An interesting abstract just published online by the Journal of Food Science got me thinking. I have not read the whole article as I lack online access to JFS. The researchers at UCDavis:
[…] used surveys to compare beer and wine consumers’ perceptions of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. The consumers ranked 7 beverages based upon perceived healthfulness both before and after they were exposed to nutritional information about the beverages.
While consumers perceived red wine to be the healthiest of seven beverages, the abstract does not answer the question as to whether beer and wine have any nutritional value.
We’ve all read the information that red wine contains compounds that reduce heart disease. This is meant to be part of the French paradox. In Britain, women just after child birth, were recommended to drink stout because it is rich in vitamins and minerals. However, as this Nutritional Facts panel shows, an American pint (16 fl oz) contains a whopping 196 calories.
One of the problems is that alcohol is a source of calories. Whereas sugar and protein give 4 calories/g and fats give 9 calories/g, alcohol yields 7 calories/g. Unlike carbohydrates, protein and fat, which are used for maintenance and repair, alcohol only goes for energy production.
According to the USDA’s food composition tables, which only has “average” beer light beer or Budweiser, beer does not provide many minerals and it is helpful for B-vitamins especially niacin and folate. Red wine is slightly better providing some iron and a little B6, but 16 fl oz of wine, which I used to compare with beer, contains a whopping 1999 calories.
At least both are fat-free!
Dark beers, like dark chocolate, contain antioxidants, which make have beneficial health effects. These are formed, along with the color and flavor, by my favorite reaction: The Maillard reaction. Unfortunately, I cannot find any detailed nutritional facts for dark beers to prove if they are better nutritionally than lighter beers. Guinness has also been shown to prevent clots from forming. These clots increase the risk of heart disease.
So beer does not really add any nutrition to the diet – it sure tastes good though. Drinking one beer or one glass of wine per day has been shown be good for you. The drink helps you relax and may be sleep better at night. It is over drinking and binge drinking that are the problem.
C.A. Wright, C.M. Bruhn, H. Heymann, C.W. Bamforth. Beer and Wine Consumers’ Perceptions of the Nutritional Value of Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Beverages,Journal of Food Science (OnlineEarly Articles).doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00606.x
Guinness at Wikipedia