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Alcoholic drinks have shockingly large calorie counts. Image: Yle

Health watchdog warns of hidden calories in alcohol

If drinking beer or wine is a vital part of your summer vacation, don’t be surprised if your habit starts showing itself on your body – especially if you have engaged in copious amounts of rest and relaxation,reports  yle.fi/uutiset.

Most of the calories in an alcoholic drink come from the alcohol itself: the stronger the drink, the more calories. Any additional sugar boosts the energy content even more, and there are marked differences between dry and sweet wines and ciders, for example. With beer, the carbohydrates derive from the grain used in the distilling process, even if no sugar has been added. Punches are real calorie bombs, as they often include a strong spirit, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and juice.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has provided information on alcoholic drinks favoured by the Finns in the summertime.  If one sugar cube is equal to 10 kilocalories (kcal), the THL says five decilitres of wine, averaging 350 kcals, is generally equivalent to 35 sugar cubes, while the same amount of cola drinks and juices are equal to 27.

Five decilitres of mid-strength beer have 225 kcal on average, equalling 22.5 cubes of sugar, and cider and other sweetened soft drinks come in just under this amount at 20. The least-alcoholic class one beer in Finland has half of the caloric content (115 kcal) of the more popular mid-strength, class three beer, followed by energy and health drinks, which can range anywhere from 75 to 240 kcal.

Even flavoured water has a high calorie range from 50 to 125 kcal, or 5 to 12.5 sugar cubes per 5 decilitres. The only drinks without calories are artificially sweetened soft drinks and water.  

Alcohol goes to your head, and your thighs

THL says that people enjoying alcohol beverages should be aware of the health risks that high-sugar alcoholic drinks impose, not to mention the stress the alcohol puts on your system in general.

“Alcohol is also a harmful substance because it affects behaviour,” says THL nutrition researcher Marja-Leena Ovaskainen.  Of course, alcohol is not recommended as part of a daily diet. The fuel to charge our bodies should come from other sources, such as carbohydrates, fats and protein. The general rule of thumb is that people should eat a balanced diet of between 2,000 and 2,500 kcal a day to maintain a healthy weight.

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