Dietitian’s Mailbag #8: Top O' The Morning Brew Ya!

Happy (almost) St. Paddy’s Day, everyone! If you’re anything like EAT Club eater Andrew S., you’ve got beer on the brain. But Andrew isn’t so sure if he should be pouring himself another pint of Irish stout. He writes,

“Lately, I’ve gotten really into artisanal beers and microbreweries. There are so many interesting craft brews to try, and I find myself drinking a lot more beer than I used to. Should I be worried about this negatively impacting my health?”

Certainly most of us correlate drinking beer with developing a beer gut. Homer Simpson probably best embodies the concept. But are we all doomed to end up with beer bellies of our own or worse, just from throwing a few cold ones back now and then?

While there’s no question that excessive alcohol intake or binge drinking can be detrimental to health, the answer isn’t so obvious regarding drinking in moderation. In fact, emerging research has linked beer with some surprising health benefits.

  1. Drink up to decrease your risk of heart disease
    Most of us associate antioxidants with fresh fruits and vegetables, but hops and malt in beer provide antioxidative effects, too. These key ingredients in beer contain naturally occurring compounds known as polyphenols, which can contribute to keeping your heart healthy. Believe it or not, beer also adds some soluble fiber to your intake, which can help lower cholesterol, minimizing risk of heart disease. Furthermore, beer appears to increase “good cholesterol” (HDL) levels---but this goes for any type of alcohol, so it isn’t a benefit exclusive to beer.
  1. Sip on for strong bones
    Beer is one of few significant dietary sources of silicon, which may help thwart osteoporosis by boosting bone mineral density. Want to know what type of beer to drink for optimal silicon content? UC Davis researchers analyzed hundreds of beers and found that India Pale Ales, or IPAs, had the highest silicon content. This was following by ales in general, regular lagers, and light lagers, respectively.
  1. Libate to lower your risk of developing kidney stones
    True story: libate is a word. And also, sorry, ladies. This one just goes for the fellas out there. Research suggests that compounds in hops slow the release of calcium from the bones, thus reducing likelihood of kidney stone formation.

It’s important to remember that, despite these health benefits, alcohol is relatively high in calories, contributing 7 calories per gram (only trumped by fat, which contributes 9 calories per gram). To best harness the health benefits of beer, and to avoid overdoing it on the calories, drink in moderation. That means up to 2 beers (12 ounces each) per day for men, and up to 1 beer per day for women.

And remember to eat a balanced diet and to stay active. Beer often gets paired with deep-fried, high-fat foods and activities that center on sitting. Beer may not to blame for the beer belly, but rather what comes with it... something Homer might know a thing or two about.

Cheers from EAT Club!

Shira healthy pick face stamp
Shira Katz, M.S., R.D. is the former EAT Club Staff Dietitian
You can follow Shira on Twitter @SunnySideHealth