Love kicking back with a cold brew? You may be getting more nutrients than you think. The ingredients in beer, including hops, yeast, water and cereals, provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Further, research has linked moderate beer consumption (or no more than one 12-ounce glass of 5-percent alcohol by volume beer a day for women and two glasses a day for men) with heart and bone health, a reduced risk of diabetes and improved psychological and cognitive well-being. Let's raise a glass to the latest nutritional and health benefits of responsible beer consumption:
1. Beer contains nutrients.
Beer is 90 percent water and consists of soluble fiber and trace amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, fluoride and silicon. "Beer also has a unique antioxidant profile, with a majority coming from the malt and the remainder from the hops," says Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian in the District of Columbia who's also a beer steward with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. The nutrient composition depends on the ingredients in the beer.
2. Beer may boost bone health.
Dietary silicon, found in beer, is important for the growth and development of bone and connective tissues. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that moderate drinkers were 38 percent less likely to have osteoporosis than non-drinkers, while another study published in Osteoporosis International found that moderate drinkers had a 20 percent lower risk of hip fractures than non-drinkers. It has been suggested that beer's dietary silicon may be responsible for part of these bone-protecting effects.
3. Beer may improve cholesterol.
A 2016 study presented at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions looked at 80,000 healthy Chinese adults and found that moderate drinking was associated with a slower decrease in good cholesterol over time. But here's one case where more isn't better: The study also found that heavy drinking eliminated this benefit.
4. Beer may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Several studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption with a 30 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to not drinking or heavy drinking. Why that seems to be the case, however, is still being studied.
5. Beer may boost cognitive and psychological health.
Some Parkinson's disease research suggests that light to moderate drinking in middle to late life is associated with less cognitive decline than not drinking or heavy drinking. The reasons behind this correlation are not well understood. Drinking beer in moderation also has psychological benefits. Studies have found it can help reduce stress and tension, and increase feelings of well-being.
Jumping on board the beer train doesn't necessarily mean drinking it; you can cook with it too. Doing so incorporates a delicious, subtle, sweet flavor from the hops and malt. Further, when alcohol, including beer, is exposed to heat, some of the alcohol dissipates. The longer the dish is cooked, the less alcohol is retained. If a dish with beer has been simmering for an hour, for example, only 25 percent of the alcohol will be retained. Here are several ways to use beer in cooking:
- Use darker beers like Guinness in stews and chili.
- Add a hint of beer to a lighter macaroni and cheese made with roasted cauliflower and whole-grain pasta.
- Add beer to sauteed vegetables, such as green beans or onions, while cooking on the stovetop.
- Add beer to marinades for beef, pork and chicken.
Keep in mind that alcohol has a different effect on everyone. "According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol's effects vary from person to person, and depend on how much you drink, how often you drink, your age, health status and family history," Dubost says. As such, the guidelines for moderate consumption are just that: guidelines. If you feel they're too high for you, drink less than what's recommended. If you feel they're too low for you, tough luck: Drinking beer (or any alcohol) in excess can lead to negative consequences including increased risk of diseases of major organs (like the liver), violence, crime, accidents and addiction.
The bottom line? Beer can be part of a healthy eating plan – if consumed in moderation. Beer also imparts a delicious flavor to dishes, which is a nice way to incorporate it for slightly fewer calories and less alcohol. Cheers!
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