The Big Question
Is Beer Healthy
The Truth About Ale
Biohacking Your Beer
Fingers crossed eh!
So, you're probably thinking that this guy has some brass ones trying to talk about health benefits related to beer but I need to explain immediately that this is not what I'm trying to do.
I'm merely seeking to find out if there are any benefits of drinking beer or at least some beers, at all.
Any negatives I find I'll be implored to share, but I think there could be some really interesting things to be found so let's jump straight into it and try and justify having a cold one right away.
Beer, Beer, BEER!!!
What Is In Beer? - Is Beer Bad For You Or Good For You?
Most alcoholic drinks come under fire at some stage for the dangers of alcohol and probably none more so than the good ole' favorite, beer.
The truth is though, beer has an amazing history and some of what is in beer is pretty good for you, so we set out to look at the science of beer.
What this article is: A look at possible health benefits of the nutrition in beer.
What this article isn't: An excuse to drink beer in copious quantities.
Now that's settled let's find out some interesting things about beer that can help us discover what is in beer and if it is as bad as some people claim.
The History Of Beer
Beer has quite an amazing and rich history
The first-ever recorded provable instance of beer comes from archaeological digs in the Middle East where they found drinking vessels possibly dating to 3500 B.C, with beer residue on them.
Though many historians believe beer was consumed possibly thousands of years prior to the first evidence of beer being discovered, there is evidence to support this in the form of ledgers showing workers being paid in beer. (1)
It's believed beer production and its consumption blossomed during the Babylonian Empire but eventually spread through the ancient world.
Beer was so important that a prayer to the goddess Ninkasi called "Hymn To Ninkasi" contained an actual recipe for beer.
So, How Old Is Beer?
We know it's at least 5000 years old, but it could be 7000-9000 years old. No one can make an absolute statement and if they do, they're probably incorrect.
What Is The Alcohol Content Of Beer?
This is different in each beer, but if we consider the average beer in the caloric breakdown further below, the alcohol content of the average beer is around 4% on average, but it can be 5% in stronger beers and can go up to 11% in some ultra-strong beers like elephant beer.
The strongest beer ever?
Koelschip beer has 70% ABV (alcohol by volume) with makes it the strongest beer in the world.
Some reduced alcohol beers have 2-3.5%, though some non-alcoholic beers can go lower than 1% with some containing very little if no zero alcohol at all.
So, How Much Alcohol Is In Beer?
It can go as high as 70% and as low as zero.
How Much Sugar Is In Beer?
Like all components of beer, this will depend on how the beer is made and what type of beer it is.
Generally, while beer has carbs, those will not be sugary carbohydrates because the yeast in the beer converts the sugars into alcohol.
This means that many beers will actually have close to zero sugar.
Some beer is sweetened and has sugar or glucose added and therefore has some added sugar, though these beers are far less common.
How Many Carbs In Beer?
Generally, standard beers hover around 4% carbohydrate meaning 4 grams per 100ml of beer, meaning a beer may have 14 grams of carbs per serve.
Some fortified beers may have added sugar and be higher in carbs (closer to 10 grams per 100ml), but there are also beers that have less than a gram of carbs for a whole can, so it will depend entirely on the brand and beer type.
How Many Calories In Beer?
This can and will vary immensely, but the rules of calories apply. If you understand macronutrient calories, you'll be able to work it out pretty easily, though most beers except maybe a few foreign varieties will have nutritional information on the label.
Calories are as follows:
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Protein 4 calories per gram
Fat 9 calories per gram
Alcohol 7 calories per gram
For a standard beer...
What this means for an average beer is that a 350ml standard can of beer has
4 grams of carbs per 100ml
>1 gram of protein per 100ml
0 grams of fat per 100ml
4 grams of alcohol per 100ml
The "beer math" means an average can of beer is going to net around 168 calories.
For ONE beer!
At this point, you have to really compare this to food and realize that a couple of beers might have the same calories as a cheeseburger. This can lead to some serious decisions.
Once people become aware of the high caloric nature of a standard beer, they often opt for the light versions in order to reduce calories or even just so they can add that cheeseburger into their diet.
That's not a recommendation by the way.
Dropping some calories
Low carb or low alcohol beer can have under a third of the calories and there are even some beers that are low alcohol and low carb that have less than 15% of the calories, so that's something well worth thinking about.
How Does This Affect Your Beer Intake?
That's up to you, but low carb and low alcohol beers have fewer calories and a combination of both is a much healthier option.
Is There Such A Thing As A Healthy Beer?
We briefly touched on the concept of low alcohol and low carb beer in an above paragraph. Such a beer has all the nutritional benefits of beer but theoretically, with very low alcohol content and almost no carbohydrates, it could almost be considered a healthy beer. Almost being the operative word.
The problem is that no one will ever seriously call a beverage with alcohol in it a health drink, but there could be a case made that some low-alcohol beers have pretty much zero alcoholic content.
That makes things a little different.
With the nutrients in beer and no alcohol contained in the beer and working under the assumption the same beer is a very low-carb beer, you could probably say that the beer has healthful properties.
Could you call it a health drink? I'm not sure you'll find anyone brave enough to make that endorsement.
What's The Take-Away Here?
There are some good nutrients in beer and the lowest carb with the lowest alcohol variety of beer could be considered to have some health benefits.
Beer Nutrition Facts - Is Beer Good For You?
There are some pretty amazing health benefits coming directly from what is in beer. Some exist because of the fact that beer's ingredients contain very nutritious properties.
Beer made from hops may contain a particular flavonoid that goes by the name Xanthohumol. This antioxidant may have antioxidative and neuro=protective properties that can help protect the brain from the onset of degenerative mental conditions. (2)
One can of beer may provide you with 9% of your daily niacin requirements, 8% of your Vitamin B6 needs, and 5% of your RDI for folate and riboflavin.
A single can of beer can give you 5% of your magnesium and phosphorus needs as well as 3% of your potassium and selenium RDI.
Xanthohumol in beer has also been shown to have some anti-cancer properties and a possible anti-inflammatory effect. (3)
Some of these properties are quite impressive and 100% backed by scientific research making it seem that much of what is in beer is actually pretty good stuff.
So, Is Beer Good For You?
Knowing all these positive benefits, one could make the argument that even an average beer in moderation will display some possible health benefits, but lighter varieties will offer safer health advantages.
We have to also look at some of the issues hops can cause. It's pretty well known in biohacking circles that hops contain estrogenic compounds that may have hormone-disrupting effects for both men and women.
Estrogenics may cause lowered testosterone in men and these phytoestrogens in hops could contribute to hormone-affected cancers in women. (4)
So, knowing this it would seem like drinking beers that are low in hops would be the healthiest way to enjoy a cold brew.
How Much Beer Is Too Much?
This depends entirely upon the alcohol and carb content of the beer. If a beer has the standard level of alcohol then it would be normal dietary recommendations to apply to one's level of beer consumption.
If a beer is low in alcohol, you could conceivably have more.
Beer is notoriously high in carbohydrates too, which can make it a huge calorie sink, meaning too much beer will put you in serious danger of excess calorie consumption and therefore, weight gain.
What is in beer? - The contents can make a huge difference.
Low carb beer means that the beer generally has much fewer calories than a normal beer and won't likely contribute to weight gain in quite the same fashion, but if it has the standard alcohol of regular beer, normal dietary recommendations would apply.
Beer that is both low carb and low alcohol falls under a slightly more generous rule of consumption, where you can theoretically have a few more and neither suffer the effects of drinking too much alcohol or the result of too many carbs.
What Does This Mean For Beer Drinkers?
Beer that is low alcohol and low carb is the way to go if you want to have more than a couple. Too many and you could end up with a proverbial "beer belly".
What Is A Beer Belly?
The term beer belly is a colloquialism meant to describe the abdominal region of someone who may have consumed a lot of beer over a period of time that has left them with considerable fat deposits in their area.
It's basically a euphemism for being fat.
The description is most apt when describing someone who doesn't necessarily overeat but simply has gained weight via the excess consumption of beer. (5)
Some people may be offended, though some may also see this as a badge of honor to show how committed they are to their beer drinking. This can also change in a given person according to the amount of beer imbibed.
Excessive weight gain can be dangerous though, with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and weight-related pressures on the body.
Switching to lighter beer versions can help prevent further weight gain and may assist in reducing calories and the beer belly.
So, What Is A Beer Belly Again?
It's ostensibly a large tummy brought about from drinking too much beer.
Is Beer Bad For You?
It can be bad if you drink too much.
We've looked at the facts and we know that beer has some really interesting health benefits, but we also know that too much alcohol is dangerous and excess beer drinking can contribute to weight gain, not to mention it can be very costly if it becomes habitual. If you're using beer (or any alcohol) as a form of stress relief then there's a high chance of developing a dependence.
A heavy drinker with a beer belly could find themselves in poor health, with low self-esteem, sleep loss, and facing the prospect of many weight-related illnesses. On top of that, they may have an addiction as well as finding it hard to make ends meet.
For these above reasons, it's hard to dismiss the idea that beer is bad for you.
Time for an unwelcome cliche...
The truth is, it seems that the old cop-out "moderation is the key" may be a true, yet unsatisfying answer here.
A moderate beer intake will mean that the health benefits of beers are available, but the negatives get countered well.
Again, touching on lite beer options, it seems as though drinking low carb and low alcohol beer gives an individual the opportunity to have a social beer, with all of the health benefits, while drastically reducing all the potential negatives associated with beer drinking, by not having to worry about excess calories or alcohol.
So, Is Beer Bad For You Really?
Not if you play it smart by drinking in moderation and especially not if you drink better beer options.
Biohacking Your Beer
If you want to biohack your beer and make sure you get some of the health benefits that might actually be found in a moderate serve of your favorite ale then there are some things to look for:
Lower alcohol beer
Mid-strength beer can save you some alcohol calories and help to prevent some of the negative effects of alcohol consumption.
Low carb beer
There are plenty of low-carb beers that have far fewer calories than full kilojoules ales. Some of them are actually pretty palatable.
Low hops beer
To avoid the phytoestrogens in hoppy beer, it's wise to seek out a decent brew that is low in hops generally referred to as "low hops" beer - Creative name, I know.
Combining all the above.
The holy grail of biohacked beer is a low-carb, low hop, mid-strength beer. That's really the one that I drink if I happen to be in such a mood as to let my beer flag fly.
It really all depends on what you have access to and exactly how perfect you need your diet to be.
Is Beer Healthy?
The final verdict
Being at least 5000 years old, beer sure has some history. With millennia to perfect the recipe, some beers today have outstanding flavor profiles.
Beer can have a lot of calories which add up fast if you consume too many, so deciding if that next drink is worth more than a tasty snack could be a decision you face sometime soon.
Excess beer and alcohol ingurgitation can lead to weight gain, alcoholism, poverty, and illness. Sleep loss is also a concern for beer drinkers who imbibe a little too much although, biohacking your sleep just like everything else can help.
There are some fantastic health benefits of beer that have been shown to be very real and this means in moderation, beer might add some value to a diet.
For biohackers, ultra-light varieties of beer that contain very few carbs and alcohol can be a great way to enjoy a beer while removing almost all the things about beer that are bad for you.
So, in conclusion, you can enjoy a nice cold beer, but unless you go lite, aim for moderation
Is Beer Healthy? - Biohacking Your Beer
By AJ James
Biohacker & Founder
What Are Your Thoughts?
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