Many people make the switch to going alcohol-free to improve their health. I thought that I’d have a look at the reasons why you might make that switch and answer the question is non-alcoholic wine good or bad for you?
After comparing alcoholic wine and non-alcoholic wine it’s easy to come to the conclusion there are a number of health benefits in making the switch to going alcohol-free. These include reduced risk of cancer, lower blood pressure, good for weight loss, improved sleep and many more.
I’ve explored each of these benefits individually from making the switch to alcohol-free wine below and at the end you’ll find a summary of the top ten. I’ve also added a list of fantastic alcohol-free wines you can try if you want to enjoy the positive health impacts yourself.
What is Alcohol-Free Wine
Before we go any further it’s probably worth clarifying what is meant alcohol-free or non-alcoholic wine. In the UK, we’ve got very strict rules and what can be labelled as alcohol-free, non-alcoholic and dealcoholised.
However, the simple fact is most people haven’t read The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (and I don’t blame them because it’s a particularly dull read) and they use the terms alcohol-free or non-alcoholic interchangeably. It’s also not possible to get drunk on drinks labelled as alcohol-free, non-alcoholic and dealcoholised.
For these reasons, I’ll be using the terms non-alcoholic and alcohol-free throughout this article to refer to wines that are 0.5% abv or lower (i.e. less alcohol than in a glass of orange juice). This is also more in line with how the rest of the world class alcohol-free or non-alcoholic drinks.
Is Alcoholic Wine Bad For You?
Over the years there have been many different reports in the media about the health benefits of alcoholic wine. Some have been in favour of alcoholic wine, whilst others have warned about its negative impact.
One of the common arguments in favour of alcoholic wine is the so called French Paradox. This refers to research that shows that in most countries where the population has a high intake of saturated fat, this normally leads to increase death rates from heart disease. However, in France there is the high intake of saturated fat but a low mortality from heart disease. This has been explained by some as down to the high wine consumption by the French population.
However, more recently studies have shown that saturated fat does not cause heart disease when consumed in reasonable amounts. The explanation behind the lower mortality rates of the French could be down to eating more whole foods and generally living healthier lifestyles.
Alcoholic Wine and the J-Curve
Whether alcohol is the defining factor that explains the French Paradox or not, research does suggest that as wine drinking moves from moderate to excessive, it does have a negative effect on a person’s health.
For a long time, it was thought that drinking small amounts of wine may be beneficial to a person’s health, but as the amounts consumed increased, the effects became harmful. This was known as the J-Curve. However, the socio-economic background of wine drinkers (i.e. wine drinkers tend to be better off and have a more active lifestyle) may be behind these results.
A more recent study that used non-drinkers as a control group has questioned the J-Curve. Their research found no “J” shaped relationship. Their results showed people were more likely to experience increased high blood pressure and stroke as they drank more, but there was no reduced risk in those whole only drank one or two units a day.
Is Alcohol Bad For You?
The main problem that alcoholic wine has is that it contains alcohol (obvious I know!), which is a causal factor in over 60 medical conditions. These include:
- Numerous cancers
- High blood pressure
- Cirrhosis of the liver
The links between cigarettes and cancer are frequently reported, but less commonly known is the link between alcohol and cancer. Research has shown that drinking one bottle of wine per week is the equivalent of five (men) or ten cigarettes per week (women). This equates to an increased absolute lifetime cancer risk of 1% (men) and 1.4% (women).
Away from the effects on health, there are several other risks associated with alcohol misuse that can cause harm. These range from accidents and injury, antisocial behaviour, loss of possessions and unplanned sick leave (which could put your job at risk).
If alcohol-free wine has minimal alcohol, it raises the inevitable question…
Is Alcohol-Free Wine Good For You?
It may be obvious, but the advantage alcohol-free wine has over alcoholic wine is that it contains almost no alcohol. This removes the many risks associated with alcohol already discussed above, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
Making the switch to alcohol-free doesn’t completely remove all the alcohol from wine. As already mentioned, the alcohol-free wines being discussed here may contain up to 0.5% abv. To put that into context, some orange juices can have a higher abv.
It’s also worth clarifying a common misconception about alcohol-free wine that’s frequently used by alcohol-free sceptics: Alcohol-free wine is not a fancy grape juice. The wine is made in exactly the same way other wines. The only difference is that at the end of the wine making process, the alcohol is gently removed in a process known as dealcoholisation.
Benefits of Going Alcohol-free
The NHS guidelines on drinking alcohol are to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol across at least three days in the week on a regular basis. A great way to reduce your drinking, have alcohol-free days, yet still enjoy your favourite drinks is to exchange your normal tipple for a non-alcoholic equivalent.
Simply swapping out a glass of alcoholic wine (11% to 14% abv) for a glass of non-alcoholic wine is an easy switch to make. You still get to enjoy a glass of wine whenever the fancy takes you, but at the same time enjoy the numerous benefits of reducing your alcohol intake.
The benefits from that simple swap are explored more in detail below.
Alcohol-Free Red Wine Lowers Blood Pressure
I’ve already written in detail about the effects of alcohol-free red wine and how it can lower blood pressure. In summary, study was completed that compared three groups of men age between 55 and 75 but more showed risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. There was split into three groups and over a four week period were asked to drink either red wine, non-alcoholic red wine or gin.
The results of the study showed a 14% reduction currently heart disease and a 20% reduction in stroke risk for those that had been drinking the non-alcoholic red wine. The was a smaller reduction in the group drinking alcoholic red wine. The reductions were attributed to the polyphenols found in red wine.
The individuals that have been drinking gin didn’t experience any impact on heart disease or stroke risk showing the changes could not be due to alcohol.
Reduced Risk of Cancer with Alcohol-Free Wine
The evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks—particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time—the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer.
By reducing the amount of alcohol-consumed, you directly reduce your risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. Making the switch to an alcohol-free wine is an easy way to cut your alcohol consumption, without having to give up the enjoyment of a glass of wine.
No Hangovers – Alcohol-Free Wine Doesn’t Dehydrate
One benefit to going alcohol-free that you’ll be thankful for the morning after a night out is waking with no hangover. You can say goodbye to those feelings of nausea, tiredness and a pounding head in the morning and instead wake feeling fresh.
When you go out drinking, the body treats alcohol as a toxic chemical which means it works as a diuretic, making you pee more. This can leave you dehydrated which is one of the main causes of hangover symptoms.
Instead of starting the day contemplating calling in sick to work (let’s hope you’ve got an understanding boss!) or beginning a weekend not feeling your best, you can start each morning feeling fresh and ready to take on the world. You may even find yourself doing some of those things you’ve always promised yourself if only you’d felt better, like going for a run, popping to the gym or meeting up friends. A hangover-free start to the day gives you many options to start a great day.
Weight Loss: Calories & Going Alcohol-Free Wine
Alcohol contains almost as many calories as fat, with 7 calories per gram. Comparing these with equivalent foods gives:
|Estimated food equivalent
|standard 175ml glass of 12% wine
|3 Jaffa Cake biscuits
|pint of 5% strength beer
|1 standard size Mars Bar
It’s also worth keeping in mind these calories consumed within alcohol are empty calories with no nutritional value, unlike those consumed at mealtimes.
Making the switch to an alcohol-free wine and cutting out the alcohol can help with weight loss as it’ss an easy way to reduce your calorie intake. For example, if you compare the same glass of wine and beer from above to an equivalent alcohol-free drink:
|Estimated food equivalent
|standard 175ml glass of 12% wine
|3 Jaffa Cake biscuits
|pint of 5% strength beer
|1 standard size Mars Bar
You can see from this the simple swap to an alcohol-free beer can save over 200 calories a pint and over 100 calories per glass of wine. For night out what you might try have 4 or 5 drinks, that’s a calorie saving of over 400-500 (wine) or 800-1,000 (beer). You’d need to spend a lot of time in the gym to burn those calories off.
Not only do you save calories that you’re not consuming in the alcohol, a secondary benefit to going alcohol-free is making better choices. After a few drinks, how many times it you regretted that midnight snack or maybe a late night takeaway? Going alcohol-free helps you make much better decisions in these moments.
Carbohydrates & Sugar In Alcohol-Free Wine
Unlike the calories in an alcoholic drink, just removing the alcohol will not automatically reduce the carbohydrates because alcohol contains no carbohydrates. Yet alcohol-free wine can still have very low carb levels.
Wine usually has lower sugar and the carbohydrate volumes than fruit juice because the sugar contained within the grape juice is fermented to turn into alcohol. The higher the abv of the wine, the lower the sugar content will be because more has been turned into alcohol.
As alcohol-free wine is fermented in just like any other wine, most of the sugar will be turned into alcohol (which is later gently removed). Consequently, alcohol-free wine can have very low sugar and carbohydrate levels with some as low as 2.9g per 100g.
With carb levels this low, they can be great for anyone trying to avoid carbs (e.g. Keto diet). However, there are a few winemakers the add back in sugar to improve the mouthfeel of the wine so it’s always best to check the nutritional information of an alcohol-free wine.
For more detailed information on carbohydrates in alcohol-free wine, you can read our blog Best 5 Low Carb Non-alcoholic Wines – Perfect for the Keto Diet.
Improved Moods with Alcohol-Free Wine
Drinking alcohol can affect your mood with long term or regular drinking affecting the chemicals within your brain. Overtime this can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. it can also make handling stress more difficult.
Initially alcohol can make you feel more confident and less anxious, but as you continue drinking alcohol the impact on your brain function increases. This is when negative emotions might start to takeover to a variety of responses like anxiety, depression or even aggression for different people.
One study demonstrated the effects of drinking on the next day and their results “suggests a general level of impairment due to hangover, as well as increased negative mood“ showing it’s not just the night out drinking that is affected.
Swapping out your normal glass of wine with something alcohol-free reduces your risk to feeling these negative emotions, both when you’re drinking and the following day.
Greater Self Control
When drinking wine another impact that the alcohol can have is on your behaviours. Among the many short term effects of alcohol are reduced inhibitions and compulsive behaviour. These can lead to poor decision making and taking actions that have a detrimental effect on you. Some may only have short term effects that can quickly be fixed, but others may have a much longer term impact and be harder to reverse.
Choosing to drink alcohol-free wine removes the feeling of reduced inhibitions or compulsive behaviour caused by alcohol, giving you greater self control and reducing your risk of poor decision making.
Better Sleep with Alcohol-Free Wine
By making the switch to alcohol-free wine, you can also benefit from a better night’s sleep. Whilst alcohol can induce a feeling of relaxation that leads to falling asleep more quickly, it doesn’t necessarily mean a good night’s sleep.
There’s been many studies that demonstrate alcohol causes a poor quality of sleep throughout the night. Alcohol affects the REM sleep, which is thought to be the most restorative of the four types of sleep it’s also the stage that’s thought to play a role in memory consolidation. Disruptions to REM sleep can lead to feelings of drowsiness and poor concentration during the following day.
Alcohol can also lead to insomnia, which is a difficulty in falling and staying asleep. It happens even when there’s an opportunity and desire to sleep. By drinking wine the night before and experiencing poor quality sleep, then feeling tired throughout the following day can lead to a vicious cycle. One that consists of drinking stimulants like coffee during the day to stay awake, then drinking wine as a self-medicated sedative to help fall asleep. The alcohol leads to another bad night’s sleep, and so the cycle begins again.
This cycle can easily be broken by making the swap to alcohol-free wine in the evening giving a better quality night’s sleep and leaving you feeling fresher in the morning.
Alcohol-Free Wine & Memory
Drinking a glass of wine (and the alcohol you’ll find in it) will have an effect on both your long and short term memory. In the short term these can be simple effects like losing items (e.g. phone or keys) or forgetting parts of a night out, but for the long term, the effects are slightly different.
The long-term memory is split into two parts; Implicit and Explicit. The Implicit memory is used for the tasks that have an unconscious awareness and is used for everyday tasks like tying your shoe laces. There is little effect on the implicit memories from alcohol which is why you don’t forget how to tie your shoelaces on a night out (although it may be harder due to poorer hand-to-eye co-ordination). However, explicit memory uses intentional conscious effort for recall and recognition is effected by alcohol.
There’s also alcohol induces blackouts which are caused “when a person drinks enough alcohol to temporarily block the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage—known as memory consolidation—in a brain area called the hippocampus”. In other words, blackouts aren’t when someone forgets something, but are caused by drinking so much the brain has stopped working properly!
The good news is that by making the switch to alcohol-free wine you won’t run the risk of drinking too much that your brain stops working or your memory is affected.
Apart from being good for your health, making the switch to alcohol-free enables you to keep your wits about you. Without the loss of self-control, hand-eye co-ordination and forgetfulness, you won’t risk:
- Injuries or accidents caused by excessive dinking
- Lost valuables on nights out
- Saying or doing things that damage relationships with friends or family
- Poor performance at work due to hangovers that may damage your career
- Financial problems either by the cost of drinking or items bought when drunk
All of these experiences can lead to unnecessary levels of stress and can have a long term impact on your wellbeing.
Summary: 10 Health Benefits of Alcohol-Free Wine
In all, we’ve explored 10 different benefits of going alcohol-free when choosing your wine:
- Red wine lowers blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cancer
- No Hangovers
- Lower calories help with weight loss
- Low in sugar & carbs
- Improved moods
- Greater self-control
- Better quality of sleep
- Better for long- and short-term memory
- Reduced stress
That’s a very good return for one easy change to what you pour in your wine glass.
Alcohol-Free Wines to Try
If you’ve been convinced that it might be time to make the swap to alcohol-free wine, you might be looking for a few to try. Here’s ten suggestions across whites, rosés, reds, sparkling or non-sparkling.
Just click on the links and use the code GOODSTUFF to get 5% off at Wise Bartender.
- Noughty Sparkling Chardonnay (14 kcal; 2.9g of sugar)
- Torres Natureo Muscat (20 kcal; 3.6g of sugar)
- Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling (22 kcal; 5.6g of sugar)
- La Gioiosa Sparkling Wine (26 kcal; 6.0g of sugar)
- Noughty Sparkling Rosé (18 kcal; 5.9g of sugar)
- Belle & Co. Sparkling Rose (22 kcal; 5.1g of sugar)
- Black Tower Deliciously Light Low Alcohol Rose (24 kcal; 4.5g of sugar)
- Very Cautious One Shiraz (18 kcal; 4.5g of sugar)
- Ebony Vale Cabernet Sauvignon (22 kcal; 4.5g of sugar)
- Torres Natureo Syrah (32 kcal; 3.6g of sugar)
All the nutritional information given is for a 100ml serving. You can compare all our alcohol-free wines, beers and ciders on our Nutritional Information Table.
Going Alcohol-Free – A Simple Swap with Many Benefits
The simple reason drinking wine is bad for your health is actually nothing to do with wine, just the alcohol contained within the wine. By making the easy switch to alcohol-free wine, you’re able to escape this, yet at the same time have a glass of wine whenever you want.
Even better, you’re still able to enjoy the experience of pouring yourself a glass at the end of a long day or with a good meal. An alcohol-free wine will also be less conspicuous than a soft drink and won’t draw attention to your non-drinking on nights out, avoiding the inevitable questions on why you’re not drinking.
In all, making the swap to alcohol-free wine is really simple and carries with it huge health benefits. This small change in habits can reduce your risk of cancer, lower blood pressure, help with weight loss and improve sleep, along with many other benefits. Those really are some big wins for such a small change in habit.
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