In the battle of wine vs. beer, making a healthier choice comes down to quantity rather than what you drink.
Here’s the quick and dirty: Both wine and beer pack some benefits for moderate drinkers, but the more you drink, the more those benefits diminish. Whether you reach for a lager or a pinot noir matters less than how much alcohol you consume, and saying no to alcohol is even better.
If you prefer one over the other, let’s dig into the details to see why you don’t need to believe the hype for wine or beer.
Calories: Wine vs. Beer
The calories in your drink vary depending on the type of wine or beer. Let’s start with wine.
Generally, the higher the alcohol by volume (ABV) in wine, the higher the calorie count. Those differences are subtle, though. There are usually about 120-125 calories in a standard 5-ounce glass of red wine. There are about 120 calories in the same amount of white wine.
If you love bubbles, a standard serving of prosecco only has about 98 calories per glass. If you’re exploring options for sober folks, 8 ounces of Surely’s non-alcoholic sparkling rosé has just 20 calories.
When it comes to beer, calorie counts vary quite a bit. Low-carb beers start at around 95 calories per bottle. A light lager might only net you 145 calories in a 12-ounce serving.
Beer drinkers who love craft beer and heavier types like IPAs likely consume 200 calories or more in every pint of beer. It’s not really the beer that’s fattening or causing your beer belly. It’s those calories.
When we talk about calories in alcohol, it’s important to note that you’re not really getting much nutritional value out of your alcohol consumption. These are empty calories. You’ll always be better off getting your calories from healthy foods no matter what you read about beer vs. wine.
While moderate drinkers likely won’t see much weight gain over time, heavy drinking has been linked to higher rates of obesity. It can also be a lot harder to stick to your usual healthy diet and exercise habits after you’ve been drinking, no matter the types of alcohol you consume.
Is Wine Actually Healthier?
Much of the fanfare over the health benefits of a glass of wine come down to the antioxidant levels in red wine. Let’s back up a bit to look at how wine (and beer) is made.
What is the difference between wine and beer? The difference between wine and beer starts with the ingredients. Wine is made from crushed grapes. Most beers are made from grains like malted barley. Both undergo fermentation processes responsible for the resulting alcohol content.
The grape skins in red wine include an antioxidant-like compound called resveratrol that gets most of the attention from proponents of wine as the healthiest alcohol. Resveratrol has been linked to everything from reduced heart disease risk to improved longevity.
There is a grain of truth in that, but it’s also been overblown.
If wine is your alcoholic drink of choice, you likely know all about the French paradox. It describes the relatively low number of heart disease deaths in France despite a diet high in saturated fats. (They eat a lot of cheese and butter over there is part of the argument.)
Researchers began looking at whether wine was the key to their longevity. The hypothesis was that polyphenols in red wine, in particular, canceled out those other indulgences and supported overall wellness.
The result was predictable.
People started drinking more red wine without making any other changes to their diet or exercise. As years went by, researchers began looking at other factors that were way more important to cardiovascular health.
They found that cultures that drink red wine more also walk more, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and consume fewer trans fats. They also snack less, which isn’t super fun to hear.
Studies have also become quite a bit softer on resveratrol itself. The amount in that wine glass won’t turn your red wine into a superfood, no matter how much you want that to happen. You’re better off eating a handful of grapes for an antioxidant boost instead.
That doesn't mean you have to give up wine.
Is it better to drink beer or wine? It’s not better to drink beer over wine if you’re already limiting your alcohol consumption. Both come with some modest benefits, but drinking less or not at all will always be healthier.
Wine, and red wine in particular, comes with a few benefits for moderate wine drinkers:
- The calories in wine are pretty consistent.
- Unless you’re reaching for sweet dessert wines, most high-quality wines are low-sugar. (A dry bottle of wine only has about 5 g of sugar.)
- Wine is lower-carb than beer, so it’s a decent option for keto and similar diets.
- More studies show red wine is linked to better heart health outcomes over beer. It may be the extra polyphenols, flavonoids, or tannins in red wine over other alcoholic beverages.
- Red wine with meals may lower type 2 diabetes risk.
- Wine may be better for your stomach, but no amount of alcohol is good for you if you already have gut issues.
Beer benefits vary considerably depending on the type of beer you drink. Light beers are lighter in calories, but lighter in nutritional benefits, too. Here are a few benefits of beer over wine:
- Most beers have vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin B6, and folate that don’t show up in wine in any meaningful way.
- Regular beer has about 1.5 g of protein per serving.
- Most beer has some fiber, but you’ll get more out of darker beers like stouts and porters.
- One study showed moderate beer consumption may be good for HDL cholesterol and the health of your blood vessels.
- Components like silicon in beer may contribute to bone health, especially as we age. (The same study pointed to high-bran cereals and raisins as a great dietary source!)
- Beer is generally cheaper than wine, especially if you’re after a higher-quality wine.
Risks of Drinking Too Much Wine or Beer
Bottom line: How much alcohol you drink matters more thanthe kind of alcohol you drink. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate drinking as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
These are standard drinks, by the way. That’s about 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of regular beer. The stronger the drink, the smaller the serving size should be to avoid that nasty hangover the next morning.
What is the alcohol content of wine vs. beer? The alcohol content of wine is usually higher than that of beer. Most wines have an ABV of about 12%. Regular beer starts around 5% ABV, although heavier craft beers or barrel-aged styles can approach wine’s ABV.
If you don’t already drink, the limited health benefits associated with wine and beer aren’t reason enough to start.
Drinking too much of any type of alcohol can affect your sleep, raise your risk of a variety of cancers, and put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and dependency. Excessive drinking may damage your mental health, raise your blood pressure, and even mess with your skin.
It’s a lot. We know. The good news is you can cut back on alcohol and see the reverse of all of those scary side effects. It’s also easier than ever to replace alcohol altogether with healthier habits and alcohol alternatives like sober bars or dealcoholized beers and wines.
Have Your Wine Without The Risks
We’re all about balance when it comes to your daily choices about your overall wellness. We’re also all about delicious alternatives to drinking alcohol if you’re sober curious — or just regular curious — about non-alcoholic wine.
- Heavy Drinking in Young Adulthood Increases Risk of Transitioning to Obesity
- The Effects of Resveratrol in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Failure: A Narrative Review
- Adherence to the French Eating Model is inversely associated with overweight and obesity: results from a large sample of French adults
- Red Wine Consumption and Cardiovascular Health
- Effects of Moderate Consumption of Red Wine on Hepcidin Levels in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
- Red Wine Consumption Associated with Increased Gut Microbiota α-Diversity in 3 Independent Cohorts
- Characterization of the nutrient composition of German beer styles for the German nutrient database
- To beer or not to beer: A meta-analysis of the effects of beer consumption on cardiovascular health
- Silicon: A Review of Its Potential Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis