March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine and spirits, have been enjoyed by people throughout recorded history, and today is no different. For some, a single drink may add enjoyment to a meal, but the key to potential health benefits has always been moderation.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise limiting alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only for adults of legal drinking age. Generally, anything more than moderate drinking can be harmful to your health, including an increased risk for high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis and several forms of cancer. And, some people, or people in certain situations, shouldn't drink at all.
The actual serving size for an alcoholic beverage depends on the type of drink:
- 12 ounces of a beer or wine cooler
- 5 ounces of table wine
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits
Moderate drinking, along with a healthful eating pattern and regular physical activity, may offer health benefits too, such as lower risk for heart disease, mostly for middle-age and older adults. But remember that calories from alcoholic beverages can add up, causing weight gain and the so-called "beer belly." For example, one beer is generally about 150 calories, which may not seem like much, but over time those calories can add up fast.
If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, always do so responsibly. If you're thirsty, start with a nonalcoholic drink, then drink an alcoholic beverage slowly. Eating helps slow the absorption of alcohol, so don't drink on an empty stomach.
To learn more about drinking responsibly and eating right, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.