Beer is increasingly subject to bad publicity on health grounds, yet until relatively recently it was considered the temperance option in relation to other alcoholic beverages, and was seen as healthy and nutritious, and served in hospital to post natal mothers. Much of previous health claims are probably unfounded, but government warnings about the harmful effects of alcohol lump beer in with other drinks while ignoring some very positive qualities of beer.
Hops are unique to beer and distinguish it from other alcoholic drinks. Hops are anti-microbial and one reason beer is so resistant to microbial spoilage. A number of food spoilage organisms such as listeria, staphylococcus, streptococcus and clostridia are killed by hop acids. Other organisms which can survive hop acids are sensitive to alcohol, low pH and the low oxygen concentration. Organisms which can survive in beer such as lactobacilli and acetobacilli will give haze and off-flavours but are not harmful.
Beer has a calorific value similar to milk. Much of the energy is derived from alcohol, and residual carbohydrate and protein. In milk energy is derived from protein and fat.
The main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage is alcohol. Beer is at the low end of the scale in relation to alcohol content and therefore is the least fattening for a given amount of liquid. The beer belly is a myth and is caused by total intake. Consume more than the body needs and fat will develop.
Barley cell walls contribute dietary fibre. Beer containes between 0.3 and 1g/100 ml of fibre. Fibre contributes to the healthy functioning of the large intestine and the beta-glucans in fibre can lower levels of cholesterol and protect against heart disease.
Most beers contain at least 90% water. Workers in heavy industry would traditionally consume beer rather than plain water. Low alcohol beers can rapidly replace water lost in perspiration, whilst replacing calories to restore energy levels.
Alcohol appears to confer distinct health benefits. A large number of studies have shown that there are fewer deaths from all causes amongst drinkers who consume one or two drinks per day compared to those who drink no alcohol and those who drink in excess of five drinks per day. Alcohol is beneficial in that it protects against heart disease and reduces the likelihood of blood clotting.
Beer contains significant amounts of B vitamins. One pint can contain 10 to 20% of the daily requirements of niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine and folate.
Beer is high in silicate, which has been linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Beer also contains antioxidants, of which ferulic acid is important.
Alcohol Units Calculator
Type the volume of beer in millilitres and the abv. Click on Calculate.
N.B One pint = 568 ml. One unit = half pint of 3.5% abv
One unit = 10ml of pure alcohol by volume. Therefore half a pint of 3.6% abv beer provides one unit of alcohol.