What is the best way to ring in the New Year for your health? Despite being blamed for many pot bellies, beer is more nutritious than wine, and most other alcoholic beverages.
It’s referred to as “liquid bread” for good reason. Beer has more selenium and B vitamins than wine, as well as a higher level of folate, niacin, and phosphorous than wine.
Beer is also rich in protein and fiber. It is also one of the few significant sources of silicon in the diet, as studies show can help to prevent osteoporosis.
Initial research also suggests that beer might contain prebiotics, which are nutrients for our good bacteria in the digestive tract. Both wine and beer contain antioxidants.
Additionally, resveratrol (a molecule found in red wine and chocolate) may not offer much in the small amounts we normally get from food and drinks. The way the wine industry promoted red wine as being healthy, and making it seem like drinking beer only leads to a beer belly, was pretty clever.
Also, the antioxidants in wine might not be as easily absorbed as those in beer, for example, compounds such as ferulic acid. Beer is able to deliver more antioxidants to the body, but the levels found in beers can vary.
Contrary to common belief, the color of beer also has no effect on its nutritional content. A pint of Guinness will have about the same nutrients as a Budweiser Lager.
Craft beer is also not healthier than mass-produced Lagers. They too are made with natural sugars from grains and very few artificial additives.
And what about that notorious beer belly? Remember, alcohol has about 7 calories per gram, which is nearly the same as fat (which has 9 calories per gram). After a few bottles, those calories can quickly add up, with approximately 150 calories per 12-ounce glass of beer containing 5% alcohol.
Beer itself shouldn’t be blamed for big stomachs. Beer drinkers who are obese or overweight are likely to have eaten too much bar food and spent too many hours on the couch.
Craft beers make it more difficult to calculate calories, however. Many IPAs, Imperial Stouts, Belgian styles, and bocks contain 8-9% alcohol. These types of beers, especially bitter, hoppy beers, tend to be sweeter with more calories from carbohydrates (adding an additional 4 calories per gram).
Although beer has fewer carbs than bread, it still has more carbs compared to wine. A 5 0z. glass of wine contains only 1-2 grams of carbs, but a 12 oz. glass of a 5% alcohol beer contains between 10-20 grams of carbs, or 40-80 additional calories.
Your calories will balloon when you increase the ABV. A 12-ounce Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine has a 9.6 % ABV and contains approximately 300 calories – and 200 of those calories are from alcohol.
Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA is the most calorie-dense beer. It contains 20% alcohol, twice as much as Bigfoot. A single bottle can contain over 500 calories. This is around the same amount of energy you would get from four glasses of wine.
For some, a higher alcohol content enhances flavor, which makes the additional calories worthwhile. Bottom line, beer has more nutrients and calories, as well as B vitamins, compared to wine. It’s closer to being a food than wine or spirits.
And drinking is good for your heart health. A man should drink two to three drinks per day, while a woman should have one to two. One drink is either a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce bottle of 5 percent alcohol beer.
Drinking too much, though, can cause liver damage and even fatal alcohol poisoning.