Wine & Weight Loss: How To Choose Wine & Drink It Without Gaining Weight
By: Julie Mancuso, founder of JM Nutrition, nutritional counselling service by registered nutritionists and dietitians
In this post:
important considerations when selecting wine for weight loss
benefits of wine
negative effects of drinking wine
wine and weight loss, wine and weight gain
sugar content in wine
low sugar red wine, high sugar red wine
low sugar white wine, high sugar white wine
wine alcohol content
calories in wine
Wine and Weight Loss: Selecting Healthier Wine
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 nutrition and health are concerned.
I can’t tell you how often I see health-conscious and fit men and women, 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, fitness and weight loss goals without even knowing it.
What is the healthiest wine for weight loss?
Allow me to break it all down.
Important Considerations When Drinking Wine For Weight Loss
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 to 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 of wine 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 harmful 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–to name just a few.
Wine and Weight loss: 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.
How to select healthiest wine for weight loss
Let’s take a look at this in more detail, shall we?
Look at sugar content
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, so it’s always readily accessible.
Important: The rule to keep in mind is the dryer the wine, the less sugar it contains.
Sugar Content of Wine Varies
Not all wine is created equal
When placed side by side, two wine bottles can look near identical, yet may have completely different sugar content.
A bottle of Chardonnay, for example, may only contain a couple of grams of sugar, while a similar-looking bottle of Moscato dessert wine can pack well over 100 grams of sugar.
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 nutrition.
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.
Let’s take a look at some specific examples of low-sugar and high-sugar wines, both red and white.
Low Sugar Red Wine
Here are some good to excellent wine selections that typically have lower sugar content:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cotes du Rhone
- Pinot Noir
- Rose (dry only; many rose wines are high in sugar)
- Syrah (Shiraz)
- Zinfandel (dry only; many zinfandel wines are high in sugar)
High Sugar Red Wine
Here are some high-sugar red wine selections:
- Ice Wine
- Sweet Rose
Take a look at this comprehensive red wine sweetness chart from Wine Folly.
Low Sugar White Wine
Here are some low-sugar white wine selections:
- Chenin Blanc
- Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio
- Riesling (dry only)
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Sparkling wines (Champagne, Prosecco)
- Vinho Verde (dry only)
High Sugar White Wine
Here are some high-sugar white wine selections:
- Gewurztraminer (sweet)
- Ice Wine
- Riesling (sweet)
- White Port
Take a look at a more detailed infographic on wine and sugar content.
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%.
If the alcohol content exceeds 12%, as it often can, then try to compensate by selecting wine with the lowest sugar content: perhaps 3 or 4 gram per litre.
It’s also important to underscore the fact that while the alcohol content is indicative of the calorie count of the given wine, it does not include the extra calories from sugar.
This is why it’s imperative that as a wine drinker looking for the healthiest wine 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 on a weight loss program.
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