Red wine usually gets credit as the healthier tipple. But what about beer? Does it have any of the same health benefits that wine can confer? Or some of its own? Since Oktoberfest is upon us, I decided to find out. Beer does have some health boons (more on that below), but before raising a toast to this bubbly beverage, a caveat is in order: While moderate drinking can protect against some diseases, it can also increase your risk of certain diseases (women who drink any amount of alcohol, for instance, have a higher risk of breast cancer than those who are teetotalers). If you drink, make sure you stick to the recommendations for “moderate” drinking — no more than one drink a day for women, two for men. A drink counts as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol. Drink more than that and your risk for disease and ill health starts to jump.
Now for the good news:
It’s a hearty drink: Any type of alcohol in moderate amounts can help lower your risk of heart disease by helping to lower blood pressure and increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol.
It has nutrients: Beer is made from grains, such as barley, so it makes sense that it contains some of the same nutrients you’d find in grains, including B vitamins, protein and even fiber. A 12-ounce beer has 1 to 2 grams of protein and up to 1 gram of fiber (which isn’t all that much, but still!). Darker beer tends to have more fiber than lighter beer.
It’s a bone builder: Beer contains silicon, a compound that helps create strong bones. Silicon is also found in cereals, whole grains and green beans. Beer also has phosphorous and magnesium — two other minerals in your body that are needed for building bones. Too much alcohol can weaken bones, though, so again, keep it moderate.
It lowers your risk of certain diseases: Like wine, moderate beer drinking is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. The antioxidants in beer are likely responsible for these effects. Beer is made from barley and hops, which give beer a different antioxidant profile than wine, which is usually made from grapes.
It’s hydrating: Since beer has less alcohol per volume than wine or spirits, a serving of it counts toward your total water intake for the day. Alcohol is dehydrating in larger amounts, though, so if you’re drinking more than one beer, or another type of alcoholic beverage, make sure to drink water too!
It’s good for your kidneys: Some research has shown that men who drink beer — compared with other types of alcohol — have a lower risk of kidney stones. Apparently the combination of high water content and being a diuretic might help keep kidneys healthy.