Let’s be honest, you’re not going to get a big nutritional boost from drinking beer, but you’ll probably still drink it anyway. UnityPoint Health dietitian, Tricia Leininger, says that’s OK. However, she wants to arm you with a few tips, so you make better decisions when ordering from the bartender.
Calories in Beer
Calories in beers vary depending on the beer and the maker. Leininger says beer generally has about 150 calories, whereas light beer calories range from 50 to 100 calories for a 12 ounce serving. (By the way, one pint is 16 ounces.)
“Calories in beer come from two components – alcohol and carbohydrates (starches and sugar from unfermented grain),” Leininger says. “The calories in beer are mostly influenced by the alcohol content. Light beer has fewer calories via less alcohol content.”
Leininger says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes up to one serving a day of alcohol for women and two servings a day for men. A serving is defined as 12 ounces of beer that is five percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Leininger says if you look at the beer nutrition facts, most domestic beers contain about five percent ABV.
“Another option is to select a non-alcoholic beer, which is less than 0.5 percent ABV per 12 ounce serving. You would have to consume 10 non-alcoholic beers to equal the amount of alcohol in one regular domestic beer,” Leininger says.
She adds you should be aware of beers with higher alcohol content. Specialty brewer beers may contain seven percent ABV, thus a serving size is a smaller eight ounces.
“If you desire a low-carb beer to save on calories, look for wording indicating light beer or calories under 120,” Leininger says.
Beer Sugar Content
“Beer sugar content is minimal, if at all. The fermentation of the yeast turns the sugars into alcohol,” Leininger says.
You might be wondering about those beers boasting added flavors of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit or even cookie dough.
“Specialty flavored beers might have some added calories from sugar, depending on the process used to flavor. However, calorie contribution is generally a small amount,” Leininger says.
Beer Benefits & Beer Warnings
Leininger says, unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of reasons to drink beer for health. She says the most notable beer benefit is alcohol may increase your HDL or good cholesterol levels. The bad comes into the picture when we talk about excessive drinking or binge drinking. Plus, any excessive calorie intake compared to calories burned will result in weight gain.
“Excess calories from carbohydrate, protein, fat or alcohol will result in those excess calories being stored as body fat and contribute to weight gain,” Leininger says.
She notes that drinking five light beers can add up to 500 calories or more. Also, Leininger notes drinking often results in hunger and a tendency to eat more food during or after alcohol consumption.
“Pizza establishments or all night restaurants are aware of serving the late night crowd after the bars close,” Leininger says.
Besides worrying about an expanding wasteline, those who regularly drink beer excessively are at an increased risk for a number added health concerns. Leininger says the health concerns include increased risks of:
- Liver disease
- Cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon and breast
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- Heart failure
If you have any questions about your alcohol intake, reach out and talk to your primary care provider.
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