right. If you do decide to imbibe, keep it to no more than a couple drinks a night!