A low carb lifestyle doesn’t have to feel restrictive. The finest things, like wine, can be enjoyed. But, you need to stick to low carb wine choices.
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin sure did enjoy the finer things in life, wine included. But back in Ben’s day, few colonists were concerned with carb grams.
Processed food was virtually non-existent back in the days of Franklin. Although copious amounts of carbs were consumed, most of society back in Ben’s day was agrarian. They spent days laboring in the fields, burning off the carbs.
These days, not only is processed food a threat to the waistline, so, too, are environmental and chemical stressors. But does that mean you need to ditch Ben’s advice and abstain from wine if you’re counting your carbs?
The short answer: it depends.
Moderate wine consumption may offer some health benefits, such as increasing HDL cholesterol and decreasing LDL levels, according to research like this meta-analysis of wine consumption. And some studies, such as this one, show no link between moderate wine consumption and weight gain or abdominal cavity fat storage.
But if the only health metric you’re concerned with is grams of net carbs, some wines may be ok for low-carb diets. Not all wines are created equally, of course. Some wines have a higher alcohol content.
Higher alcohol content = more calories … but less sugar
For people who count their calories, wines with high alcohol content are typically higher in calories. But for those whose only dietary concern is carb grams, the higher the alcohol by volume content in a wine, the less sugar it has.
This fact can be confusing. After all, we’re all taught that alcohol is a sugar. So if there’s more alcohol there’s got to be more sugar, right? Well, not exactly.
During the fermentation process, the yeast eats up much of the sugar. Wines with a higher alcohol by volume content have been fermented longer, thus, the microscopic organisms eat more of the fructose and glucose found in the grapes.
Concerned about carbs in your wine? Then opt for one with at least a medium-high range alcohol content, which is approximately 15% alcohol by volume.
Strict calorie counters will probably go for white wine over red. That’s because white wine usually has less alcohol per volume than red wine, which means less calories.
One needs to remember that less alcohol percentage by volume means more residual sugar. That’s the amount of sugar that’s left over after the fermentation process.
Lesson learned: don’t get fooled by alcohol content and calories, if you’re counting carbs, or are, in general, a low-sugar dieter. More alcohol per volume as a general rule implies less grams of sugar per 6 oz. pour.
Sugar grams add up, so it’s helpful to learn what types of wine are best for a low carb lifestyle.
If you’re looking for a smart low carb wine choice, a dry red wine is one of your best options. First of all, red wine is considered by many health experts to be better for your health than white wine.
Red wine has been suggested to play a key role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and other chronic pathologies, including cancer, according to this study. Dry reds are less sweet, hence, they have less sugar.
A dry wine contains only up to 10 grams of sugar per liter. There are plenty of dry wine options that contain only 5 grams of sugar per liter or less. In general, the drier the wine, the less residual sugar it has.
The cheaper the wine, the sweeter
Another general rule of selecting a good low carb wine: the cheaper the bottle, the more residual sugar it usually has. Though bottles that run $15 or more can contain more sugar than a low-carb dieter would prefer to have, very cheap bottles more often than not have a much higher residual sugar content.
Most wines that are $20 and above contain little residual sugar. Brands of wine that aren’t considered premium by connoisseurs but are out of reach for down-and-out winos typically contain about 12-15 grams of residual sugar per liter.
If you’re counting carbs, or just watching them, try to get your taste buds used to drinking a dry wine with no more than 10 grams of residual sugar per liter. Keep in mind, though: bottles of wine will not have a nutrition label.
A bottle of wine does not indicate how many grams of carbs there are. Only the alcohol by volume percentage is indicated. Again, if you’re concerned about carbs, a good low carb wine choice is a bottle with approximately 13-17% alcohol by volume.
Although some expensive wines can be very high in sugar (think: port, muscat, madeira), if you stick with a dry or semidry (referred to in the wine industry as ‘off dry’), you’ll likely keep your carb count down.
Smart low carb wine choices
The following styles of wine are typically lowest in carbs:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Grigio
Strict low carb and wine every night?
Sure, it’s possible to be very low carb and have a glass of wine every night. If you keep your daily carb intake low (for awesome low-carb recipes, click here), there’s indeed plenty of room in a strict low-carb diet for a glass of wine every night. Maybe even two glasses if you’re an oenophile. Just remember to stick to the best low carb wine choices. Drink a dry wine that’s not super cheap.