How to Choose Wine and Drink It without Gaining Weight
By: Julie Mancuso, B.A., R.H.N., JM Nutrition
Without question, wine has garnered the reputation as the preferred alcoholic drink for those who value health and well-being—at least for those who enjoy a glass or two from time to time. But many consume it only thinking of its benefits, often unaware that not all wines are created equal as far as health is concerned.
I can’t tell you how often I see health-conscious and fit people, who are incredibly strict with what they eat, indulging in wines that are not as healthy as they think them to be, potentially sabotaging their health and fitness goals.
“…not all wines are created equal as far as health is concerned.”
So what wine is more healthy?
Allow me to break it all down.
Drink it in moderation
Think of it this way: an average bottle contains 750 ml of wine—that’s 25 ounces. That is, one bottle equates to five 150 ml or 5-ounce glasses. An easy way to guide yourself is to make the bottle last from Monday to Friday, provided you’re having a 5-ounce glass nightly.
If you’re trying to lose weight, I would abstain from having it nightly. Perhaps enjoy a glass every other day; the fewer glasses you drink, the better.
It’s also important t keep in mind that many restaurants serve wine servings larger than the recommended 5 ounces, often 6- and as high as 9-ounce glasses. This can quickly lead to the overconsumption of wine.
Benefits of drinking wine
If over-drinking or binge-drinking is avoided, and the recommended amount is consumed, then a person can no doubt reap some health benefits from drinking wine:
- Potentially lowered cholesterol.
- Red wine tannins have been shown by some studies to protect against heart disease.
- Ingestion of antioxidants.
- Resveratrol found in wine helps to regulate blood sugar.
- Some studies indicate that wine can protect you from certain cancers.
Negative Effects of Drinking
As with other alcohol, when it’s consumed in larger than the previously recommended doses, wine can be of detriment to the body in a number of ways.
Besides the obvious short-term side effects of drunkenness, impaired judgment and vomiting, and the long-term side effects such as liver damage, ulcers and increased blood pressure, excessive consumption can lead to dehydration, diarrhea, headaches and weight gain.
“After gulping down two glasses of wine, you’ve ingested the caloric equivalent of a sizeable slice of cake.”
Why does drinking alcohol in excess cause weight gain anyway?
One, alcohol is highly caloric. Remember that 150 ml or 5-ounce glass of wine? It packs 150 calories, on average. After gulping down two glasses of wine, you’ve ingested the caloric equivalent of a sizeable slice of cake.
Two, when alcohol is ingested, our bodies prioritize the processing of alcohol over other fats, sugars and carbs. When this happens, those other fats, sugars and carbs are not processed as efficiently, leading to a slowed metabolism over time.
“…choose wines that have a lower sugar content. Think of wines that have less than 10 grams of sugar per litre.”
Let’s take a look at this in more detail, shall we?
To maintain a healthy weight, and especially if trying to lose weight, choose wines that have a lower sugar content. Think of wines that have less than 10 grams of sugar per litre. This information can be found on price labels in liquor stores. Similarly, it can be found online nowadays, so it’s always readily accessible.
The rule to keep in mind is the dryer the wine, the less sugar it contains.
Here are some examples:
Very dry reds: French Malbec, Chianti, Bordeaux, Montepulciano and Tempranillo.
Dry to medium-dry reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Beaujolais, Valpolicella, Syrah and Merlot.
Sweet reds: Port, Sherry, Madeira, Sweet Rose
Very sweet wines: Ice Wine
Take a look at this comprehensive red wine sweetness chart from Wine Folly.
Very dry whites: Chardonnay, White Rioja
Dry whites: Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc
Medium-dry whites: Pinot Grigio
Sweet whites: Sweet Riesling, Moscato
Very sweet whites: Sherry, White Port, Madeira and Ice Wine
For a more detailed infographic click here.
“…a bottle of very sweet wine can pack as many as a whopping 20+ teaspoons of sugar.”
Sugar content of wine varies
To provide even more perspective, a dry wine can have 5 grams of sugar per litre, an off-dry 20 grams, a sweet 70 grams, and a very sweet one well over 100 grams of sugar per litre. The differences here are enormous, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the information on the label if you’re conscious about your health.
In everyday terms, a teaspoon of sugar contains approximately 4 grams of sugar. Therefore, a bottle of very sweet wine can pack as many as a whopping 20+ teaspoons of sugar.
Two glasses of this and you’ve ingested the same amount of sugar found in a can of Coca-Cola. Incredible, isn’t it? And here you were, sipping it nonchalantly, thinking you’re doing your body a favour.
All that ingested sugar over time can definitely contribute to negative side effects and unsuspecting weight gain, particularly as our metabolisms slow down.
What about wine alcohol content and calories?
To complicate matters further we need to take a closer look at the alcohol content of wine.
Although the suggested guideline above will serve you well when selecting wines with a lower sugar content, it isn’t the only aspect to which you should pay attention. It is equally important to analyze the ABV (alcohol by volume) or alcohol content of wine—information that appears on every bottle.
Reason being, alcohol supplies calories. A great many calories.
As a general rule, the higher the alcohol percentage of wine, the more calories it contains. So a dry wine with a higher alcohol content (12-15%) may be more caloric than a sweeter one with a lower alcohol percentage (6-9%). I recommend selecting wine with an ABV of 9-12%.
This is why it’s imperative that as a drinker you should educate yourself on these basics, use the two main rules in tandem and then choose your wines carefully and wisely, especially if you’re looking to reduce the intake of calories or shed some weight.
Julie Mancuso is a registered holistic Toronto nutritionist who has been counseling clients for over 15 years. Julie’s personalized approach has helped thousands reach their health, wellness and nutrition goals.
Julie’s blog has been named one of the Top 100 Nutrition Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow in 2018 by Feedspot. So don’t miss out and subscribe to both her newsletter and blog.