The occasional pint of beer can improve many things: a bad mood, a bad day, a bad party… Pity it’s not as good for you as, say, wine. Or is it?
Actually, beer has just as many health benefits as its more sophisticated grape-y cousin… and maybe even a few more.
“Moderate consumption of beer can reduce the risk of blood clotting, gallstones and type 2 diabetes,” says Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., RDN, CSSD, a nutritional epidemiology specialist at the Academy of Nutrition and Diatetics in Chicago.
1. It can give you shiny hair and great skin. Imagine soaking in a giant vat of bubbling lager. It’s more than just a beer-lover’s fantasy: So-called “beer spas” have popped up in a variety of places around the world. Bathers soak for around 20 minutes in a concoction of water and dark beer. The hops exfoliate the skin and detoxify the body, and the steam opens pores and boosts the absorption of beery minerals.
Beer contains proteins, vitamins, malt and yeast, which nourish the hair and balance pH. Some salons (and a few celebrity hairstylists) use “beer rinses” that make hair glossier and more voluminous. “The silicon in beer could also… strengthen the collagen protein in hair,” says Pritchett.
2. It strengthens bones. “Beer has a lot of silicon,” says Harvard Medical School professor Douglas Kiel, MD, director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at Hebrew SeniorLife. Silicon, says Tucker, is important for bone formation, just like calcium, phosphates and vitamin D. It also stimulates bone growth, which is vital, since bone is a living tissue that is constantly breaking down and reforming.
3. It can help prevent kidney stones. Bone loss creates calcium deposits, which can result in painful kidney stones, Tucker says. Since beer stimulates bone growth, it can ward off those pesky stones. Compounds in the hops may also slow down the release of calcium from bones. And beer’s diuretic effect and high water content can also lower men’s risk of developing kidney stones, according to Pritchett.
4. It’s good for your heart. A team of Greek researchers discovered that beer boosts the health of the major blood vessels around the heart, making arteries more flexible and dramatically improving blood flow within just a few hours of consuming a pint. This is only true for nonsmokers (smoking does the opposite to blood vessels), but: Moderate beer drinking can lead to better cardiovascular health later in life. Studies show it can also reduce your risk of dying from heart disease.
5. It promotes better digestion and lowers cholesterol. The barley in beer contains soluble fiber — about 0.75 grams in lighter beer, and up to 3.1 grams in the darker variety. “All that soluble fiber helps decrease [bad] LDL cholesterol and increase [good] HDL cholesterol,” says Pritchett.
6. It helps ward off dementia. Recent research has found that moderate alcohol consumption (whether that involves drinking beer, wine or spirits) could lower your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.
7. It might improve post-workout recovery. The makers of one soon-to-be-released beer in particular claim that drinking their brew can make your workouts more effective. Lean Machine Ale, created by a Canada-based beverage company, is a so-called “recovery ale” which is light on alcohol but rich in electrolytes and nutrients, so it reportedly replenishes lost fluid instead of dehydrating you like a regular beer would.
Remember: Beer isn’t exactly a health food. It only has the potential to benefit your health if you drink it in moderation. (That amounts to one 12-ounce bottle a day for the ladies, and two per day for men.) Drink any more than that on a regular basis, and you’ll likely do some serious damage to your body in the long run.