Benefits of Beer
When you’re looking for a quick health pick-me-up, you’re most likely to reach for the medicine cabinet or the fruit bowl rather than the beer rack in the mini fridge, right?
Well not necessarily. That ice cold beer you’ve just clicked the cap off and put into beer koozie… well it could just be your health and fitness regime’s new best bud.
Yes, you need to drink in moderation and overdoing it can be harmful to your health, but the humble beer is now being seen as more than a nice thing to have after a hard day’s work, or on a night out with friends. It can help to boost your health too.
Studies have shown that drunk within sensible, recommended limits, beer could actually be good for you. And yes, you did read that right. From helping to keep your heart healthy and preventing broken bones to curing unsightly dandruff and keeping your brain sharp, there are health benefits lurking in your pint glass.
Gear Hungry looks at eight of the most surprising health benefits of beer that will make you look at your favorite amber brew in a whole new light. So, beer lovers, rejoice!
1. It’s a source of vitamins and minerals
While we are not confusing your pint for a daily multi-vit or a replacement for a balanced diet, but by the nature of how it is made as well as the ingredients used, the beer we know and love is also a surprising source of health-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Top of the list are super immune system boosting B-vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, B6 and B12, which are also free radical munching antioxidants. In fact, a bottle of beer can contain up to 12.5 percent of the recommended daily intake of B6, which also helps your body use and store energy from the protein and carbs you eat each day.
But it’s not just the ‘wonder Bs’ that can be found hiding in your lovely beer, there are lots of other nutrients tucked away in there, thanks to the yeast, malt, barley and hops used in the brewing process, although in varying levels and for some, trace amounts. Calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, fluoride, silicon…. they read like a last-minute revision list for a high school Chem test. And finally, beer is also rich in soluble fiber, and that’s great for keeping the digestive system on the move.
2. Can improve heart health
Just one beer a day is believed to help protect the heart from heart disease, thanks to phenols, one of the natural antioxidants that are contained in the brewed beverage. There are also scientific studies that have shown moderate beer drinkers are around 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack compared to non-drinkers which suggests the nutrients found in your favorite strong beer can actually help to prevent heart disease.
Cholesterol levels can also be positively affected by drinking beer, which is good to know when you have just cracked an ice cold one open, ready to watch the game. Barley used in brewing beer contains a soluble fiber called beta-glucans which has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. Not only that but beer may also help to maintain levels of the good guy cholesterol called ‘HDL’, which is needed to roam through your blood and act as a cleanup machine for the cholesterol baddies.
But before you reach for that second (or third) beer to celebrate all this good health news, stop. Scientists are keen to stress that for heart health it is a one pint of beer a day limit, with evidence to show that those who drink more are potentially increasing their heart disease risk.
So, what about blood pressure, can a beer help with that too? The doctor’s advice for lowering blood pressure is certainly not going to be a beer-a-day prescription – it should be losing weight, exercising more, cutting salt intake and reducing stress. Moderate beer intake has been shown to reduce blood pressure, but only in small, barely there amounts and not in everyone so if you do have high blood pressure, listen to the advice from your doctor, and not the barman.
3. Protects the brain
Most of us know all too well that overdoing on the beer can leave us feeling less than intelligent once the dreaded hangover takes a grip, but moderate drinking of your favorite beer could actually help to boost your gray matter. Studies have suggested that a few beers can help to protect against cognitive decline – and there’s us thinking beer was knocking a few of those brain cells out!
Cautious research reports indicate moderate beer intake can actually help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. While it is not totally clear why the odd beer can help to protect the brain and how effectively it functions, there are numerous ideas, and they are largely to do with all the compounds that are found in the brewing process.
It is possible that the cardiovascular and cholesterol benefits of beer have a positive knock-on effect by improving blood flow to the brain. The other strong theory has to do with the silicon that is present in most brewed beer, either bought in a store or made at home with a home brew kit. Silicon is a bit of a wonder mineral and plays an important role in a whole host of healthy body functions. It also likes to bond with aluminum, which in high amounts, can be harmful to the brain and is thought to be one of the leading causes of Alzheimer’s disease. By clinging to aluminum, silicon prevents it from being absorbed into the gut and then into the bloodstream and so reduces the toxicity before it can do real harm to the brain.
So, there you go, beer as brain food. Who knew!
4. Strengthens and protects your bones
As kids, we were all encouraged to drink milk for strong teeth and bones and while, as an adult, we are not encouraging you to drink beer with the same child-like gusto, there is some evidence that your delicious pint can also keep your bones and joints in tip-top condition.
It’s all down to that super silicon again, which is a mineral known to help promote bone health and increase overall bone density. Silicon is a top partner in crime for calcium when it comes to bone growth and maintenance and also helps to increase the amount of collagen as well as our body’s rate of healing when it comes to dislocations and fractures.
As well as in whole foods such as whole grains, brown rice and leafy green veg, silicon is also found in beer and red wine. Our bones do have the habit of getting thinner and so more susceptible to breaking as we get older, so topping up on your silicon with a beer may well help to keep your skeleton strong for longer.
But before you get too carried away and run off to the corner store for a six-pack of beer, it’s not all good news. To get any benefits, you have to get the balance right as scientists have also found that too much beer can have the opposite effect and actually increases the risk of fractures, especially as we get older.
5. Helps you to see clearer
Beer is more commonly associated with blurry vision when you have had one too many, so it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn it can actually help you to see more clearly.
Now, we’re not talking a two in the morning ‘so that’s what I am doing wrong with my life’ drunken discussion with your housemate but in actually boosting your eye health. Researchers have discovered that those magical antioxidants found in beer – especially the darker ales – helped to protect against mitochondrial damage within the eye.
OK, here’s the science bit: when the eye lenses’ mitochondria – that’s the part of a cell responsible for converting glucose into energy – are damaged, vision-limiting cataracts can form. Antioxidants help to protect your eyes against this mitochondrial damage and so a beer a day could well stop cataracts in their tracks before they can develop. Let’s raise a (pint) glass to that!
6. Reduces risk of a stroke
The odd cold beer can help to stave off strokes according to both the Harvard Medical School and the American Stroke Association. Their studies have shown that those who drink moderate amounts of beer can cut their risk of an ischemic stroke by up to 50 percent.
To briefly take another medical moment here – ischemic strokes are the most common kind of stroke and are caused when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. It is thought that moderate beer drinking can help prevent these nasty clots by helping to keep your arteries nice and flexible and less prone to blocking and also help to keep your blood flow healthy. With improved blood flow, clots are less likely to form.
However, the key to making the most of beer when it comes to preventing strokes is once again, moderation. The medics recommend no more than one pint a day otherwise you lose all the potential health and stroke-preventing benefits.
7. Can help prevent Type 2 diabetes
With Type 2 diabetes on the increase the world over, this beer benefit may well come as another surprise, but moderate drinking could potentially cut your risk of developing the condition by up to 25 percent.
This research is based on no more than two small glasses of the golden liquid a day and the theories as to why it can help in the battle against diabetes are interesting. Beer is 93 percent water, so there’s the hydration while the alcohol content is thought increase insulin sensitivity, which helps to prevent the disease. Then there’s the soluble fiber which is plentiful in beer, and which helps to control blood sugar levels.
Medics do suggest you drink beer with or after food to avoid any blood sugar spikes and if you have diabetes, it is important to follow your dietician or doctor’s advice when it comes to beer and alcohol.
8. Can clear up dandruff
If you suffer from those infuriating shoulder snow showers, otherwise known as dandruff, then you need to reach for a beer. But this time, the health benefit is not from drinking it, but using it on your hair! (If you do want to drink a beer while following these dandruff clearing instructions, don’t let us stop you).
Beer is high in yeast and vitamin B, which are both considered natural treatments for scalp scuff and this treatment is so easy to do. Simply rinse your hair with a beer two to three times a week – make it the final rinse and let it soak through to your scalp and leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse out well with warm water. Not only will it banish dreaded dandruff, but it will make your hair soft and shiny too.
And while we are on the subject of the cosmetic health benefits of beer, did you know that your favorite tipple is also a cool teeth ‘polisher’? If you find a fine film of slimy stuff – also known as a biofilm – forms on your teeth between brushing, swill it away with a swoosh of beer and you can keep those gnashers gleaming. Beer has also been proved to banish mouth bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease, so a cold one can keep your smile clean and sweet!
Beer is certainly not the only source of these health benefits and it’s important you have a balanced diet to get all the nutrients you and your body needs. Keep to the small beer or two a day max and have work in a few non-drinking days per week.
And be aware you could undo any good work if you overdo it on your beer drinking so enjoy, drink in moderation and keep healthy. Cheers!