Low-carb diets have been on a meteoric rise over the past few years. Recent studies have shown that limiting carb intake can lead to significant weight loss, popularising diets like the Atkins and Keto that demand minimal consumption of this nutrient. But if you’re someone who drinks frequently, you might want to be wary of the amount of carbohydrates in some alcohols.
We consume carbs through a multitude of sources throughout the day, but additionally sipping on beers or ales can easily lead to overconsumption. Thankfully, wine is almost completely devoid of these nutrients, presenting one of the healthiest options to drink on a night out. In this article, we’ll further explore the relationship between carbs, weight loss, and alcohol, especially wine. We’ll discuss what exactly carbohydrates are, how much of it is in various alcohols, and which wines are best for low-carb diets.
What Exactly are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (along with fats and proteins) that provide us the daily energy we need to carry out our routine tasks. They are also known to improve heart health and improve brain function. Consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, this nutrient can be found in fruits, bread, rice, milk, soft drinks, and many other foods we consume on a daily basis.
Given that carbs have an essential role to play in our normal functioning, why then have diets that seek to eliminate this compound become so popular in recent times? That’s because when it comes to health, there are good carbs and bad carbs like cholesterol. Good carbs promote well-being, while bad carbs are often empty calories with no nutritional content that lead to obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses. Unfortunately, most of the carbs in alcohol are of the latter type.
The main way carbs find their way into alcohol is through the unfermented sugars of the grain or grapes. During the process of fermentation, natural sugars such as glucose and fructose found inside get converted into alcohol. However, depending on the type of alcohol, part of the sugars can be left unfermented to provide a sweeter taste and adjust the body of the drink.
How Many Carbs are in Various Alcohols?
There is a close link between the number of carbs and calories that are ideal for your diet. One carb is equivalent to 4 calories, and the daily recommended carb intake is between 50-60% of the total calories you consume. Assuming an average diet of 2000 calories, the number of carbs one can ingest is around 250-350 grams. However, the limit for diabetics is much lower and averages only around 60 carbs a day.
A standard 12 ounce serving of a regular beer alone contains around 12 grams of carbs. Cocktails and mixed beverages can contain twice, even thrice as many carbs. That is anywhere between one-tenth to half of your entire intake in a single serving. This goes to show just how quickly a few glasses of alcohol can ruin your diet, and potentially pose some threats to your health.
But wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts will be delighted to know that wine only contains about 0-4 grams of carbs. Dry wines contain between 0-2 grams, while sweet white wines or lighter reds pack in a little more of the compound. This is because more of the sugars have fermented in dry wines, giving them their fuller body and texture.
If you’re looking for the healthiest option among wines, it’s undoubtedly Champagne. This drink packs in only about 1.5 grams per 5 ounces, making it the most suitable for low-carb diets. Among red wines, some choices that are nearly as healthy are the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chianti. White wine lovers, on the other hand, can pick between the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay.
Besides knowing the nutritional details of specific wines, it is another way you can keep your carb intake in check. If you find yourself staring at some unfamiliar names on the menu, look out for specific terms on the bottle that indicate that they are high in carbs. These include words like ‘off-dry’, ‘semi-sweet’, ‘dessert’, ‘ice wine’, and others.
The Link Between Drinking Excessive Alcohol, Carb Intake, and Weight Gain
From the previous section, one can easily conclude that excessively drinking certain alcohols can quickly take you over your daily recommended carb intake. But regardless of how many carbohydrates is in your preferred intoxicant, alcohol consumption, especially when consumed in heavy quantities, can lead to weight gain. Moderate drinking, which is one glass a day for women and two glasses for men, is known to bestow several health benefits that include weight gain. However, if you’re not careful, you could end up gaining weight even while restricting consumption.
When we drink too much, our livers process the alcohol before anything else. This prevents it from processing and burning fat and proteins, which can end up stored in tissues and manifesting as bulging fat on your body. We also tend to eat more after drinking, indirectly increasing our carb intake through those sources. This occurs even when our intake isn’t excessive, and can lead to us ingesting as many as 400 extra calories as a result.
Thus, if you’re on a low-carb diet, or need to restrict your intake for medical reasons, it is best to exercise caution while drinking.