People around the world have been drinking beer for thousands of years.
Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage made by brewing and fermenting cereal grains with yeast, hops, and other flavoring agents. Most types of beer contain 4–6% alcohol, but the beverage can range from 0.5–40%.
Because emerging research has shown that moderate amounts of wine may have health benefits, many people wonder if beer can be good for you.
This article explores the nutrition of beer, as well as its potential benefits and downsides.
Though beer is often viewed as empty calories, it contains some minerals and vitamins.
Below is a nutrition comparison of 12 ounces (355 mL) of standard and light beer (
|Standard beer||Light beer|
|Protein||1.6 grams||0.9 grams|
|Fat||0 grams||0 grams|
|Carbs||13 grams||6 grams|
|Niacin||9% of the Daily Value (DV)||9% of the DV|
|Riboflavin||7% of the DV||7% of the DV|
|Choline||7% of the DV||6% of the DV|
|Folate||5% of the DV||5% of the DV|
|Magnesium||5% of the DV||4% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||4% of the DV||3% of the DV|
|Selenium||4% of the DV||3% of the DV|
|Vitamin B12||3% of the DV||3% of the DV|
|Pantothenic acid||3% of the DV||2% of the DV|
|Alcohol||13.9 grams||11 grams|
In addition, both types contain small amounts of potassium, calcium, thiamine, iron, and zinc. The content of B vitamins and minerals is a result of beer being made from cereal grains and yeast.
Notably, light beer has around two-thirds of the calories of regular beer and slightly less alcohol.
Though beer contains small amounts of micronutrients, it isn’t a good source compared with whole foods like fruits and vegetables. You would need to drink massive amounts of beer to reach your daily nutrient requirements.
Beer contains a variety of B vitamins and minerals because it’s made from cereal grains and yeast. However, whole foods like fruits and vegetables are a better source. You shouldn’t use beer to reach your daily nutrient needs.
Light to moderate beer intake may be linked to some health benefits.
May benefit your heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States (
Several studies suggest that light to moderate beer and alcohol intake may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
A 12-week study in 36 adults with overweight found that moderate beer intake — one drink for women, two drinks for men per day — improved the antioxidant properties of HDL (good) cholesterol while also improving the body’s ability to remove cholesterol (
A large review stated that low to moderate beer intake — up to one drink per day in women, up to two for men — could lower heart disease risk to a similar extent as wine (
However, it’s important to note that these potential benefits are related to light to moderate intake only. On the other hand, heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke (
May improve blood sugar control
Light to moderate alcohol intake may improve blood sugar control, an issue for many people with diabetes.
Several studies have found that light to moderate alcohol intake appears to reduce insulin resistance — a risk factor for diabetes — as well as the overall risk for developing type 2 diabetes (
What’s more, a large study in over 70,500 participants associated moderate alcohol intake — 14 drinks per week for men and nine drinks per week for women — with a 43% and 58% lower risk of diabetes for men and women, respectively (
However, heavy and binge drinking can counter these benefits and significantly increase the risk of diabetes (
It’s also important to note that this potential benefit doesn’t apply to beers and other alcoholic beverages that contain high amounts of sugar.
Other potential benefits
Light to moderate beer intake may be associated with these benefits:
- May aid bone density. Low to moderate beer intake may be linked to stronger bones in men and postmenopausal women (
11, 12, 13).
- May lower dementia risk. Light to moderate alcohol intake may lower the risk of dementia. However, heavy alcohol intake can instead increase the risk (
Light to moderate beer intake may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, improved blood sugar control, stronger bones, and reduced dementia risk. However, heavy and binge drinking has the opposite effects.
Though light to moderate beer intake has potential benefits, heavy intake and binge drinking can be extremely harmful.
Below are some of the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol:
- Increased risk of death. Heavy and binge drinkers have a higher risk of early death than moderate drinkers and nondrinkers (
- Alcohol dependence. Frequent alcohol consumption can lead to dependence and alcohol use disorder (
- Increased risk of depression. Research suggests heavy and binge drinkers have a significantly higher risk of depression compared with moderate drinkers and nondrinkers (
- Liver disease. Research suggests drinking more than 30 grams of alcohol — found in two to three 12-ounce or 355-mL bottles of beer — daily can raise your risk of liver diseases like cirrhosis, a condition characterized by scarring (
- Weight gain. A standard 12-ounce (355-mL) beer contains around 153 calories, so consuming multiple drinks can contribute to weight gain (
- Cancers. Research associates any alcohol intake with an increased risk of cancers, including throat and mouth cancers (
23, 24, 25).
To reduce the risk of negative health consequences, it’s best to limit your intake to no more than one standard drink per day for women and two for men (
In the United States, a standard drink contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is the amount typically found in 12 ounces (355 mL) of regular beer, 5 ounces (150 mL) of wine, or 1.5 ounces (45 mL) of spirit (
Heavy beer and alcohol intake has several negative effects, including a higher risk of early death, alcohol dependence, depression, liver disease, weight gain, and cancers.
In short, the health effects of drinking beer are mixed.
Though small amounts may be associated with benefits, heavy or binge drinking is associated with negative health effects. These include an increased risk of alcohol use disorder, depression, liver disease, weight gain, cancers, and death.
Keep in mind that even though drinking alcohol may offer some benefits, you can achieve the same positive effects by enjoying a varied nutrient-rich diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
Compared with standard beer, light beer contains a similar amount of vitamins and minerals but slightly fewer calories and less alcohol. This makes light beer a better option if you’re deciding between the two.
On a final note, some people wonder if drinking beer after a workout can aid their recovery.
While some evidence shows that drinking a low alcohol beer with electrolytes can improve rehydration, other studies have shown that alcohol can hinder muscle growth and recovery (
In addition, it’s more effective to rehydrate by drinking nonalcoholic electrolyte beverages.
The health benefits of drinking beer are mixed. Though drinking small amounts may be associated with benefits, the beverage is also associated with many harmful side effects.
Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage that’s been around for thousands of years.
In the United States, a standard beer is 12 ounces (355 mL). Drinking one or two standard beers per day may have positive effects, such as benefits to your heart, better blood sugar control, stronger bones, and reduced dementia risk.
However, heavy and binge drinking counters these potential health benefits and is instead associated with a higher risk of early death, alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, depression, liver disease, weight gain, and cancers.
Though low to moderate amounts of alcohol may offer some benefits, you can achieve the same positive effects by enjoying a varied nutrient-rich diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables.