Jessica Timmons

Author: Expert reviewer:

October 28, 2022

Jessica Timmons

By Jessica Timmons

mbg Contributor

Jessica Timmons is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Healthline, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and more.

Jaime Schehr, N.D., R.D.

Expert review by

Jaime Schehr, N.D., R.D.

Naturopathic Physician and Registered Dietitian

Jaime Schehr, N.D., R.D., is a nationally recognized expert in integrative medicine and nutrition, based in New York City. She holds dual licenses as a naturopathic physician and a registered dietitian, from University of Bridgeport and University of Nebraska respectively.

Friends clinking by glasses with various alcoholic cocktails at table

Image by Ilnur Khisamutdinov / iStock

October 28, 2022

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Let’s just put it out there—calling any alcohol “healthy” is a stretch. But that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no place for the occasional drink in a healthy lifestyle. The key is understanding that while alcohol itself isn’t technically healthy, there are healthier choices to be made when you’re indulging.

And to point you in the right direction, we polled a few dietitians for their take on the healthiest alcohol to drink.


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8 healthiest alcohols to drink.

If you’re going to drink alcohol, these are the best for blood sugar balance, gut health, and more, according to research and RDs.

Least amount of sugar: vodka and gin

By themselves, “clear liquors like vodka and gin have the fewest calories and the least amount of sugar,” says Amy Shapiro, RD. That means they’re easier for our bodies to metabolize and may result in less intense hangovers for some people. Vodka has been shown to widen arteries, which increases blood flow1 and could help prevent heart disease.

Mixers, syrups, sodas, and other additions, however, quickly pile on the sugar and calories, so be mindful of what’s in that cocktail.

  • Calories per shot: about 64 for vodka and 73 for gin
  • Sugar per shot: 0 grams

Looking for a recipe?

Check out the ACV Bee’s Knees—a vodka cocktail with lemon juice, honey, apple cider vinegar, and fresh thyme.


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Purest spirit on the market: mezcal

This agave-based spirit has a distinct, smokey flavor, so it’s nice to sip and savor. Straight up, mezcal is very low in sugar and calories thanks to its traditional production process. By law, it must contain 100% agave, which means no added sugar. 

The fermentation process for mezcal uses the agave heart and includes prebiotic fibers that may have some health benefits2 like supporting the microbiome, though research in humans is still needed. Single-ingredient mezcals may also be metabolized faster, meaning fewer hangover symptoms. 

  • Calories per shot: about 100
  • Sugar per shot: 0 grams


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Best for blood sugar balance: tequila

Tequila is also agave-based and it shares the low-sugar, low-calorie benefits of other clear liquors. It may also help balance blood sugar, when compared to other alcoholic beverages thanks to a naturally-occurring sugar in the agave plant that serves as a dietary fiber.

Some evidence3 also finds that tequila may not be as severe a depressant as other types of alcohol.

  • Calories per shot: about 64
  • Sugar per shot: 0 grams


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Highest antioxidants: red wine

You just knew red wine would make the list, didn’t you? “We always hear that red wine is the healthiest alcoholic beverage you could have,” says Tracey Frimpong, RD. “It’s somewhat true because red wines contain polyphenols and antioxidants4, which can help to improve heart and brain health. The key word is red wine, because it contains more of these antioxidants than white wine.”

  • Calories per five-ounce serving: roughly 100-160 calories
  • Sugar per serving: less than one gram


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Best for pacing yourself: champagne

You may reserve that celebratory glass of bubbly for special occasions, but it’s a relatively good choice. “Champagne is a healthier option because the grapes used contain polyphenols5,” says Shapiro, which help manage blood pressure, promote circulation, and even improve systemic inflammation.

This is also a good pick for automatic portion control. A typical serving size of champagne is four ounces. Plus, the bubbles mean people tend to sip more slowly and feel fuller faster, so you’re less likely to go back for another flute.

  • Calories per four-ounce serving: around 85
  • Sugar per serving: less than two grams

Probiotic benefits: hard kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, sugar, and an active bacterial yeast culture. Because it’s fermented, it naturally has very low levels of alcohol. But hard kombucha is fermented for longer to create a higher ABV (alcohol by volume). It makes for a fresh, buzzy, subtly boozy drink that’s notably rich in probiotics

“A benefit seen to drinking kombucha is its capability to aid in digestion and boost your immunity by introducing healthy bacteria to the gut microbiome, similar to other fermented foods such as yogurt or kimchi,” says Frimpong.

Keep in mind that ABV, calories, and sugar will vary by the brand, so you may want to check the label first.

Pro tip:

“Hard kombuchas are best enjoyed in small amounts so as not to spike blood sugar too much,” notes dietitian Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, INHC. “For people who drink kombucha for the probiotic benefits, I tend to recommend having a small amount after a meal (like, a shot glass worth), as opposed to downing a 16-ounce bottle in one go.”

Highest botanical diversity: craft beer

Craft beer may have more going for it than complex flavor profiles and clever marketing. This artisanal twist on mass-produced beer emphasizes quality and flavor, which means greater botanical diversity and a potential for more antioxidants6, vitamins, and minerals.

One drawback: craft beers tend to have higher ABV. Generally, that means more calories too.

  • Calories per 12-ounce bottle: between about 200-300 calories
  • Sugar per 12-ounce bottle: 0 grams (varies by brand)

Risks of alcohol.

Cording points out that the benefits of alcohol—its use as a social connector, polyphenol content, and its blood thinning properties—need to be weighed against the very real risks of consuming it.

The World Health Organization and USDA both define moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. This is what’s considered “healthy.” But “we do know from research that much smaller amounts of alcohol can contribute to disease risk,” says Cording.

Emerging research has found alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer, including those of the liver, colon and rectum, breast, and mouth. 

As a nightcap, alcohol is often used to unwind before bed. But while it can help us nod off faster, it ultimately creates major sleep disruptions that are doing us no favors. And it only gets worse from there. Alcohol consumption also impacts hormone function7—which affects all sorts of bodily functions—as well as mood.

“And because alcohol lowers inhibitions, drinking can make it harder to make clear-headed decisions around healthy food choices,” adds Cording.

Tips for healthier alcohol consumption.

  • Drink less: “If you decide to imbibe, I would recommend cutting your drinking down to just one or two days a week or even better, limit it to special occasions,” says Skye Garman, certified macro coach and personal trainer.
  • Pair alcohol with a meal: Pairing alcohol with food inhibits absorption, which helps stave off intoxication and reduces the likelihood of a hangover.
  • Alternate with water: “Alcohol is a diuretic and causes us to become dehydrated. I like to recommend alternating your drinks from one cocktail to one glass of water,” says Shapiro.
  • Listen to your body: As Cording recommends, it’s best to pay attention to how you personally respond to different types of alcohol, no matter the purported health benefits: “If something makes you feel like crap, don’t drink it.”

The takeaway.

Alcohol really can’t be categorized as healthy–after all, it is a toxin8!—so if you’re going to go ahead and indulge, be mindful of what you’re really drinking. And if you’re all about the flavor and don’t mind skipping the alcohol, check out our picks for the best non-alcoholic drinks and craft beers.