Many articles have been written about the health benefits of wine, especially red wine. But interestingly there is evidence regarding the consumption of beer and it’s benefits. Research showing that the additional compounds in wine plus the alcohol content provides the protective effect to the cardiovascular system has been hot press stories for a while. But, other research has provided strong evidence that a sustantial proportion of the benefits of any drink – wine, beer, or spirits – are primarily attributed to the ethanol rather than to any additional components of each drink.
So, given the wide variety of research it seems that enjoying 1-2 drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women is considered healthy. Oh, by the way, a drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.
My interest began because a client doesn’t like wine but wanted to know if beer was healthy, and which would be her best choices. Yes, we’ve determined that moderate beer consumption can be enjoyed and here are the pros and cons of some of your more popular beer styles.
If you like a Stout beer, this is one of your best choices. This is a hearty, dark beer which is usually lower in alcohol than the lighter varieties. Stout beer has a higher mineral content with greater levels of iron and flavonoids. This is my beer of choice after crossing the finish line of a long race. Stout beers typically have 25 fewer calories per glass than the paler varieties but they are more filling so you may end of drinking less beer.
Ales can be a good choice as they contain a higher concentration of silicon which has been shown to help reduce bone loss. The additional malt in these beers makes the calorie count higher per serving, sometimes topping over 250 calories.
Light beers have no definition except that it has fewer calories than the same brand’s regular version. There are beer varieties with calorie counts as low as 55 calories per serving but typically run around 100 calories per serving. Light beers seldom have any nutritional benefits, except for calorie counting dieters. Unfortunately the low calories are less filling and people often drink more than 1-2 glasses. Add this to the alcohol content and you may end up ordering unhealthy bar foods due to impaired thinking.
If you don’t have a gluten intolerance this is one of the easier beers for a non-beer drinker to try. Although wheat beers are usually lighter in color and frequently are offered with fruity or seasonal flavors it doesn’t mean these are healthier. The extra wheat and less barley (or other grains) used means that a wheat beer will normally have 20 grams or more of carbohydrates per serving than other beers. So be careful with a wheat beer, especially if your are monitoring your carbohydrate consumption.
Beer: Gluten Free
For those that struggle with gluten intolerance or allergies, the only gluten free beer that I’m aware of is Saporo. This beer is rice based and is tolerated by most gluten free eaters. The same health benefits apply to this beer as to all other alcohols but there is no additional nutrient beneftis from a rice beer.
These beers, commonly refered to as “near beers” have lower calories, usually around 80 per serving. Non-alcholic beers are good choices for those who can not tolerate alcohol. These beers can contain up to 0.5 percent alcohol but that’s not enough for any health benefits.
Of course, no matter which beer you choose, remember to drink in moderation when you imbibe. This is how you will obtain the most health benefits from any alcohol – too much at any one time has a whole host of other health consequences. But, enjoy a glass with friends this season knowing that you will be helping your system.
Di Castelnuovo, Augusto et al. Meta-Analysis of Wine and Beer Consumption in Relation to Vascular Risk. Circulation. 2002; 105: 2836-2844 Published online before print May 13, 2002, doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000018653.19696.01
Rimm, Eric B et al. Review of moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of coronary heart diseas: is the effect due to beer, wine, or spirits? BMJ. 1996:312:731 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7033.731 Published 23 March 1996.
Truelsen, Thomas et al. Intake of Beer, Wine, and Spirits and Risk of Stroke: The Copenhagen City Heart Study. Stroke. 1998; 29: 2467-2472 doi: 10.1161/01.STR.29.12.2467