When sitting down at a bar, you probably won't be thinking too much about the differences between beer and wine and how either drink will impact your health. And unless you have some sort of allergy, you really don't have to. But there are a few things that set these two beverages apart, that may be worth considering.
"One big difference between beer and wine is volume per serving," Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, a registered dietician who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living, tells Bustle. "One serving of wine is five ounces (about 19 grams of ethyl alcohol) and one serving of beer is 12 ounces (or about 14 grams of ethyl alcohol). Some people may feel full [or] more satisfied by a 12 ounce beer than five ounces of wine." But there may be more alcohol in a glass of wine, she says, than a standard beer.
When you drink beer or wine — or any alcoholic beverage, for that matter — the alcohol is "absorbed partially in the stomach but mostly in the small intestine before making its way to the liver," Erica Ingraham, MS, RDN, a registered dietician nutritionist, tells Bustle. "Eating food as you drink or consuming non-alcohol fluids will help slow absorption, reducing the effect of intoxication."
If you're drinking while also eating nachos, for instance, you might not feel the effects of any drink as strongly as you would if drinking on an empty stomach. Without food as a buffer, Ingraham says, "alcohol is more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby increasing your blood alcohol concentration, and you feel the effects more quickly."
The impact it has will be an individual experience due to other factors like body weight and how hydrated you are, Miller says, which can in turn impact how drunk or hungover you feel, regardless of what you end up drinking. "When looking at beer versus wine and how they affect the body, there really is minimal difference," she says. Basically, alcohol is alcohol.
That said, beer will fill you up a lot faster thanks in part to the carbonation, Miller says. And because you'll have all those bubbles in your stomach, this is one drink that can give you indigestion. "If you suffer from frequent heartburn, know that alcohol, in general, can be a trigger," she says. But when consuming high volumes of beer, it's even more likely.
If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, beer can also lead to other unwanted side effects. "The standard beer recipe typically contains gluten," Miller says. So if you have dietary restrictions, skipping it will be the obvious choice, unless you go for a gluten-free option.
As for wine, some experts say it can have positive effect on the body when consumed in moderation. "Wine has the benefit of potential antioxidant properties if certain types are chosen," Lisa Richards, a certified nutritionist, tells Bustle. "This is true for red wines as they contain a plant compound known as resveratrol. Resveratrol has been significantly linked to improved cardiovascular health by lowering blood lipids," though more research is being done to see if this is, in fact, true.
In the meantime, you won't want to go overboard. "These benefits are discounted," Richards says, "if an over consumption occurs and creates health complications in other areas of the body." Plus, you can get antioxidants from other foods like grapes, blueberries, and dark chocolate, meaning you certainly don't have to drink red wine in order to be healthy.
And, while it contains less gluten than beer, wine is still something you'll want to cast a wary eye at if you have allergies or intolerances. "The process to make wine typically does not include processing gluten-containing ingredients, however, some wine products may contain gluten due to flavors that may be added to the wine or storage processes," Miller says. It'll all come down to reading labels, before taking a sip.
Any type of alcohol will have an impact on the body, but in terms of beer versus wine experts say it's really all the same, save for slight differences in how they might make you feel, and the possibility of a health benefit or two.
Snopek, L., Mlcek, J., Sochorova, L., Baron, M., Hlavacova, I., Jurikova, T., … Sochor, J. (2018). Contribution of Red Wine Consumption to Human Health Protection. Molecules, 23(7), 1684. doi: 10.3390/molecules23071684
Erica Ingraham, MS, RDN, registered dietician nutritionist
Lisa Richards, certified nutritionist