Alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer and spirits, have been enjoyed by people throughout history and they remain a popular choice. A single drink may add enjoyment to a meal but the key to gaining any potential health benefits comes from moderation.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not encourage alcohol consumption. They advise those who choose to drink (and it is not contraindicated, such as during pregnancy) to limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men — and only for adults of legal drinking age.
Although some studies have found that a modest wine intake might decrease risk of heart disease, anything more than moderate drinking may actually be harmful to health. Risks include increased blood pressure, elevated triglycerides (a type of fat), liver damage and several types of cancer. Plus, alcoholic beverages are a source of calories, which may cause weight gain and increase the risk of other health conditions.
Some people should avoid consuming alcohol altogether, such as women who are pregnant.
The serving size for an alcoholic beverage depends on the type of drink:
- 12 ounces of a beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of hard liquor or distilled spirits
If you are of legal age and choose to drink alcoholic beverages, always do so responsibly. If you're thirsty, start with a nonalcoholic drink first. Drink alcoholic beverages slowly. Eating helps slow the absorption of alcohol, so don't drink on an empty stomach.
If you don't drink, starting is not recommended.
To learn more about drinking responsibly and eating well, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.