Scotch Whisky Nutrition Facts and Health Tips

Scotch whisky is a distilled spirit made from the mash of malted barley and other cereal grains. Scotch whisky must be made in Scotland to be sold under that name. Whiskey is also made in the United States, but it is called bourbon. The word "whiskey" is also spelled differently in the U.S.

Scotch is fermented with yeast and aged in oak for a minimum of three years. Caramel coloring and water are the only additives allowed. It has an amber color and flavor that may be smokey and has notes of caramel, spice, orange peel, and vanilla.

When consumed in moderation, scotch whisky may be included in a healthy diet.

Scotch Whisky Nutrition Facts

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

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

Carbs

A single shot of scotch contains 97 calories, no carbohydrates, no sugars, and no fiber. Other types of whisky provide the same number of calories and carbs.

Since scotch contains no carbs the estimated glycemic index of scotch 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 scotch.

Protein

Scotch contains no protein.

Alcohol

Scotch provides 14 grams of alcohol. Each gram of alcohol provides 7 calories. Therefore, all of the calories in scotch come from alcohol, assuming that is consumed neat or on ice.

Vitamin and Minerals

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

Health Benefits

A chemical analysis published in 2020 suggested that scotch whisky has antioxidant properties. But there is no strong clinical evidence that antioxidants in scotch provide any benefit in humans.

In fact, there is minimal research investigating any specific health benefits associated with scotch consumption.

There are a few studies that link moderate alcohol consumption with certain health benefits, but the amount of alcohol consumed makes a big difference.

Relief for the Common Cold

Whiskey (scotch or bourbon) is a key ingredient in the hot toddy, a drink often consumed by those managing congestion and other cold symptoms. Whiskey is combined with lemon, cinnamon, honey, and hot water to make the warm beverage.

It is possible that the alcohol in whisky can dilate blood vessels, making it easier for mucus membranes to manage the infection. There is some evidence that warm beverages can help improve nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. But strong scientific evidence to support the use of a hot toddy to relieve cold symptoms is lacking.

Lower Uric Acid Levels

In a study published by Phytotherapy Research in 2014, scientists found that moderate whisky consumption increased renal excretion of urate into urine and decreased serum urate levels.

Urate is a salt derived from uric acid. High uric acid levels are associated with conditions such as gout—a painful form of arthritis in which the joints swell and may become red or tender.

Researchers are not sure why whisky consumption may have an impact on urate levels. In addition, there are no human trials showing that whisky can reduce the risk of gout.

Stress Reduction

Many people drink alcohol, like scotch, to reduce stress levels. There is some research to support this benefit.

Studies dating back into the 1980s have demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption can play a role in reducing stress. 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. Drinking alcohol to manage stress can take a substantial toll on your mental and physical health.

Cardiovascular Health

Books dating back to the 1500s have promoted the health benefits of scotch whisky, particularly for boosting heart health. There are some current studies supporting this association.

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.

But researchers also note that the dose makes a difference.

The authors of the 2014 Mayo Clinic Proceedings advise that higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Some studies have shown that moderate drinking is also associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

But scientists also say that the relationship between alcohol and glucose control is complex in people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes. They say 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.

Adverse Effects

Even though moderate drinking may provide some benefits, there can be drawbacks if you drink too much. These should be considered if you choose to include scotch 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 scotch, cognac, or distilled liquor (80 proof)

The National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 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 says that you put yourself at higher risk for harmful consequences or adverse health consequences if you exceed the recommended levels of consumption.

Alcohol Use Disorder

One of the main adverse health effects of consuming too much alcohol is a condition called alcohol use disorder (AUD). The disorder can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

Signs of this condition include drinking more than you had intended, being unable to cut back, or continuing to drink despite problems in relationships.

Binge drinking (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) puts you at higher risk for AUD.

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, Ph.D. NIAAA Director

In studies published after the 9/11 attacks in New York City, researchers found that increased exposure to news about the attacks plus a past history of drinking problems predicted heavier drinking in the year after the event.

Researchers also found that the intensity of exposure to 9/11 had long‐lasting effects, with greater exposure to the attack associated with binge drinking even five or six years later. D

uring the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers noted that boredom, stress, economic distress, are key factors that can precipitate a recurrence of alcohol use disorder.

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. In stressful situations, a long-term heavy drinker may experience more anxiety than someone who never drank or who drank only moderately.

Isolation may also play a role in higher alcohol intake. In a paper discussing alcohol use and misuse during the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers discuss the link between isolation and problem drinking. They suggest that a long period of isolation might lead to a spike in alcohol misuse, relapse, and the development of alcohol use disorder in at-risk individuals.

Researchers also know that those dealing with substance abuse are more likely to experience stronger feelings of loneliness.

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.

The study authors 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.

Compromised Bone Health

While there has been at least one study showing that light drinkers may have a decreased risk for bone fracture most studies have associated heavy drinking with poor bone health.

In a large-scale research review conducted for NIAAA, 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.

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. Researchers 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. Also, 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."

Lastly, scotch whiskey is made from barley, a gluten grain. But, the distillation process results in a beverage that is considered gluten-free. However, some people with celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity may still react to alcoholic beverages distilled from gluten grains.

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 scotch, talk to your health care provider for personalized advice.

Varieties

There are many different types of scotch whiskey. Varieties depend on how it is produced in batches and the number of grains used to make it. For example, single malt scotch whiskey is produced in single batches from malted barley. Blended malts are those that contain more than one scotch from different distilleries.

Storage and Food Safety

Always store scotch upright in a cool (59-68°F) dark area away from sunlight, heat, and high humidity. It can be refrigerated but it will dull the taste. When unopened, scotch stays good for years.

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