Getting to the Heart of a Healthy Diet: Alcohol

Drinking large amounts of alcohol is bad for your health. But some alcohol may have benefits. Adults who drink should do so in moderation.

Before drinking alcohol:

  • Talk to your doctor about its benefits and your risks. Some people should not drink alcohol, such as pregnant women, people with liver disease, or those who are on certain medicines.
  • Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day if you are a woman and 1 to 2 drinks per day if you are a man.
  • Talk to your doctor about your alcohol intake at your yearly visits. You may need to make changes if you start to drink too much or have health problems from drinking.
  • People who will be driving or operating machinery should not drink alcohol.

Here's Why:

Researchers think that some alcohol may protect the heart. People who drink limited amounts may have:

  • Heart disease less often than those who do not drink
  • Higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL) ("good") cholesterol
  • Blood that does not clot as easily, which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke

There are also many health problems linked to alcohol. Most of these happen when a person drinks heavily. These are:

Here's How:

Drink alcohol in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink per day for women and 1 to 2 drinks per day for men. One drink is:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4 ounces of wine
  • 1½ ounces of 80 proof spirits
  • 1 ounce of 100 proof spirits

People who choose not to drink are not missing out. In fact, you should think about other choices before picking up the bottle. You can get some of these benefits from fruits and vegetables. Regular exercise also raises HDL levels.


American Heart Association
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence


Dietitians of Canada


Alcoholic beverages and cardiovascular disease. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated January 12, 2015. Accessed February 7, 2020.
Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated December 11, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2020.
Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 2/3/2021

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