The words “health” and “beer” aren’t usually mentioned in the same sentence, but evidence suggests that this ancient, plant-based beverage may provide heart-health benefits, as long as you drink it in moderation. Beer has been enjoyed since 9,500 BC, and our appreciation for the brew hasn’t slowed down; the global beer industry sees revenues of $300 billion annually.
The process of making beer relies upon ingredients such as grain (wheat, sorghum or barley), water, hops, and yeast. The starches from the grain are converted into an alcoholic beverage during a fermentation process. Today, a wide variety of beers are available, such as ale, stout, lager, and even “light,” “low-carb” and “glutenfree.”
Health benefits in a mug
Despite the fact that nutrition labels list the fiber content as “0,” researchers found that beer contains a dietary fiber complex, providing 1.3 to 3.8 grams/liter (depending on variety,) as well as antioxidant polyphenol compounds (Journal Of The American Society Of Brewing Chemists, 2009.) The antioxidant content of beer, which is higher than white wine but lower than red wine, is due to the grains and hops used to produce it.
Moderate consumption of any alcoholic beverage, including beer, increases “good” HDL cholesterol, lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, and reduces the risk of blood clotting, thus reducing heart disease risk by up to 40 percent. Imbibing moderately also is linked with greater lifespan and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and dementia.
Watch that “beer belly”
Beer may provide some potential benefits, but it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Adding a few too many beers to your day, with 153 calories per 12-ounce serving, can lead to weight gain, which can dry up any potential health bonus. Excessive alcohol intake–more than three drinks per day for women and more than four drinks for men–is linked to a string of negative health consequences, including brain deterioration, liver damage, and early death. Even moderate alcohol intake is linked to increased cancer risk. If you like beer, enjoy it in moderation–up to one daily serving for women and two for men.
Beer by the numbers:
Average Nutritional content of regular beer (12 fl oz)
Protein: 2 g
Carbohydrate: 13 g
Riboflavin: .1 mg (5 percent DV)
Niacin: 1.8 mg (9 percent DV)
Vitamin B6: .2 mg (8 percent DV)
Folate: 21.4 mcg (5 percent DV)
Magnesium: 21.4 mg (5 percent DV)
Phosphorus: 49.8 mg (5 percent DV)
Potassium: 96.1 mg (3 percent DV)
Selenium: 2.1 mcg (3 percent DV)
NOTE g: grams; mg: milligrams; mcg: micrograms; DV: Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories per day
– Sharon Palmer R.D.
As a registered dietitian with 16 years of health care experience, she focuses on writing features covering health, wellness, nutrition, cooking, wine, restaurant reviews, and entertainment. Over 750 of Sharon’s features have been published in a variety of publications. Her recent book The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today can be ordered here.