If you avoid alcohol or limit your intake, non-alcoholic beer may seem like a promising option.

It tastes similar to beer but contains significantly less alcohol. Many non-alcoholic beers are even advertised as having 0.0% alcohol.

However, there are some downsides to non-alcoholic beer, particularly for pregnant women.

This article explains everything you need to know about non-alcoholic beer, including how it’s made, its nutrient and alcohol contents, and whether it’s safe to drink while pregnant.

Non-alcoholic beer is beer that contains very little to no alcohol.

By law, non-alcoholic beers sold in the United States can contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), but many brands claim to offer 0.0% ABV (1).

Although numerous methods of production exist, most non-alcoholic beer is made by removing the alcohol from regular beer (2, 3, 4).

One method involves heating the beer, but this can significantly alter the flavor. Sometimes beer is heated inside a powerful vacuum that lowers the boiling point to preserve its taste.

Another method involves straining out the alcohol using a filter so fine that only water and alcohol can pass through. Liquid is then added back to the remaining ingredients.

Once the alcohol is removed, the beer is flat. Carbon dioxide must be added to carbonate it, much like what happens with soda.

In addition, sugar is often included to improve the taste.

summary

Non-alcoholic beer is made by removing the alcohol from regular beer. Despite its name, it may legally contain small amounts of alcohol.

Non-alcoholic and regular beers are similar in terms of their calorie, protein, and fat content but differ significantly in their carb and alcohol content.

This table compares the nutrients in 12 ounces (350 ml) of regular and non-alcoholic beer (5, 6):

Regular beerNon-alcoholic beer
Calories153133
Alcohol14 grams1 gram
Protein2 grams1 gram
Fat0 grams0 grams
Carbs13 grams29 grams

Although non-alcoholic beer boasts only a fraction of the alcohol as regular beer, it contains a similar number of calories.

This is because non-alcoholic beer packs more than twice the carbs as regular beer, mostly in the form of sugar ⁠— which helps improve the taste once the alcohol has been removed.

In addition, both types offer small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins.

Types of non-alcoholic beer

Countless non-alcoholic beers are available, but they can all be divided into two categories.

The first category is alcohol-free beer. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), truly alcohol-free beer must contain no detectable levels of alcohol. These beers should be labeled 0.0% ABV (1).

The other category is non-alcoholic beer, which can contain up to 0.5% ABV. All non-alcoholic beers with any detectable amount of alcohol would fall into this category (1).

summary

In general, non-alcoholic brews contain over twice the number of carbs as regular beer — mostly in the form of added sugar. While some can legally harbor up to 0.5% ABV, others are supposed to have no alcohol at all.

Surprisingly, non-alcoholic beer often contains more alcohol than its label claims.

One study of 45 non-alcoholic beverages revealed that nearly 30% of them harbored more alcohol than stated. This same study found that 6 beers labeled 0.0% ABV did contain alcohol — at levels up to 1.8% ABV (7).

In addition, researchers have shown that drinking non-alcoholic beer can sharply increase your blood alcohol level in certain rare instances, as well as lead some individuals to test positive for alcohol metabolites in their urine or breath (8, 9, 10).

Therefore, labels of 0.0% ABV should be taken with a grain of salt — and even beers that claim to offer 0.5% ABV or less may provide significantly more.

summary

Many non-alcoholic beers contain more alcohol than their labels claim. Keep this in mind if you must abstain completely from alcohol.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), drinking alcohol while pregnant is a leading cause of birth defects (11).

ACOG recommends zero alcohol intake during pregnancy to eliminate the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), an umbrella term for a variety of problems that can develop if your child is exposed to alcohol in the womb (12).

The most severe form of FASD is called fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s characterized by facial abnormalities, stunted growth, and behavioral and mental disabilities (12).

Although this condition is almost exclusively attributed to chronically high intakes of alcohol during pregnancy, no safe level of alcohol intake has been established for pregnant women (12).

Should you drink non-alcoholic beer while pregnant?

Because of the risks involved, you should avoid non-alcoholic beer while pregnant.

Many non-alcoholic beers contain more alcohol than they claim, with some packing nearly 2% ABV (7).

It’s unknown exactly how much alcohol must be consumed to affect an unborn baby, so the safest choice is to steer clear of non-alcoholic beer while pregnant.

summary

Drinking alcohol while pregnant may cause birth defects and other severe disorders. As such, you should avoid non-alcoholic beer if you’re pregnant, as it often contains small amounts of alcohol.

You may wonder whether non-alcoholic beer is right for you.

It’s a great option for people looking to reduce their alcohol intake. Yet, pregnant women and anyone recovering from alcoholism should avoid it.

One promising, 6-month study in 90 people with alcohol-related liver disease found that those who drank non-alcoholic beer were more likely to remain abstinent from regular alcoholic beverages than those who did not drink non-alcoholic beer (13).

However, non-alcoholic beer isn’t a good option for people looking to reduce their calorie intake, as it often provides a similar number of calories as regular beer due to its added sugar.

Finally, given that some products labeled 0.0% ABV may still contain small amounts of alcohol, non-alcoholic beer cannot be considered a safe choice for individuals recovering from alcoholism.

Potential side effects

Because most non-alcoholic beers contain some alcohol, you run a slight risk of alcohol intoxication if you drink them in excess. That said, it would be nearly impossible to drink enough to become heavily intoxicated.

In rare cases, people with alcohol-related liver damage may experience significantly higher blood alcohol levels after drinking non-alcoholic beer (8).

Non-alcoholic beer may also cause some people to test positive for alcohol in their urine or breath (9, 10).

summary

Non-alcoholic beer is a great option for people looking to reduce their alcohol intake. However, you should avoid it if you’re recovering from alcoholism, pregnant, or trying to lower your daily calorie count.

Non-alcoholic beer is typically made by removing the alcohol from regular beer.

Although it has much less alcohol, it still may harbor small amounts — making this drink unsafe for pregnant women and anyone recovering from alcoholism. In addition, it usually contains more sugar than regular beer.

Still, if you’re simply looking for ways to reduce your alcohol intake, non-alcoholic beer can be a good option.