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Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take one down, pass it around—and consider what that brewski did to your body. As with any vice, there are pros and cons to regular beer consumption. Though some people enjoy an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day (or in the middle of winter or anytime), there are some considerations to think about before you have two, three, or more. Here, we spoke with nutrition experts to better understand the secret side effects of drinking beer.
1. You might be drinking health-supportive antioxidants.
That’s right: you could receive essential nutrients from a pint! According to nutritionist and celebrity chef Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, beer is made from cereal grains that contain polyphenols that can support health. And, brewing grains like barley malt and hops contain quercetin, epicatechin, and gallic acid.
“These compounds have antioxidant properties which help protect your cells from damaging free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which leads to aging and disease,” she says. “Beer can actually help keep your body healthy if consumed in moderation.”
2. You might increase your risk of high blood pressure.
With the good comes the bad, however, and if you consistently have higher amounts of beer, your blood pressure is more likely to increase. As weight loss coach Stephanie Mansour explains, while moderate amounts likely won’t impact you too much, you’re putting yourself at risk if you have three or more beers per day. “High blood pressure, if not monitored, can lead to an increased risk for heart disease or stroke,” she warns.
3. You could experience an upset tummy.
If you’re someone who has a sensitive stomach or has a reaction to gluten, you may notice beer causes gas and irritation. This is because it’s made from barley or wheat, which of course, both contain gluten.
“Gluten is an inflammatory protein that damages the villa that protects the intestinal lining,” says functional nutritionist Risa Groux, CN. “There is only one layer of skin cells on the intestinal lining, whereas we have seven layers on our outer skin, which makes it very fragile. Once the villa is destroyed, we tend to poke holes and create fissures, called tight junctions in the lining causing leaky gut.”
To avoid inflammation, we have to work to eat a balanced diet to maintain the integrity of the intestinal lining. Beer? Well, it doesn’t do much to protect us and often has the opposite impact.
4. You might gain weight.
The next time you pick up a beer, take a look at the back label and prepare to be surprised. It’s higher in calories than you realize, with Poon estimating one 12-ounce can of beer contains about 150 to 200 calories. It might not seem like much, as Poon put it, if you are consuming a 2,000-calorie diet, then one of these beers is about 10% of your total daily calorie intake.
“If you are drinking beer, stick to one beverage to avoid over-consuming empty calories,” she continues. “Many breweries have started releasing lower-calorie beers, which are a nice option if you are aiming to limit your calorie intake.”
5. You could be consuming lots of carbs—and little fiber.
Another reason it is best to avoid beer is for the carbohydrate load that almost every beer contains, Groux says. An average beer can have anywhere from six grams to 35 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
“Those carbohydrates require the pancreas to produce insulin and convert it into glucose. The glucose is then escorted into glucose receptors in each cell to be used for energy,” she continues. “Any excess glucose is stored as fat which is where the term beer belly is derived from.”
On top of this, Groux explains most beers contain very little fiber, which prevents a spike in blood sugar levels. The fiber content typically ranges from zero to 2 grams per serving.
“A lack of fiber and elevated consumption of carbohydrates can contribute to blood sugar dysregulation issues such as diabetes and insulin resistance along with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and weight gain,” she says. “Even if your beer is gluten-free, you are still consuming a heavy load of carbohydrates with low levels of fiber.”
6. You might be causing serious health problems.
Drinking more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is considered to be moderate alcohol consumption, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Nevertheless, drinking more than this recommended amount can be problematic. “Excessive alcohol consumption, including that of beer, could lead to serious issues such as heart conditions, deteriorating brain health, liver disease, and certain types of cancer,” she says.
If you can’t have just one, consider going alcohol-free. Many brands are creating delicious non-alcoholic options that allow you to enjoy drinking beer in social settings without the harmful health effects, Poon suggests.