Is that trendy hard seltzer actually healthier than other drinks?
You couldn’t find it five years ago. But now, soccer moms, college bros and baby boomers alike are all cracking open cans of hard seltzer.
This new, boozy business has more than three dozen different brands, which are projected to bring in nearly $1 billion in sales in 2019.
You’ll have to excuse the wine coolers of the world if they’re all a little jealous. Even though hard seltzer isn’t necessarily new, consumers are embracing this light, lower-calorie alternative to heavier beers and harder alcoholic beverages.
But when the dietary figures bubble to the top, how does this fizzy phenomenon stack up?
What is hard seltzer?
Hard seltzer starts with simple drinking water. Carbonation is added to make it bubbly. The “hard” part is sugar, which turns into alcohol when fermented.
Most hard seltzers have an alcohol content of 4-6%, which is about the same as light beer. It has basically the same number of calories as a shot of vodka. The fizziness, combined with a plethora of flavors, make it convenient for some to sip all day long.
How does it compare to other drinks?
A 12-ounce can of seltzer might have about 100 calories, which is lower than most 12-ounce beers and even a 5-ounce glass of wine. It has no fat, hardly any carbs and low amounts of sodium. But, because the ingredient list is basically water, sugar and bubbles, it also doesn’t offer much in nutritional value.
Wine, on the other hand, contains natural antioxidants that hard seltzer does not have. Numerous studies have shown a glass of red wine is linked to a number of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, weight loss, improved memory and good gut and heart health.
“The low numbers on the label can lull people into thinking hard seltzer is actually healthy. While one serving is low in calories, if you drink several, the calories start to rack up,” says Heather Klug, a registered dietitian at Aurora Health Care. “Hard seltzer also doesn’t offer the essential vitamins and minerals we need on a daily basis. And because it contains alcohol, it’s still dehydrating your body.”
What’s better: hard seltzer or wine?
If you’re looking for a light, low calorie, flavorful alternative to traditional alcoholic drinks, having a hard seltzer might be the way to go. But how does it compare to wine?
“Hard seltzer is better than other high-calorie alcoholic drinks, but it doesn’t have the health benefits found in wine,” says Klug. “Whatever you choose to drink, do so in moderation, and get your nutrients from eating vegetables and fruit each day, and not from alcohol.”
About the Author
Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.