What’s Really in that Cocktail? Hidden Sugars Abound in Alcoholic Beverages

Guess what?!  I’m back on Fox and Friends this Sunday morning (time to be announced…you really should watch the entire show anyway).  This weekend I will be talking about hidden sugars in alcoholic beverages.  Did you know that even something as seemingly low cal as a gin and tonic packs five-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar per serving?

Yesterday morning I pulled up to the liquor store at 9am to pick up some props for my shoot.  Browsing the aisles, still sweaty from my kickboxing workout, I grabbed ready made pina colada mix, prepared margaritas, beer, gin and tonic, diet coke and whiskey, wine and champagne.  I had to explain the situation to the store clerk so he wouldn’t think I was a total lush boozing on pina coladas before noon on a Thursday.

Once home, I got to work calculating the sugar and calorie content of my various beverages.  Unfortunately, alcohol labeling regulations aren’t the same as those for foods leaving me without the handy nutrition labels on the back of each bottle.  I decided this is problem #1 with hidden sugars in alcohol.  How are you supposed to know how much sugar you are getting in your cocktail when it isn’t listed anywhere on the bottle?

My findings were interesting.  Hard alcohols like gin, whiskey and vodka have zero added sugars.  The mixers, however are a different story.  Seemingly healthy tonic water packs five and one-half teaspoons of sugar.  I dumped teaspoonful after teaspoonful into a ziplock bag for a visual.  Not pretty.  Onto the beer.  A single pint of ale contains an astonishing nine teaspoons of added sugars- even more than the obviously sweet margarita.

Hidden sugars abound in our foods.  Estimates vary, but the average American consumes anywhere between 120 and 180 pounds of sugar each year.  This doesn’t include natural sugars found in fruits and milk, but rather added sugars like sucrose, glucose, honey and high fructose corn syrup.  The largest source of added sugars in the American diet?  Sugary beverages.

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While sugar makes our alcoholic drinks taste great, I mean what better combination than sugar and booze to celebrate a Friday night, added sugars pose significant health risks.  A study released just last week shows that Americans consuming more than 25 percent of their daily calories from sugar are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.  Sugar is not only linked to the obvious obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure but also to cancer, dementia and mood problems like depression and anxiety.  Sugar affects all of our body’s organ systems in a negative way.

Does this mean you shouldn’t drink at all?  Not necessarily.  There are a few healthier options when it comes to drinking.  Using sugar free mixers eliminates added sugar content from most mixed drinks.  Champagne and red wine contain only a quarter teaspoon or less of added sugar making them good picks for your next night out.  If you must have a margarita from time to time, limit your serving size, there’s no telling how much sugar is packed into that fishbowl sized marg at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  Life is about balance, so if you have a few sugary drinks on occasion, watch your sugar consumption for the next few days to compensate.

Don’t miss my live segment on Fox and Friends Sunday, February 9th!

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