Are you a beer devotee or an oenophile? Whatever beverage is your favourite, this blog post will give you the low down on wine and beer from a health perspective.
We'll explore the calorie counts of each drink, examine where those calories come from (and whether they matter), and touch on the potential health benefits associated with consuming either one. It's time to settle once-and-for-all which libation reigns supreme - let’s delve in!
Where do beer and wine calories come from?
The calories in both beer and wine come from just two sources: carbs and alcohol. Every gram of carbs contains 4 calories while every gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.
Alcohol in wine comes from the fermented sugar in grape juice, and the alcohol in beer comes from fermentable carbohydrates in barley, and to a lesser extent, other grains like wheat and rye. Wine tends to be higher in alcohol than beer, ranging from 10%-15% alcohol by volume (or ABV) while beer is usually between 3.5%-6%.
Beer is usually served in higher volumes, however. While a glass of wine is around 150ml, beer is usually served in schooners or pints which are 425ml and 570ml respectively.
Taking serving sizes into account, the calorie difference from alcohol content isn't that different between the two, with a 150ml glass of wine having 80-140 calories from alcohol and a 425ml schooner of beer having 80-140 alcohol calories despite its lower alcohol content.
Wines can vary massively in their carb content, primarily in the form of residual sugar. Though for the purposes of this comparison, we're going to just look at dry wine (where the fermentation process ran to completion), and not dessert wine.
Both dry red wine and white wine are pretty low in sugar content, generally between 0.5-2 grams per 150ml glass, which provide 2-8 calories from carbs. Read our detailed breakdown of calories in wine here.
Beer on the other hand is made from grains and is significantly higher in carbs because the yeast is unable to ferment all the carbs in the beer. Therefore, a 425ml schooner of beer contains 6-18 grams of carbs, or 24-72 calories from carbs.
This depends on the style of beer, with lighter beers like lagers and pilsners being on the low end and heavier ales and dark beers on the high end. Most light beers also tend to be on the lower end of this spectrum.
A note on calories from alcohol in alcoholic beverages
It should be noted that counting calories from alcohol as part of your calorie intake doesn't make much sense, for two main reasons:
- Alcohol doesn't get processed as fuel by our bodies as readily as carbs do. It gets treated more like a toxin and goes down a number of detoxification pathways, all of which use energy to do. This makes burning alcohol for energy a costly process, so of the 7 calories in each gram of alcohol, we only actually take on a small fraction (around 3-5%) of that as calories.
- Alcohol cannot get readily stored as fat the way carbs, fats, and even proteins do. Some small fraction can, but this rarely happens and isn't something moderate drinkers should be concerned about.
This doesn't mean that alcohol isn't associated with weight gain. If you drink on an empty stomach, alcohol will pause the body's fat-burning process, and if you eat more food in excess of your energy needs as a result of drinking, naturally you can gain weight.
What really causes a beer belly?
An interesting fact is that this has little to do with drinking beer and everything to do with ingesting more calories. As we saw, beer is pretty high in carbs and therefore has a significant calorie content.
Also due to its low ABV, beer drinkers can drink more beers than other alcoholic drinks, so the extra carb calories make them put on weight. It's that simple.
What's the lowest-carb alcoholic beverage?
If you want drinks with zero carbs, a vodka soda will do the trick, but the difference between that and a glass of Feravina sugar-free wine is less than 0.5g of carbs - the same amount of calories that are in a Tic Tac!
What about non-alcoholic wine vs beer?
It might surprise you to know that these are the poorest choice in terms of calorie count, with a lot more calories than their alcoholic drink versions. A 425ml schooner of alcohol-free beer has a whopping 30 grams of carbs, and a 150ml glass of alcohol-free wine has 12 grams of carbs. As you can see, the regular alcoholic versions of both have far fewer calories from carbs.
Are there other health benefits of wine? Wine vs beer health benefits
One of the other distinct differences and benefits of wine is that red wine in particular contains resveratrol, which can help prevent heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Read all about red wine health benefits here.
Beer also contains resveratrol, however in such minuscule amounts that it doesn't provide any health benefits. There is some nutritional value in both beer and wine such as B vitamins, although alcoholic beverages certainly shouldn't be relied on to provide nutrition!
What if I still want to drink beer?
The occasional beer isn't terrible, and one can make healthier choices here too. Luckily most beers are lagers, meaning they have lower carbs than their darker counterparts.
Light beer is also readily available as are explicitly low-carb beers, which are good lower-calorie options, though the calories in wine will still generally be lower than even these low-carb options.
How about wines marketed as low-calorie wines?
Any dry wine would be low in carbs, which means it would be low in calories. Therefore, technically all our wine are low calorie, because they're technically sugar free.
There are some businesses that source dry wines, often with lower alcohol content, and put their own labels on them to market to this growing niche. These wines can be hit-and-miss in terms of quality. At Feravina, we work with independent winemakers who produce quality wines, so taste is guaranteed (or your money back). Browse our collection here.
What's the final word on the beer vs wine debate?
Taking control of our overall health doesn't need to mean never enjoying alcoholic beverages like beer or wine! The first step to take is drinking in moderation, but if we do drink, the drinks we choose matter.
When it comes to the wine vs beer debate, the calories in wine, especially the calories from carbs that matter most, are lower than in beer. Where it counts, wine has fewer calories.
Now one can go further and choose lower ABV wine, and we do that at Feravina by capping the ABV of the wine we sell at 13.5%, though as far as calories go, this is of lesser consequence because of how alcohol is processed by our bodies.
Ultimately what matters most when drinking is being mindful of what you're consuming, making informed choices so there'll be more time spent enjoying life rather than counting calories, and drinking something you enjoy!