Remember last New Year’s Eve when you had that problem?
You were trying to squeeze into your favourite skinny jeans but you couldn’t do up the zip. You held your breath and tugged but it just wouldn’t budge.
Was it the many delicious roast potatoes you tucked into with your Christmas lunch? Or was it those two helpings of trifle you allowed yourself?
All these things may have played their part – but it’s more likely that what sank you was in fact all those drinks you washed them down with.
Most of us wouldn’t dream of eating 13 slices of white bread in one sitting, yet we sometimes easily consume the equivalent of this when we’re with friends and the booze starts flowing.
This is because alcoholic drinks are loaded with carbs and sugar, and the tonic water, orange juice or cola we add to our favourite drinks turn them into even bigger kilojoule bombs.
But that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. Consumed in moderation, alcohol isn’t necessarily bad for you – in fact, it can have certain health benefits. It’s all down to how you drink it, and what you combine it with.
Vodka, tequila and whisky are far less fattening choices than cocktails, beer and wine, health blogger and nutrition coach Cara-Lisa Sham says.
Instead of buying sugary mixers to add to your alcoholic drinks, make your own using fruit-infused water or soda water, she suggests.
“You can even use homemade iced herbal tea as a mixer.”
From spirits to bubbly and beer, here’s everything you need to know about your favourite tipple – and how to drink it so you’ll still be able to fit into your jeans in January.
Read more | 7 times you should never drink alcohol
(125ml of sparkling wine = 745 kilojoules)
Research shows the pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes used in some sparkling wines can improve memory and spatial awareness, and even help to slow the onset of degenerative brain disorders like dementia.
Like wine, the red grapes used in pink bubbly are good for the heart. They not only lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, they also detoxify the skin and have antibacterial properties, making it less likely you’ll suffer breakouts.
Take it easy because if you overdo the bubbly you’ll be left with the mother of all hangovers. Because of its high sugar content, it tends to dehydrate the body rapidly, which may cause headaches or migraines. So when you indulge, have a glass of water before allowing yourself a top-up.
(125ml dry = 355-505kJ and 125ml semisweet = 780kJ)
Red wine raises good cholesterol, boosts brain power, helps against insomnia and protects against tooth decay. It’s also rich in antioxidants, which help to lower the risk of heart disease and strokes as well as the risk of contracting certain types of cancer.
White wine contains fewer antioxidants but research has shown it can help to keep lung tissue healthy.
Take it easy because wine can affect your sleep patterns, causing you to feel tired. It can also result in weight gain. Just a few extra glasses a week means you could be consuming an extra 8 200kJ a month, which could come back to haunt you.
White wine is more acidic and not great for your teeth.
When drinking white wine, fill your glass only halfway then top up with soda water.
(25ml of whisky = 250kJ)
It’s known to slow down the onset of dementia and increase heart health, help manage diabetes, boost good cholesterol, fight cancer, eliminate blood clots and strengthen the immune system.
Whisky can be consumed neat or with water or soda water, making it a good option if you’re watching your weight.
Take it easy because regular consumption can lead to a higher tolerance for alcohol, which could cause you to drink more than is good for you.
(340ml lite beer = 438kJ and 340ml regular beer = 570kJ)
Beer contains vitamins and minerals and is high in fibre. It’s believed to be able to reduce the risk of kidney stones by up to 40% because of its low calcium and high magnesium content. It also cuts the risk of heart disease and strokes, thanks to its antioxidants.
Take it easy because if you drink too much, you’ll get a beer boep, and the gastric stimulants can give you heartburn.
Opt for lite beer – it has 130kJ fewer carbs per bottle.
(25ml = 235kJ and 200ml cola = 335kJ)
Brandy is distilled from wine and as a result has many of the same health benefits, including promoting heart health and fighting cancer cells. It also boosts your immune system and vitamin C levels, and helps to relieve pain.
Take it easy because in terms of alcohol content, brandy really packs a punch, so it’s easy to overindulge.
You can cut the kilojoules by mixing brandy with soda water or low-calorie cola instead of ordinary cola.
(25ml = 260kJ)
Gin is flavoured with juniper berries, which have diuretic properties and are used in herbal medicine to treat kidney and bladder stones and bloating.
Juniper also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism and gout.
Take it easy because as a pure alcohol, gin can cause heavy hangovers. And it is a depressant that has been linked to causing unhappy emotions and triggering tears.
(25ml = 260kJ)
The ethanol in this spirit gives it antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. That’s why vodka can be used as a disinfectant. It can also boost cardiovascular, skin and hair health, fight bad breath, and aid in stress relief.
Take it easy because too much can affect your immune system and push up your blood pressure.