Brandy Nutrition Facts and Health Tips

Brandy is a distilled beverage usually made from grapes. In simple terms, brandy is distilled wine. The name brandy comes from the Dutch word "brandewijn" which means "burned wine." Brandy can also be made from other fruits, including peaches, apricots, or apples.

Brandy is known for its distinctive caramel color which may happen as a result of aging in oak barrels or it may be the result of coloring added by the manufacture. This popular after-dinner drink has a flavor that is often described as oaky or fruity with a mellow sweetness.

Brandy can be included in a healthy diet plan when consumed in moderation. But this beverage provides no substantial vitamins or minerals and is limited in the health benefits (if any) that it provides.

Brandy Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one shot (42g or 1.5 ounces) of brandy.

  • Calories: 97
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0.42mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Alcohol: 14g

Carbs

A single serving of brandy is considered to be a 1.5-ounce shot (also called a jigger). There are no carbs in a shot of brandy, no sugar, and no fiber.

Since brandy contains no carbohydrate the estimated glycemic index of brandy is assumed to be zero. The glycemic index is a relative ranking of food that estimates how the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar.

Fats

There is no fat in brandy.

Protein

Brandy contains no protein.

Alcohol

Brandy (80 proof) provides 14 grams of alcohol. Each gram of alcohol provides 7 calories. Therefore, all of the calories in brandy come from alcohol, assuming that is consumed neat or on ice.

If you consume higher proof alcohol, you'll consume more alcohol and more calories. Distilled liquor that is 100 proof contains 17.8 grams of alcohol and provides 124 calories per one-shot (1.5-ounce) serving.

Vitamin and Minerals

While there are trace minerals in brandy, you will not gain any substantial micronutrients when you consume it.

Health Benefits

Because brandy is distilled from grapes (and other fruits) there are some purported health benefits of brandy associated with the micronutrients in those fruits. There are also some reports that the aging process may produce health benefits in brandy. However, high-quality human research supporting brandy consumption for health benefits is limited.

Asthma Management

There are some reports that brandy consumption can help in the treatment of asthma. However, published research investigating this benefit is very limited and quite dated. One frequently-cited study dates back to an 1863 issue of a Boston medical journal.

A more recent study was published in 1983 comparing brandy to other forms of alcohol in the management of asthma. Those researchers noted that in most cases, drinking alcohol made the condition worse. But in about 23.2% of patients (39 total) brandy and whiskey made it better. But there were confounding factors (such as age and condition severity) that may have affected these results.

Antioxidant Potential

it is widely reported that a shot of brandy has the same antioxidant potential as a full day's supply of vitamin C. The information comes from a single study conducted by two researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia in 2005. While the study was published in ScienceDaily (a media publication that reports scientific news), details of the study were not provided in a medical journal, making it difficult to evaluate the findings.

There have been a few other research findings supporting the antioxidant potential of brandy, but none of the studies go on to recommend consuming the beverage for its antioxidant potential. 

Stress Reduction

Alcohol is commonly consumed to reduce stress and there is research to support this benefit. Studies dating back into the 1980s have demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption can aid in stress relief. More recent studies have also shown that consumption of a moderate dose of alcohol may help you rebound from stressful situations faster.

However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that the relationship between stress and alcohol is complex. Turning to alcohol to manage stress can take a substantial toll on the mind and body.

Cardiovascular Health

Brandy was used in the 19th and early 20th century by doctors to increase cardiac output. Some still believe that brandy can provide that benefit.

In fact, studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol intake (up to one drink per day for women and one or two drinks for men) is associated with a lower risk of total mortality, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke.

However, alcohol researchers, including the authors of the 2014 Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are quick to advise that higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

Diabetes Prevention and Management

In some studies, moderate drinking is also associated with a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes. But scientists also say that the relationship between alcohol and glucose control is complex in people with diabetes.

Researchers note that overall nutritional status is important when considering the effects of alcohol on the regulation of insulin and glucose metabolism. Study findings have been inconclusive about the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption in those with type 2 diabetes.

Bone Health

A study conducted in South Korea showed that light alcohol intake (one or two glasses 2–3 times per week)was linked to better bone mineral density in postmenopausal women . Non-drinkers and heavy drinkers had a slightly higher risk for osteoporosis than light drinkers in that study.

However, in a large-scale research review conducted for the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, experts advise that chronic, heavy alcohol consumption in women compromises bone health and increases the risk of osteoporosis.

The effects are particularly striking in young people but chronic alcohol use in adulthood can also harm bone health. Other recent studies have confirmed these findings.

Adverse Effects

Even though moderate drinking may provide some benefits, there are substantial drawbacks if you drink too much. These should be considered if you choose to include brandy in your diet.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines 2015–2020 provides information to help you understand how drinking can play a role in a healthy diet. According to their recommendations, moderate alcohol consumption can be incorporated into the calorie limits of most healthy eating patterns. But they provide guidance about the amount of alcohol to consume.

According to the USDA, if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.

A standard drink is considered to be:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of brandy, cognac, or distilled liquor (80 proof)

The National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides the same guidelines for moderate drinking. Health experts do not recommend that you start drinking if you don't currently drink. Also, since alcoholic beverages are not a component of the USDA Food Patterns, if you choose to consume alcohol, the calories in your beverage should be accounted for so that you maintain reasonable calorie limits.

The NIAAA advises that you put yourself at higher risk for harmful consequences or adverse health effects if you exceed the recommended levels of consumption. There are several notable adverse effects.

Alcohol Use Disorder

One of the primary health consequences of consuming too much alcohol is a condition called alcohol use disorder (AUD). Binge drinking (usually 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in about 2 hours) or heavy alcohol use (more than 4 drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women) also puts you at higher risk for the condition.

Signs of AUD include (but are not limited to) drinking more than you had intended, being unable to cut back, or continuing to drink despite problems in relationships. The disorder can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

Increased Stress or Loneliness

Isolation and stress—including mass stress (stress experienced by a large community) are two factors that have been studied by researchers as they relate to alcohol consumption. It is possible that while isolation and stress may increase the compulsion to drink too much, over-drinking during stress or isolation may lead to increased anxiety and potentially increased loneliness.

"Although alcohol temporarily dampens the brain and body’s response to stress, feelings of stress and anxiety not only return, but worsen, once the alcohol wears off. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can cause adaptations in the brain that intensify the stress response. As a result, drinking alcohol to cope can make problems worse and one may end up drinking to fix the problem that alcohol caused."

—George Koob, PhD. NIAAA Director

Scientists also know that long-term, heavy drinking can cause increased anxiety and a decreased ability to deal with stress due to the increased release of stress hormones. According to the NIAAA, a long-term heavy drinker may experience more anxiety (than someone who never drank or who drank only moderately) when in a stressful situation.

Reduced Immune Health

A study published in Alcohol Research Current Reviews reported that there has been an established association between excessive alcohol consumption and immune-related health problem such as an increased risk for pneumonia.

They suggest that alcohol disrupts immune pathways that impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contributes to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impedes recovery from tissue injury.

Increased Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke

Published reports have shown that excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of premature death in the United States.

Specifically, heavy alcohol use is one of the most common causes of reversible hypertension, it accounts for about one-third of all cases of nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy, it is a frequent cause of atrial fibrillation, and it increases the risk of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

Obesity

Alcohol provides no nutritional value and contains 7 calories per gram (as opposed to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrate). So it is not a surprise that drinking is associated with unhealthy weight gain and obesity. But the dose matters.

Authors of one research study found that light-to-moderate alcohol intake is not associated with fat gain but heavy drinking is more often related to weight gain. They say that experimental evidence is mixed and moderate intake of alcohol does not lead to weight gain over the short-term. But alcohol intake may be a risk factor for obesity in some individuals.

Contraindications

There are some people who should not consume alcohol at all—in any amount. For example, some prescription and over-the-counter medications cause drowsiness and should not be mixed with alcohol.

Usually, a label on your prescription bottle will indicate whether or not alcohol consumption is safe when taking the medication. Check with your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

If you plan to drive or operate machinery, you should avoid drinking alcohol. Those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity should check the manufacturer to be sure that their beverage of choice is safe to consume.

The National Institutes of Health also states that women who are pregnant should not drink alcohol. According to health experts, "prenatal alcohol exposure can result in brain damage and other serious problems in the baby. The effects are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASD, and can result in lifelong physical, cognitive, and behavioral problems."

Allergies

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there are reported cases of alcohol allergy. Symptoms may include rash, swelling, or throat constriction. If you experience any related or unusual symptoms after consuming brandy, talk to your health care provider for personalized advice.

Also, some people have allergies to grapes and other fruit. If you have a fruit allergy, check with the brandy manufacturer to be sure that the beverage you choose isn't made with that fruit.

Varieties

There are several different varieties of brandy. American brandy is usually produced on the west coast in one of the wine-making regions. Flavored brandies—made from fermented fruit juice— are also popular and widely available.

Cognac is another type of brandy that is well known. It is produced in the Cognac region in France, made from white grapes, and distilled twice. Cognacs tend to be more expensive than brandy although some reasonably priced bottles are available.

There are other varieties of brandy including Armagnac, Spanish brandy, and Pisco made in South America.

When buying brandy you may see initials on the bottle label that indicate how it was aged. VS indicates that it is very special and has aged for at least two years. VSOP (very special old pale) brandy has been aged for at least four years and XO (extra old) has been aged for at least six years.

Storage and Food Safety

Always store cognac upright in a cool dark area away from light and heat. It should not be refrigerated.

When unopened, cognac stays good for years. But it begins to deteriorate once it comes into contact with oxygen so many brandy makers advise that you drink it within a year of opening.

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