The Buzz on Beer: American Dietetic Association Offers a Toast to Good Health during American Heart Month
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CHICAGO - While red wine is often touted as the heart-healthy libation, more evidence is showing beer has a great deal of nutrition and health-promoting qualities as well, according to an article published in the Winter 2011 issue of the American Dietetic Association’s member publication, ADA Times.
“Red wine enjoys a reputation for sophistication and health benefits, but as interest in artisan brewing gains momentum and emerging research reveals unique nutrition properties, beer is finding redemption not only as a classy libation with deep roots in many cultures, but as a beverage with benefits,” writes registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Andrea Giancoli.
February is American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of the leading cause of death in the U.S. – cardiovascular disease. One in three adults has some form of heart/cardiovascular disease. Many of these deaths and risk factors are preventable and food choices have a big impact on your heart's health, even if you have other risk factors.
Moderate consumption of any alcoholic beverage, including beer, has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of blood clotting, Giancoli writes in ADA Times. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been associated with a lower incidence of gallstones, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and improved cognitive function in older adults.
“Beer specifically has been associated with additional health outcomes, including lowering the risk of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to its high water content and diuretic effect,” Giancoli writes. “Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones. Additionally, beer drinkers seem to have a more protective effect towards greater bone mineral density due to the high content of silicone in beer.”
Like wine, beer is fat free. Carbohydrates, which make up about one-third of the calories in beer, mostly come from partially broken down starch. Protein, which is nearly non-existent in wine, is present in small amounts in beer – about 4 percent of the total calories.
Most beers are between 3 percent and 6 percent alcohol by volume, although some beers can contain as much as 10 percent alcohol, “and some are much higher.” Giancoli writes. “Wines are between 12 percent and 14 percent ABV. Because the average beer has a lower ABV and more than two and half times as much water, it contributes to fluid intake more so than wine.”
It’s a common myth that, the darker the beer, the higher the alcohol content, Giancoli writes. “In fact, what affects a beer’s color is whether dark malts are used, and alcohol depends on the amount of sugar in the wort.”
Although the USDA Nutrient Database lists beer’s fiber content as zero grams recent studies have shown lager contains up to 2 grams of soluble fiber per liter, while dark beers can contain up to 3.5 grams. “Although wine and beer are neck-and-neck when it comes to mineral composition, each providing some potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and fluoride (the latter presumably contributed through the water source), beer is the winner when it comes to selenium and silicon,” Giancoli writes.
“While nutrient analyses refer to an average ‘regular beer,’ there are more than 100 different categories of beer – and the brewing process, ingredients and proportions used can influence the nutritional content of each.”
“Whether you’re exploring the cultural roots of an ancient beverage, expanding your culinary prowess, supporting a local brewer or just enjoying a cold one,” says Giancoli, “remember that moderate consumption means one 12-ounce beer per day for women and two for men.”
View a chart comparing the nutrients of beer versus wine.