When it comes to beverages with benefits, wine always seems to get the credit. If you're a brew lover it's enough to make you, well, want to cry in your beer. But before you do, you'll be glad to learn that, like wine, beer delivers some decided perks as well. "A cold beer is the perfect way to relax at the end of the day, it tastes great and, in moderation, it can even be good for you," says Ethan A. Bergman, PhD, RD, CD, FADA, past president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read on to find out how your favorite brew can enhance your health.
It's Heart SmartWhether you prefer wine, beer or liquor, people who drink one to two alcoholic drinks of any kind are less likely to suffer from heart disease according to a 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association article. Experts believe alcohol improves heart health by making blood less sticky so it's less likely to clot by increasing levels of "good" HDL cholesterol while lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol.
You Can Keep it LightWith only 100 calories per 12-ounce bottle, light beer lets you kick back with a cold one for fewer calories. How do they do it? "Light beer is usually a combination of slightly reduced alcohol and carbohydrate content," says Bergman. "Because light beer contains ethanol, there is still a positive effect on heart health with moderate consumption."
It's Kind to Your KidneysAccording to an article in the Winter 2011 issue of ADA Times, that brewski may reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Researchers found that beer lowered the risk of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to its high water content and diuretic effect. Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones.
It's a Surprising Source of FiberWho knew that beer packs fiber? Made from barley, beer contains beta-glucans — a type of soluble fiber credited with improving heart health by lowering cholesterol levels. A 12 ounce bottle of lager sports 0.75 grams of fiber while the same amount of dark beer boasts 1.3 grams.
It Provides B VitaminsThat cold one has another hidden health benefit: it's a source of B vitamins such as folate, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12. One 12-ounce brewski supplies 3 percent of the B12 and 12.5 percent of the vitamin B6 you need in a day. These two nutrients keep your heart healthy by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that may damage your arteries and encourage blood clots to form.
You'll Strengthen Your SkeletonWhile heavy drinking can weaken bones, a couple of beers a day can make them stronger. Beer is rich in silicon, an element found in few foods and drinks, which has been linked to stronger bones. In a Tufts University study, men who drank between one to two beers a day had hip bone densities three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half times greater than teetotalers.
It's Perfectly PackagedBecause beer comes neatly premeasured in its own bottle or can, you'll know when to say when. For the biggest health benefits drink no more than one to two beers a day.
Reviewed December 2012
Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN, is a nutrition consultant, journalist and author specializing in nutrition, health and wellness.