Beer lovers, take a seat: The effects of beer on your body are pretty complicated. The widely beloved beverage can have a pretty significant impact on your overall health goals, so it's smart to educate yourself thoroughly before you consume.
The bad effects of beer include spiking your blood sugar, impeding your weight loss and putting stress on your liver and pancreas if you drink it in excess.
Beer Nutrition Facts
Beer has a crisp, refreshing taste that many people crave with a meal or after a long day at work. The alcoholic beverage comes in nearly endless varieties, from dark and sour to sweet and citrusy. Because of this, the nutritional profile of beer also differs greatly depending on which type you choose to drink.
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For lighter, drier beers, you can expect a calorie count between 60 and 120 calories, especially when it comes to those designed to be healthier alternatives to heavier beers. Dark beers have between 100 and 300 calories. They also usually contain a higher carbohydrate count, and thus aren't the optimal choice for anyone dieting or watching their carb intake.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, regular beer contains approximately 12.6 grams of carbohydrates per can. By themselves, carbs aren't anything to fear — but in this case, they are relatively empty calories with little to no nutritional value for your body. Even just a few drinks per day with dinner can add hundreds of calories to your daily diet, so make sure you're mindful of how these drinks are affecting your body.
Beer doesn't actually have sugar, but simple carbohydrates are processed in your body in much the same way — so it can still spike your blood sugar. These effects become more pronounced the more you drink in one sitting.
Read more: Is Eating Carbs REALLY Bad for Me?
Disadvantages of Drinking Beer
If you're trying to lose weight, the effects of beer won't be particularly helpful to you in achieving your goals. You can still consume it in moderation if you choose, but opt for a variety that is low in calories and carbohydrates so as not to sabotage your own progress.
Like any alcoholic beverage, beer can be problematic for your health when you consume it in excess. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men (defined as 12 fluid ounces of beer). At this amount, most people can reap the positive benefits of the drink without experiencing the negative ones.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism warns that excess beer consumption can have some pretty scary consequences in the long run. It puts stress on your liver and pancreas, which can lead to inflammation, and it can do damage to your heart health and contribute to high blood pressure and stroke. Studies have also shown a connection between high alcohol consumption and different forms of cancer.
If you're drinking six beers a day, you're not doing any favors for your body in the short or long term. For some people, they may find that moderation is possible for them and helps them lose weight more easily — for others, total abstention is the health choice that makes the most sense. Each person ultimately has to make the decision that best fits with his or her lifestyle.
Read more: Does Drinking Alcohol Slow Your Metabolism?
Benefits of Beer
Though beer may not seem like a nutritionally smart choice, it actually has some surprising health benefits when consumed in moderation. Wine typically gets the reputation of the healthiest alcoholic beverage because of its polyphenol compounds that can prevent serious cardiovascular diseases and cancer. But one advantage of beer is that it contains these chemical compounds as well, just in lower amounts.
According to some studies, beer actually contains the same number of antioxidants as wine, though the antioxidants themselves are slightly different. But beer contains slightly more protein and a higher vitamin B count than wine as well. While this isn't a clear indicator that it's a "better" drink of choice, it certainly shows a bit of evidence that beer isn't all bad.
Studies as recently as 2016 have revealed that moderate beer consumption can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (other types of alcohol are said to do this too). Still, if you don't drink, you don't need to start doing so for health reasons.
There are plenty of other ways to protect your cardiovascular health, such as regular exercise and a nutrient-rich diet. Small amounts of beer have health benefits, sure — but that doesn't cancel out the potential ways it can mess with your diet goals.
Read more: What Vitamins Does Beer Have?
Effects of Beer
Ultimately, whether and how much beer you choose to consume depends on your health goals and interests. Beer also affects people differently depending on their weight, size and biological sex, so what counts as moderate for you may not be the same for another person. Check your nutritional labels before you consume, so you keep track of the amount of alcohol that you're drinking in each beverage.
Keep in mind that "one standard drink" is not always the amount of beer you'll be served in one glass. Some varieties contain more alcohol than others, as well as more carbohydrates and calories. In general, it's best to stick with lighter beers when you drink if you're trying to lessen the negative effects of alcohol on your body.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that people who abstain from alcohol should continue to abstain — there's no need to start drinking beer for your health. At the same time, for those who do drink beer regularly, the guide states that this should be done in combination with a healthy, balanced diet.
Beer by itself will not be the thing that makes or breaks your wellness goals, but it's one piece of a larger puzzle that makes up your overall health. It's neither all bad or all good, and it should be consumed with the knowledge of all the different ways it can affect you. Moderation is an important component of any healthy diet, and only you can make the choice about what amount of beer (if any) works for you.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: "Calories in Alcohol"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "National Nutrient Database"
- Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice: "The Short-Term Effect of Alcoholic Beverage-Intake on Blood Glucose Levels in Type 2 Diabetic Patients"
- Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research: "Blood Glucose Level, Alcohol Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Craving During Treatment for Alcohol Dependence: Results From the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence (COMBINE) Study"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 9. Alcohol"
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Alcohol's Effects on the Body"
- National Cancer Institute: "Alcohol and Cancer Risk"
- Oregon State University Micronutrient Information Center: "Resveratrol"
- Nutrients: "Wine, Beer, Alcohol and Polyphenols on Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer"
- American Journal of the Medical Sciences: "Nutritional and Health Benefits of Beer"
- Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases: "Effects of Moderate Beer Consumption on Health and Disease: A Consensus Document"