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Sensible Eating: Wine and Beer

Alcohol is often looked at as a no-no for dieters, but with about 120-140 calories in 5 ounces of most beers and wines, there's definitely room in your diet for the occasional drink. (Of course, be careful if you're taking medications, have liver or heart disease, are pregnant, or are trying to conceive.)

In the summertime, people love to relax by drinking beer at the BBQ party or while watching sports on TV. Keep in mind, though, that one bottle or can of beer is equivalent to one can of regular soda or one cup of pasta--about 140 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates. So, if you are trying to get rid of your big belly, you should consider switching to light beer.

Light beer usually has 1/3 less calories than regular beer. Beer companies now promote light beer with the lowest calories at 64 calories per 12oz bottle; that’s 40% less calories than average regular beer. If you drink one beer per day and you pick a regular beer over a light beer, and you never do exercise to get rid of those extra beer calories, you will accumulate 15 lbs fat versus 7.3 lbs of fat from drinking the light beer in a year. In other words, no matter what you choose, try to watch for portion size (avoid those big mugs and jars!), and remember to do some extra workouts to get rid of those calories which can turn into fat in your belly. If you are a 180 lbs male, that means you should try to walk an extra 17 minutes daily for every 12 oz regular beer you consume.

If you are concerned about weight, try to avoid cocktails. Mixers like juice, soda, and syrup add extra calories, bringing the total calorie count sky high. You can use diet soda to mix with your drinks to save some calories; however, without those extra sugars, the alcohol can be absorbed into your bloodstream more easily. The chart below provides information to help you pick alcoholic beverage smartly.

Many researches who studied the benefits of red wine suggest that a moderate amount of red wine lowers the risk of heart attack in middle-aged people. Red wine is a particularly rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids (from grape seeds), which helps to increase HDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease. So how much wine should you drink to get the health benefits? The American Dietary Guidelines suggest only one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. (It’s also suggested that two days a week should be alcohol free.) One drink equals 12 fl oz Regular Beer (5% alc.), 14 fl. Oz Light Beer (4.2% alc.), 5 fl oz of wine (12% alc.), or 1 1/2 fl oz of Spirits (80 Proof). All of the above contains about 14 grams of alcohol. Note that each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.

Of course, if you never drink, it is not advisable to start, because there are many other ways to increase HDL cholesterol and to protect your heart. Excessive alcohol intake is known to contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, stroke, heart and liver disease, some cancers, and even impotence. Alcohol tends to stimulate appetite and inhibit self-control, which will make you harder to say no to treats during your weight loss plan.

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