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Can I drink alcohol on my diet?

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"Can I drink alcohol on my diet?"

Alcohol (ethyl alcohol), without other added ingredients, provides a substantial number of calories and is second only to the numbers of calories provided by fat. One shot, or one ounce, of pure alcohol contains approximately 70 to 100 calories, or 7 calories per gram, whereas fat provides 9 calories per gram. (Protein and carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.) Alcohol is a drug, but it's also classified as a food because of it's calories that provide energy, even though they are empty calories that contain no nutrients.

Alcohol is metabolized in the body by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) found in the liver and brain, so a small amount of alcohol is tolerated well. Since the end product of alcohol metabolism is acetaldehyde and not sugar as many people mistakenly believe, too much acetaldehyde entering the blood stream can cause that "not-so-good" feeling.

Alcohol is not a foreign substance to the body. You may be surprised to discover that your own intestinal bacteria produce a small amount of alcohol, and table sugar, along with other carbohydrates we eat, contain alcohol-type molecules (OH). During the fermentation process, sugar is mixed with yeast, and the result is ethyl alcohol (ETOH), the kind we drink. Beer is made by fermenting barley and hops, wine is made from grapes, and hard liquor is produced from the fermentation of grains and potatoes.

Once ingested, alcohol requires no digestion - it's immediately absorbed from the stomach into the blood which accounts for its rapid effects. It's then dispersed throughout the body and absorbed by all body tissues. If you've been drinking a little too much but think your health status is uncompromised because you eat a healthy diet, you should know that alcohol affects every body process, including the metabolism of vitamins, minerals, and protein, so that even a well-fed person who drinks too much too often can suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

What's the best drink if you're trying to lose weight? Since water and diet soda have no calories, these would be the better choice to use as mixes if you’re looking for a low calorie drink. Other ingredients, milk, cream, and juice, are more nutritious, but add calories. A sugared soda provides no nutritional benefits, so if you have a choice between soda and juice, choose the juice. Choose light beer over dark beer, milk instead of cream, and avoid fancy drinks with multiple ingredients. (See chart below.)

There's no physiological harm in drinking alcohol in small amounts. In fact, there are some reported beneficial effects. Daily consumption of a six ounce glass of red wine, which contains antioxidants, may help prevent heart disease. It's controversial whether beer or hard liquor may help as well.

Because alcohol is metabolized to acetaldehyde and not sugar, too much alcohol can cause a decrease in blood sugars. A sugared drink in the short-term will raise blood sugars, but in the long-term will lower blood sugars, so be sure to eat when drinking beverages containing alcohol, especially if you have hypoglycemia or diabetes. If you're taking insulin or oral medications, be aware that alcohol plus diabetic medications can lower blood sugars to a dangerous level and cause insulin shock. Some oral hypoglycemics react negatively with alcohol, so the two should not be consumed together.

Some alcohol is allowed on the CarboH diet, but calories from alcohol are never substituted for nutritious food. It's Ok to enjoy a few beverages containing alcohol while you're dieting, but how do you know when you're guzzling too many tasty drinks? The answer is simple - If you're drinking enough to add extra pounds, then you're drinking too much!


Rum, 1 oz.


Beer, dark 12 oz.


Bloody Mary




Pina Colada


Rum & Coke




Whiskey Sour


White Russian


-Many people don't realize that a lot of that unwanted fat they're carrying around comes from consuming too many high calorie beverages containing alcohol!

-Alcohol affects the central nervous system by dilating blood vessels. This causes heat loss from the body and a feeling of warmth throughout.

-Because fat tissue contains little water, a person with more body fat will not be able to tolerate as much alcohol compared to a person of normal weight.

-Pure ethyl alcohol has no odor or taste. During the fermentation process, congeners (esters, ketones, and other substances from fruit and grains) are collected which add aroma and flavor.

Where do you get your nutrition information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed" by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist (LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered Dietitian.




CarboH, Inc.
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.

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