Is Hard Seltzer Really Healthier Than Beer?

The popularity of hard seltzers has skyrocketed in recent years. So much so, that according to the International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR), spiked seltzer consumption is expected to triple by the year 2023. As of 2019, White Claw has been dominating the spiked seltzer industry. Vice president of marketing at White Claw Seltzer Works, Sanjiv Gajiwala, tells U.S. News, "White Claw wanted to offer an alternative to beer and hard sodas and close this gap, fitting into our consumer's changing lifestyle towards better choices."

This comment leaves us wondering — are more people drinking spiked seltzers for health-related reasons? Hard seltzer beverages typically hold 100 calories per 12 ounce can with two grams of carbs. This does sound like a better choice when compared to the average beer, which contains about 150 calories with up to 30 grams of carbs in the same size container. Most hard seltzers, as they are made from sugar rather than grain, are gluten-free, making it a tasty option for the gluten-free community. But does gluten-free, less calories, and low-carb automatically mean healthier?

Hard seltzers and the health halo effect

In regards as to whether you should opt for a hard sparkling water over a beer, Registered Dietitian and health coach, Courtney Dunn, tells Refinery29, "They could definitely be a good substitute if you were trying to lose weight or stick within your macro goal." However, Dunn goes on to say, "I don't necessarily think they are healthier than other alcohol beverages, because alcohol in excess is not good for anyone's health." 

U.S. News reports a "health halo" effect surrounding spiked seltzers. This effect has led people to consume more alcohol than they normally would, believing it's a healthier choice than the alternative beer or margarita. Many beers and seltzers alike contain the same 5% alcohol content. Because seltzers are so light, they tend to go down a bit easier, which can easily lead to grabbing...just one more. 

Overconsumption of alcohol has been shown to have a number of adverse health effects, including an increased risk for cancer, heart or liver disease, and mental health problems such as depression (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The bottom line is that hard seltzers may be a good alternative for those who live gluten-free or prefer a low-carb cocktail, but drinking alcohol safely and in moderation is truly the best option.