After years of being relegated to college campuses, wild nights, and hangover jokes, tequila is finally getting its moment to shine. It’s taking over high-class bars and Pinterest feeds, showing up at swank soirees, and even has its own national day.
And there’s a reason for all the buzz. Pure agave tequila is low in sugar, has no carbohydrates, and (minus sugary juice mixers) is fairly low-calorie, too. As far as alcohol goes, it’s not a bad option.
But that said, despite what you may have heard or read, it’s not a health drink. Here’s the truth about tequila’s “nutritional value,” along with some ideas for more health-minded ways to enjoy it. Get ready to swap your sugar-bomb mango margarita for a kombucha mixer, everyone.
Is tequila really going to benefit your health?
The internet is full of articles lauding tequila’s health benefits. Headlines claim that “Drinking Tequila Can Help You Lose Weight,” “Drinking Tequila Is Good for Your Bones,” and “A Shot of Tequila Each Day Might Keep the Doctor Away.”
Sorry to break it to you, but tequila isn’t going to strengthen your bones or make you magically lose weight. No studies have found direct benefits of drinking tequila in humans.
Sure, there have been studies that’ve shown potential health-boosting properties in the agave plant and its sugars, called agavins. But the drink? Not so much. There are new things to know about agave syrup, too.
Here’s why tequila isn’t the healthy miracle drink you’re after: The properties that make Agave tequilana interesting to researchers aren’t present once they’re distilled into tequila.
But even so, tequila can be a healthier choice than other cocktails or alcoholic drinks. Some noteworthy nutritional notes:
- Pure agave tequila (100 percent agave) is low in sugar.
- It only has 69 calories per ounce and no carbohydrates thanks to the distillation process.
Here’s how to enjoy tequila without going over your daily sugar or carb limit. And as always, please be safe and drink in moderation.
Tips for a healthier tequila cocktail
Let’s be honest: There’s no healthy alcoholic beverage. Even though tequila is low in sugar and carbs, mixers and chasers can up your caloric intake. They can also be loaded with sugars, dyes, and other additives that won’t win you any nutrition points. How you make a drink matters.
1. Skip the soda
Soda, even the 100-percent-juice kind, can add tablespoons of sugar to your drink and unnecessary calories, especially if your drink is mostly soda with a splash of tequila. Like fruit juices, diet soda isn’t the best choice, either.
Mix it up with seltzer water or club soda to add the bubbles without the junk. You can also use sparkling mineral water, but it may change the taste of your cocktail because of its mineral and sodium content.
2. Say no to margarita mix
Store-bought or mass-produced margaritas can be full of food coloring, sugars, additives, artificial sweeteners, and even high-fructose corn syrup.
That margarita slushie machine? Good chance it’s full of things you don’t actually want to drink. Stick to homemade margaritas and places where you can see the actual ingredients bartenders are mixing in your glass.
3. Opt for silver tequila
Stick with clear liquors like silver tequila to help avoid congeners, a compound created during alcohol fermentation that’s been linked to more severe, longer-lasting hangovers.
That doesn’t mean you can start pounding shots or go back for a third margarita. But silver or blanco tequila may make the next day less painful and be less taxing on your body.
4. Go pure
Tequila made from 100 percent agave doesn’t have the many common additives that other varieties may include, like caramel coloring and grain alcohols. These additives can also increase the sugar and calorie content.
People with a gluten or wheat sensitivity can drink 100 percent agave tequila without worry since it’s made without grains.
5. Rein it in
Drinking excessively can cause severe health problems, but overindulging now and then isn’t great for you, either. Alcohol is inflammatory, no matter what you mix in it or what you drink.
Drinking alcohol can cause digestive problems, dangerously impact your blood sugar, and damage your nervous system. It can also increase your risk of colon, mouth, and breast cancer.
The United States’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends women drink up to one alcoholic beverage per day and up to two for men. For the record, a drink is considered a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 1.5-ounce shot, or a mixed drink that contains a total of 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like tequila, gin, or vodka. No alcohol is above these limits or hangover-free.
Low-sugar tequila cocktail recipes
Sparkling Paloma Cocktails
This citrusy refresher is perfect for New Year’s celebrations or relaxing by the pool in the heat of summer. Fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice, and sparkling water make the core of this gently bubbly drink. Get the recipe.
Fizzy ginger kombucha combines with a splash of tequila, lime, and triple sec to make this addicting, no-sugar-added margarita. Get the recipe.
Sunny Winter Cocktail
If you like clementine soda or can tear through a whole bag of the little fruits, this cocktail is for you. Clementine, triple sec, tequila, and a sprig of marjoram combine for a bright winter cocktail. Get the recipe.
Remember, kombucha mixer or not, no alcoholic drink is healthy. But if you want a drink every now and then, tequila could be a solid, low-sugar choice.
Mandy Ferreira is a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s passionate about health, fitness, and sustainable living. She’s currently obsessed with running, Olympic lifting, and yoga, but she also swims, cycles, and does just about everything else she can. You can keep up with her on her blog and on Twitter.