Forget about those tired old “Got Milk?” ads. In the future, you might see your favorite celebrities sporting beer foam on their upper lips. From protecting against osteoporosis and heart disease to providing the body with a source of energy, numerous studies are discovering that drinking beer isn’t as bad as we thought.
“[Beer] is sort of like a food drink because it’s so filling. It’s like bread because it’s starchy and high in carbohydrates,” said Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, a certified Sports Nutrition Expert and Sports Nutritionist at the University of Miami. Drinking 12 ounces of beer is the equivalent of eating two slices of bread, and the carbohydrates in beer, like those in bread, are used as an energy source for the brain, the blood and the muscles, Dorfman said.
Beer provides carbohydrates that can be metabolized efficiently by the body for a quick source of energy. However, carbohydrates are stored as fat when your energy intake exceeds your energy needs. Hence the “beer belly” appears.
Along with providing the body with an energy source, the grains in beer may also help protect against osteoporosis. While it’s still no substitute for a glass of milk, beer has been found to contain ingredients that aid in strengthening bones. A study conducted at Tufts University in 2004 concluded that the grains in beer provide the body with an easily absorbable form of the mineral silicon. Silicon allows the deposit of calcium and other minerals into the bone tissue.
Studies conducted in recent years have also shown that beer may have a number of cardio-protective effects. The grains in beer make it rich in B Vitamins, such as folic acid and, according to the American Dietetic Association, the B vitamins in beer may lower the blood levels of amino acids that increase the risk of heart disease.
Like red wine, beer also contains antioxidants that reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to Dorfman, however, the antioxidants in beer may be more limited than those in red wine and specific to a particular brewing process.
Although wine defeats beer in the antioxidant category, drinking beer still has a few advantages over drinking wine. “Beer doesn’t open appetite like other forms of alcohol, since it is low in simple sugars that are found in wine or mixed drinks with Red Bull or fruit juice,” Dorfman said. Additionally, these sugars found in the other drinks tend to cause nausea and hangovers, especially in women.
The relatively low alcohol content of beer also makes it a healthier choice (physically and emotionally) than other alcoholic beverages. Wine is 11 to 14 percent alcohol while the alcohol content of beer is only 4 to 6 percent.
This does not mean you should order up that extra pitcher at Tavern or consider a liquid beer diet. Even though the grains in beer can provide some health benefits, beer should still be consumed only in moderate amounts to limit the harmful effects of alcohol.
Consuming high amounts of alcohol negates all of the positive effects small quantities of beer can have, along with the fact that alcohol can induce a number of other health complications such as liver failure.
“Moderation is defined as 12 ounces a day for women and 24 ounces a day for men,” Dorfman said. “Beer is a great energizer and very refreshing, but only in moderation.” If you’re over 21, that is.
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