Of course you can enjoy a drink or two during Christmas, but Caitlin Reid says you can also be smart in your choice.
Beer can be either classified as a lager or an ale. Lagers are brewed with bottom yeast and fermented at 12–18°C, while top-fermented yeast are used to brew ales between 15–25°C. Ales have a higher alcohol content and a more robust flavour than lagers.
Which is best: Beers with a lower alcohol content, such as light or mid-strength, are a better choice. If you prefer regular strength beer, watch your intake and stick to the recommended number of standard serves. While low-carb beer has about the same kilojoule content as light beers, it has the same alcohol content as regular beer. When wanting to watch your weight, it’s best to go for light beer over the low-carb.
Rosé and red wines are produced from the skin and flesh of red grapes, while white wine is predominantly made from white grapes, but red grapes can also be used. Fortified wines are formed when a spirit, usually brandy, is added to table wine.
Which is best: According to the American Heart Association, when it comes to possible heart-health benefits, there’s no clear evidence that red wine is superior to white – or other forms of alcohol for that matter. Some people develop headaches soon after drinking red wine, but not white. Research shows red wine increases plasma serotonin and histamine levels, which can trigger headaches in susceptible people. For this reason, some people find white wine is a better option for them.
Energy drinks with alcohol
Studies are suggesting that combining a highly caffeinated energy drink with alcohol increases the rate of alcohol-related injury. Several studies also suggest that energy drinks may serve as a gateway to other forms of drug dependence. One American study showed that a combined intake of caffeine and alcohol reduced the participant’s perception of alcohol intoxication. More research needs to be done on the effects of these drinks.
Whisky, vodka, gin and schnapps are made by distilling a kind of beer made from grain; brandy is made from fermented grape juice; rum is derived from fermented sugar cane or molasses; tequila is made from the agave plant.
What’s the best: There is evidence to suggest that white or clear spirits may reduce your risk of a ‘hangover’. Research conducted in 1973 found that the severity in hangover symptoms declined in order of brandy, rum, whisky, gin, vodka and pure ethanol. Brandy and whisky contain more congeners (see table below) and methanol than gin and vodka. When the body metabolises methanol, formaldehyde is formed and converted to formic acid. This acid is extremely toxic and, in high concentrations, causes symptoms of hypoxia (a shortage of oxygen in the body) and central nervous system depression, resulting in headaches, a lack of coordination, nausea and confusion. Methanol poisoning can lead to blindness. With this said, it’s important to focus on the quantity of alcohol consumed, rather than the type.
Liqueurs are flavour-infused sweet spirits that are categorised according to their flavouring agent, whether fruits, nuts, cream or herbal. Spice blends are also used. Many liqueurs use finished spirits, such as rum or whisky, as their base.
What’s the best: Liqueurs are a particularly concentrated source of kilojoules, with just 30ml containing the same amount of alcohol as a beer or wine. They are often consumed with milk or another kilojoule-dense liquid. If you choose to drink liqueur, take note of how much alcohol you consume and stick to the recommendations.
As of December 2004, Food Standards Australia New Zealand made it compulsory to list any recognised allergens on the labels of wine and other alcoholic beverages. Derivatives of egg, fish, milk and nuts may be used as finishing agents in wine production, however despite being largely removed through filtration, minute residual amounts can be present in the final product. As a result, wine bottled on or prior to 2002 does not feature allergen warnings and people with allergies should be aware of this.
The more a person drinks, the more they eat – and usually the cravings are for high-fat, salty snacks. One UK study showed that alcohol increased daily energy intake by 30%, which over time could easily result in weight gain. Hormone regulation is believed to cause this increase in food intake.
What are congeners?
Congeners are by-products of the production of spirits or wines and are believed to contribute to its intoxicating effects and to the subsequent hangover. Having drinks that contain more congeners increases both the frequency and severity of hangovers.
Why are sulfites added to beer and wine?
Sulfites are used to preserve the colour and flavour of beer and wine, as well as stopping them from oxidising, forming mould and spoiling. Cask wine contains higher concentrations of sulfites than bottled; and white wine contains more than red wine because tannins in red help to act as a preservative. Any alcohol containing 10mg/kg or more of sulphites must say so on the label. Some wine and beer products have no added sulfites, but it would still be present in the final product.