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In the Great Debate Over Healthier Alcohol, Is Vodka Better Than Wine?

Aimee Raupp is the author of Chill Out & Get Healthy, a practical guide for women that explores how to nourish body and soul, decrease general anxiety, manage overwhelming stressors, maintain and improve fertility factors, and fight the ...

Yeah, wine has antioxidants, but vodka might actually be better for you

We know, we know... there aren't any forms of alcohol that are really healthy — but we also know that in the great alcohol health debate, not all forms of booze are created equal. Sipping on clear liquor with water as a mixer, for instance, will win out over a whiskey and Coke any day of the week. And drinking a glass of wine is infinitely better than ordering a vodka soda, right? Well, maybe not.

For years we've been told that wine's antioxidants are beneficial and have actual health benefits that make the libation superior to hitting a bottle of hard alcohol — but that might not be entirely true.

What's the deal?

"But, I thought wine was good for my heart!" you say. And, yes, wine does contain certain phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant-derived compounds) that research has shown to be heart-healthful. Once you drink more than a "healthful" share (one 5-ounce drink for a woman or two for a man), however, you lose those health benefits — and gain a few negative effects.

More: Just in Time to Ruin Your Weekend, We Learn White Wine Can Cause Rosacea

We'd like to take this opportunity to show you what 5 ounces of wine really looks like.

And we're talking one of those glasses, not all of them. When was the last time you stopped at 5 ounces?

It all comes down to sugar

In addition to those plant compounds, wine has a good amount of sugar and yeast. Sugar is evil, and together with yeast, it can wreak havoc on your precious body and cause you to age faster than you'd like to.

The bad-for-your-health sugar and yeast components in wine are present in so many other libations, such as Champagne, beer, cosmos, mojitos and that delish margarita on the rocks.

On the other hand, studies have shown that wine drinkers are known to take better care of their health than beer or liquor drinkers.

Why vodka could be a more healthful option

Vodka, on the other hand, is sugar- and yeast-free (unless it has added sugar). Vodka typically is distilled dozens of times (if not hundreds) per batch. Fortunately for us, the 19th-century invention that enabled multiple distillations in a single cylinder also allows distillers to achieve unprecedented levels of purity. Sure, vodka is 40 percent alcohol, but the other 60 percent is water.

This libation is one of the cleanest out there because when a grain, fruit or vegetable is distilled, all sugars are left behind, making the resulting substance quite pure. In fact, it's so pure that if consumed in moderation — meaning one or two cocktails, one to two nights per week — it will leave you feeling perfectly fine in the morning.

In review

The pros of wine:

  • Heart-healthy phytochemicals
  • Wine drinkers take better care of themselves
  • Fun to drink
The cons of wine:
  • Sugar
  • Yeast
  • Fun to drink
The pros of vodka:
  • Sugar-free
  • Yeast-free
  • 60 percent water
  • Distilled
The cons of vodka:
  • Harsh taste
  • You can only drink 1-2 cocktails without waking up with a raging hangover

The takeaway

Obviously, what this all comes down to is moderation. More than 5 ounces of wine is bad. More than one or two vodka cocktails is bad. As long as we don't binge-drink, we should all be OK.

More: 5 of the Healthiest Alcoholic Beverages You Can Get at a Bar

Originally published April 2009. Updated May 2017.

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