Wine, Beer or Hard Liquor – Which Is Healthier?

alcoholdrinksMany momentous events in our life, whether these are causes for joy and celebration or sources of sorrow and heartache, are shared with a bottle or a glass of our favorite alcoholic beverage.

Be it a light and refreshing glass of champagne or an intense and heady shot of brandy, alcohol in its many forms, is indeed a customary companion in life’s twists and turns.

The Array of Alcoholic Beverages

There are many forms of alcohol, deriving from different parts of the world and evolving at different points in time. All these, however, can only be classified into two categories – those that are undistilled and those that are distilled.

Undistilled alcoholic beverages are also commonly referred to as the fermented kind, albeit confoundingly so, since both types actually undergo the basic process of fermentation.

Beer, with its many subtypes such as ale, lager and fruit beer, is considered one of the oldest varieties of fermented alcoholic drinks and usually holds a mere 4% – 6% alcohol.

Another kind of fermented alcohol is wine, with its more popular variants such as red, white, or sparkling wine and the less known specialties such as ice wine and raisin wine as examples, containing roughly around 8% – 14% alcohol.

Distilled alcoholic beverages, also known as hard liquor or spirits are produced from fermented mixtures that have subsequently undergone distillation. The process of distillation simply serves to purify the mixture and eliminate diluting components, such as water, with the purpose of boosting the proportion of the mixture’s alcohol content.

The end product is a beverage that comprises more alcohol and is regarded as essentially “harder” or stronger than undistilled beverages. Brandy, gin, vodka, tequila, whisky and rum are a few examples of hard liquor or spirits, with vodka having around 40% alcohol content and some types of brandy having as much as 60%.

Wine – Winsome or Lose Some?

Wine, whether red or white, has many winsome attributes. Considered as an effective blood thinner, alcohol in wine plays a significant role in maintaining vascular health. Particularly when taken with meals, red wine provides many other crucial cardiovascular benefits such as the more efficient prevention of blood clots and relaxation of blood vessel walls.

Cross-cultural studies, in fact, show that coronary heart ailments are less prevalent in countries where wine is the more common beverage, such as France and the Mediterranean regions, than in countries where beer or hard liquor are preferred.

Alcohol in red wine is also held responsible for inhibiting LDL / bad cholesterol oxidation, which if left unchecked, would later contribute to the development of cholesterol-filled plaque. Red wine also boasts of possessing several antioxidants, the most potent of which are polyphenol and resveratrol, known for their ability to ward off cancer and to slow down signs of aging.

White wine, on the other hand, when compared with red wine, contains less chemical by products, called congeners, that contribute to the experience of nausea, headaches and hangovers. In addition, clear wine offers drinkers a nourishing dose of antioxidants and their accompanying health benefits which include protection from free radicals, premature aging, and illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, studies contend that white wine also plays a particularly important role in the prevention of cancer of the breasts and lungs by protecting cells efficiently.

Considering the many health gains that drinking wine promises us, we may assume that the more wine we drink, the greater the benefits that our body shall reap. Unfortunately, this is most certainly an erroneous assumption and we couldn’t be any farther off the mark. Even small amounts of wine have been known to prompt adverse reactions in people with existing health concerns and those who are taking prescription drugs.

People with sensitive teeth should avoid wine altogether, since wine contains a considerable amount of acid that wears away teeth enamel and contributes to tooth decay. All the more so when wine is consumed in excess amounts, that is, more than 1 glass a day, as this can aggravate conditions such as migraine, asthma, ulcer, heart disease, sleep disorders and memory diseases.  Problems such as depression, attention deficit, schizophrenia and other psychological illnesses also tend to worsen when wine is added to the picture.

Beer – Boon or Bane?

Beer is also not without its own pros and cons. On the upside, drinking beer diminishes the threat of heart attacks and of developing kidney stones by as much as 40%. As it turns out, beer contains fiber which improves digestion and, at the same time, lowers LDL cholesterol levels. Moreover, the silicon content of beer contributes to higher bone density while its abundant supply of B vitamins helps beer drinkers to combat anaemia. Smoother skin, improved sleep, as well as relief from stress are just of few other benefits to be derived from drinking beer.

On the downside, beer has a reputation for triggering what appears to be an allergic reaction in many of its drinkers. In truth, this reaction may simply be a sensitivity to ingredients commonly found in beer, such as yeast, additives and malted barley, causing the person to experience nasal congestion, repeated sneezing and flushing of the skin.

For those who are aiming to lose weight, beer is a definite no-no, with as much as 200 calories per serving, as well as a potential for wreaking havoc on the body’s blood sugar levels and on the body’s ability to burn stored fat. Because beer is so easy on the palate and the pocket, it is also just as easily abused. An hour and 6 – 8 beers can quickly pass by, with impaired judgment, unrestrained impulses and otherwise preventable mishaps as probable end results.

Hard Liquor: The Hard Facts

Distilled spirits, though lacking in flavor, more than make up for it by being packed with hosts of antioxidants.  These wood aged spirits, specifically whiskey, bourbon, cognac and brandy, are believed to enjoy the rewards of high furan and phenol concentrations which promote cardiovascular health.

All types of hard liquor also lay claim to having the effect of improving blood flow and raising the level of good HDL cholesterol, consequently safeguarding the heart. Sipping vodka in moderation, in fact, has been discovered to pave the way for the formulation of collateral vessels, thus opening up more pathways  for oxygen and diminishing the threat of atherosclerosis.

Hard liquor, however, is easily and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream but is not metabolized by the liver fast enough. With excessive consumption, the result is a body that is saturated with alcohol and its associated negative effects such as dizziness, vomiting, poor motor coordination, and dehydration. A few other unpleasant outcomes that can be expected include impaired judgment and perception in addition to diminished organ function.

The worst hangovers are also linked to many types of hard liquor, with brandy, bourbon, dark rum and whiskey leading the pack. Topping this list of detriments, however, is the possibility of addiction and the multitude of problems that come with alcohol dependence.

The Perils of Alcohol

There is no doubt then that alcohol consumption, especially if it is engaged in frequently and excessively, takes a toll on the body in many undesirable ways. Immediate, short-term effects can include slurred speech, headaches, blurred vision and vomiting.

Other ill effects include lack of motor coordination, dulled reflexes, compromised cognitive functioning, loss of inhibitions and blackouts that may further result in accident, injury or death. When it comes to long-term effects, the outlook turns even bleaker, with heart disease, liver inflammation and cirrhosis, reproductive problems, memory deficits, alcohol dependency, relationship problems at home and at work, in addition to legal and financial troubles, as highly probable outcomes.

The Good That Lies Beneath

Considering all its aforementioned ill effects, it would seem most logical to just avoid alcohol altogether. However, there is a lot more to be gained from drinking alcohol than just finding humor in the simplest of things and displaying that boost of courage, even if it is only momentary.

A 12-year study revealed that men who regularly drank beer, wine, or spirits in moderation reduced their chances of suffering from a heart attack by 30%-35% when compared with men who did not drink such beverages at all. The research study even proffered that subjects who drank every day had a greater likelihood of avoiding heart disease than those who drank merely once or twice weekly.

In related studies, the incidence of Type 2 diabetes and ischemic strokes was discovered to be similarly reduced by moderate alcohol intake. Female subjects who were in their post menopause phase associated their higher bone density to moderate drinking while improvements in memory and general cognitive functions were observed in subjects aged 65 and over.

Picking Your Poison

There is always a right way to do things and, evidently, drinking alcohol is no exception. The type and amount of alcohol consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption, affect one’s estimation of the entire experience as one that is to be remembered with either fondness or with absolute regret. After comparing the benefits of drinking beer, wine or hard liquor and appraising these against the ills of each, the resounding conclusion is that red wine emerges as the healthiest and as the least harmful among the three.

Alcohol consumption in moderate amounts can actually alleviate stress and produce positive effects on mood and disposition. Having one beer after work or capping the night off with one glass of red wine is, in fact, highly recommended. It is good to remember, though, that drinking alcohol is always best done after having a meal.

If days of heavy drinking cannot be avoided, the least that can be done is to make sure that these are spread far apart, with periods of clean and healthy living in between. During these unavoidable days, sticking to one type of drink at a time is considered being smart. Switching from beers to hard liquor or mixing wine with vodka usually does not bode well and merely guarantees a tale of misery for the brain and body the following day. The only wise drink to mix alcohol with is water. Drinking lots of water in between glasses of your preferred alcoholic beverage helps prevent dehydration. Refraining from consuming any more drinks, except water, an hour before going to bed is also excellent advice.

When choosing your favorite drink, it is also good judgment to consider your family’s health history and your existing conditions or illnesses. As mentioned, certain types of alcohol can trigger allergies, migraines, and contribute to more serious health problems.

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About the Author:

Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.

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2 responses to “Wine, Beer or Hard Liquor – Which Is Healthier?”

  1. Carlos Murguia Avatar
    Carlos Murguia

    Dear Angela there are more current craft beers out there now with ABV from 8%-21…. and lately it has tons of followers.


  2. Karen Herrick PhD Avatar

    Hi Just wanted you to see a chart I have in Chapter 1 of my book You’re Not Finished Yet (2006/2011) in which the first chapter is about alcoholism as an addiction:

    Beer (12 oz) 4-6% alcohol .48 – .72 oz of alcohol in glass
    Wine (4 oz) 12-14% alcohol .48-.56 oz of alcohol in glass
    Distilled (1-1 l2) 40-50% ” .50-.62 oz of alcohol in glass

    so if drinks are poured correctly a 6% l2 oz can of beer would actually have more alcohol than the others. I think this is important for those who abuse alcohol to know that beer is not the lighter in alcohol content.

    Blessings to you in your work. I enjoyed reading you column.

    Karen E Herrick PHD Center for Children of Alcoholics Inc. in Red Bank NJ.

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