By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , September 3, 2009 - 11:33am
I don’t always pour myself a glass of wine with dinner. Frankly, there are days when I’d rather “spend” those extra calories on a larger dinner portion or dessert. After all, a 5-ounce glass of wine has about 120 calories, a 12-ounce beer has 150 and mixed drinks like pina coladas or margaritas can boast 300+ calories. (Check out these 3 cocktails: they won’t bust your diet! )
But what I often forget is that when it comes to drinks, it’s not just about the calories. There are health reasons to drink—or not—too. You’ve probably already heard the good news (alcohol might boost your good “HDL” cholesterol)—as well as the bad (alcohol could also elevate your blood pressure). And now, two new studies give more health reasons to sip—or skip—that glass of wine, or any alcoholic beverage for that matter .
Glass Half Empty
Women who drink even one alcoholic beverage a day have an increased risk of some cancers (especially breast cancer), according to new research done at Oxford on nearly 1.3 million women. Says lead author Naomi Allen, Ph.D., “There is mounting evidence that even drinking alcohol in moderation can increase estrogen, which in turn directly raises the risk of breast cancer.”
Glass Half Full
Drinking alcohol in moderation might help keep bones strong—in men and postmenopausal women, who have lower levels of estrogen (which helps to maintain bone mass)—according to a new study out of Tufts University.
Pour yourself a glass of wine or beer: the study found a stronger association between bone density and drinking beer and wine, compared to liquor, indicating that it’s more than just alcohol that boosts bone health. Beer and wine contain silicon, a mineral that promotes bone formation. Wine also contains polyphenols that may stimulate bone-building, explains lead study author Katherine L. Tucker, Ph.D.
Alcohol, in moderation, can be part of a healthy lifestyle, Tucker says. But you have to weigh your personal risks: for example, if you have a strong family history of cancer, you may want to opt for mocktails more often. Find 8 healthy summer mocktail recipes here  or try this Summer Fruit Punch  recipe.