Though wine tends to hog most of the attention as a heart-healthy beverage, it’s primarily the ethanol in wine that’s responsible for the protective effects. What’s more, any alcoholic beverage, when consumed in moderation (1 a day for women, 2 a day for men), increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol, decreases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and reduces blood clot risk by lowering fibrinogen and blood platelet aggregation. In addition, moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, lower incidence of gallstones, and improved cognitive function in older adults.
The 150 calories in a 12-oz beer come mostly from alcohol (~2/3) and carbohydrate (~1/3). However, you also get a little protein, which is virtually absent in wine. There’s also fiber—a 2009 study found lager to contain 0.75 grams of soluble fiber per 12-oz serving and dark beers to have 1.3 grams. You’ll also get some folate, vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and even a little B12 (thanks to bacteria found in barley grains before conversion to malt), of which there are very few plant sources. Like wine, a glass of beer will also provide some potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and flouride, but beer contains more selenium and silicon.
I don’t know if this is enough to turn me into a beer drinker, but it definitely has me interested to learn more about it and give it a shot once in a while. I’ve always seen myself as someone who hates beer, but it’s totally possible I just haven’t tried one I like yet.
When selecting a beer, consider these points:
- The more malt in the brew, the more B-vitamins
- More sugar in the wort equals more alcohol
- The more hops, the more phytochemicals
- “Light beers” are brewed to be lower in carbs and/or alcohol
- “Low-carb beers” are usually brewed to remove carbs
- Darker beers have more fiber
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