Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages, but its health benefits have been largely ignored, while the benefits of wine have come to the fore. But some studies now show that beer is actually healthier than wine.
Protection against heart disease comes from the alcohol itself. Ethanol lowers bad cholesterol and lowers the risk of blood clotting, which can lead to heart attack and heart disease. “Studies have shown that a moderate amount of alcohol lowers instances of gall stones, type two diabetes, and raises cognitive function,“ says Giancoli.
Alcohol is a diuretic, so it can be dehydrating, but Giancoli says that because beer has so much water, around 90 to 94%, there’s less of a chance of dehydration than with wine. “Beer contributes to your fluid content more than wine, which may also decrease the risk for kidney stones,” she says.
Research has also shown that moderate alcohol consumption helps bone density. “Moderate beer drinkers have a protective effect and that’s because of silicon present in beer,” says Giancoli.
Beer also packs more vitamins than wine. “Because barley is a whole grain it has more B vitamins than wine. There’s also a small amount of B12 from the bacterial growth; B12 usually only found in animal products. B12 is not found in wine. Beer also more selenium than wine, which is an antioxidant.”
Which beer is better? Giancoli says the more malt in beer, the more B vitamins present. “Darker beer also has more fiber,” she adds. “Some beers with more hops are going to have more phytochemicals. Light beers will have fewer calories, however this is achieved by removing some alcohol or carbohydrates, which can change the taste. A more robust beer is more satiating and may prompt you to drink less.”
There are potential health benefits to a moderate amount of alcohol, but one beer a day may suit some people but not others.
“Beer is not a substitute for a healthy diet. Enjoy a beer with a meal, which is the healthiest way to drink it because alcohol on an empty stomach can be acidic to the stomach lining. Beer can even enhance the flavor of your meal,” says Giancoli.
Recommended daily amount is no more than two 12 ounce servings for a man or one 12 ounce serving for a woman, says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.