Sometimes there’s nothing better than cracking open a cold one after a long day.
We tend to view beer as an indulgence — maybe because we associate all those suds with a beer gut and inevitable weight gain. But you’ll be happy to hear that, when consumed in moderation (we repeat, moderation), the benefits of beer go far beyond helping you wind down after a stressful week.
What exactly constitutes “drinking in moderation," anyway? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol consumption as having one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. While research does show there is room for imbibing as part of a balanced, healthy diet, they also advise not to start drinking if you currently abstain.
But if you do keep a six-pack in the fridge, crack open a cold one and say "cheers" to these health benefits!
It contributes to our daily nutrient intake
Many experts agree that beer is more like a food than a beverage — after all, it is referred to as liquid bread. While that does mean you need to be mindful of how many calories you’re sipping in each glass, it also means the liquid contains some good-for-you nutrients.
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According to one study, “beer contains more protein and B vitamins than wine. The antioxidant content of beer is equivalent to that of wine, but the specific antioxidants are different because the barley and hops used in the production of beer contain flavonoids different from those in the grapes used in the production of wine.”
Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, also claims that beer trumps wine when it comes to B vitamins, phosphorus, folate and niacin. Beer also has significant protein and some fiber. And it is one of a few significant dietary sources of silicon, which research shows can help prevent osteoporosis. Preliminary research by Bamforth also suggests that beer may contain prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in our gut.
It may lower your risk of diabetes
A new study published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes found that people who drink 3 to 4 times per week were less likely to develop diabetes than those who never drink. And when compared to those who didn't drink beer, men who enjoyed between one and six beers per week had a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes.
It may make your heart healthier
Wine tends to be the choice on the bar menu associated with a healthy heart. But there’s reason to love beer for the same reason. A preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2016 followed 80,000 participants for six years and found that moderate drinkers had the slowest decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, levels — and in turn, a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research also shows that of men who have already suffered a heart attack, those that drank beer moderately were 42 percent less likely to die of heart disease.
A report from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study also confirmed that moderate drinkers were 30 to 35 percent less likely to have had a heart attack than non-drinkers. The study also found that men who drank every day had a lower risk of heart attack than those who drank once or twice a week.
It may build stronger bones
Move over milk — there’s a new bone-building beverage in the fridge. A review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that moderate beer consumption leads to increased bone density in men. No, it’s not the buzz that’s helping those bones grow: it’s the silicon found in your pint, which is an essential mineral for bone formation.
It may boost brain power
Another benefit of having silicon on the ingredients list? It helps protect your brain from compounds thought to eventually cause cognitive diseases. Which may be why researchers at Loyola University in Chicago found that moderate beer drinkers are 23 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who don’t drink beer. Another explanation: Beer is shown to raise good cholesterol which improves blood flow to the brain.
And ordering a few pints may give you a boost at trivia night. According to one study, people with a slight beer buzz solved puzzles faster than their sober counterparts. In fact, alcohol made subjects almost 30 percent more likely to find the unexpected solution.
It cleans your teeth
A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that beer can keep bacteria from forming — and growing — on your teeth. The researchers tested the effects of beer extracts on the bacteria that form biofilm and promote tooth decay and gum disease, and found that even the weakest extract of beer tested blocked the activity of bacteria. Beer was also one of the best extracts for blocking communication between bacteria, which slows their growth. Good old Guinness was the beer they used in testing — another reason to channel your inner Irishman at the bar.
It may reduce inflammation
Next time your spouse asks why you’re still at the bar, tell them you’re fighting inflammation.
Inflammation in the body is the underlying cause behind many diseases, and according to a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, hops (an essential ingredient in beer) has anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers compared the anti-inflammatory effect of different hops and found that the consumption of hops in beer form interfered with inflammation causing compounds.
It may help you live longer
A study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas found that people who drink heavily live longer than those who don’t. But don't use it as a license to binge drink this weekend because heavy alcohol use can negatively impact your health. The jury is still out, but studies suggest that a healthy amount of beer can add years to your life, given that it positively impacts cholesterol levels, lowers your risk of diabetes and strengthens your heart.
Also, drinking beer tends to be a group activity, which may play a role in its health benefits as well, since science shows having an active social life is linked to a longer lifespan.
Regardless of the reason why, we’ll take it as a reason to crack open a cold one tonight.