How Healthy Is (Or Isn’t) Beer?

I’ll be honest – the amount of beer I drank in 2020 probably wasn’t the healthiest. And, if you’re the average American, you’re probably in the same boat seeing as alcohol sales rose during the pandemic

But who can blame the average American? From the stress and anxiety caused by a public health crisis, roiling politics, social starvation, and cabin fever, I think we’d be forgiven for having a beer or two.

While the government says having a drink or two a day is healthy, it’s still fair to wonder how healthy beer actually is (or isn’t).

So, we’ll start by wondering…

Is Beer Good For Health?

A while back I wrote an article detailing reasons why beer is actually good for you. In case you prefer not to read more than you have to, I’ll quickly detail some of the highlights of this top-notch writing:

  • Beer has fiber, fiber = good.
  • Beer has vitamins.
  • Beer is good for your mental health (assuming moderation, of course). 

Note, I didn’t mention that beer can help you lose weight or push you to follow through on your New Year’s Resolution. Unless, of course, your resolution is to drink more beer.

Now here’s for the tough part to swallow…and no, it’s not the beer.

Beer is, overall, not healthy.

In reality, beer is a combination of carbs, sugar, and what some health experts might call “empty calories.” While we can’t measure the added pleasure and happiness of these “empty calories,” we can measure their impact on our waistlines. The impact is not good. 

Perhaps instead of trying to convince ourselves that beer is healthy, we can just compare beer to some alternatives. That’ll make us feel better about ourselves, right?

What Alcohol Is Beer Healthier Than?

While beer isn’t “healthy,” per se, a nice brew is still better, than, say, slamming a bucket of margarita. At least, that’s what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says. Beer is actually healthier than plenty of alcoholic drinks.

Here are some interesting boozy calorie counts provided by the USDA:

  • Can of Beer (12 oz): 155 calories
  • Cup of Margarita (225 grams): 274 calories
  • Drink of Old Fashioned (180 grams): 295 calories
  • Drink of Irish Cream (63 grams): 206 calories
  • Shot of Whiskey: 97 calories
  • Shot of Vodka: 97 calories

While drinking a beer is generally unhealthier than taking a shot of liquor, beer still beats out many types of mixed drinks. You’re probably saying out loud “ya, well, that’s because of the stuff you add to alcohol in mixed drinks.” Yes, that’s true. But would rather sip on a beer or a shot of vodka?

What Type Of Beer Is Healthiest?

“But lo!” you’ve probably shouted, rising out of your seat. “You never specified the type of beer!” Wow, you caught me! The USDA didn’t differentiate the types and styles of beer and their different calorie levels.

Unfortunately, the USDA isn’t concerned with differentiating the types of beers out there. As far as the federal government knows, there’s only one type of beer out there and it has 155 calories. 

But I asked the question, so I’ll try my best to help you, the reader, understand the healthiest types of beer. I’ll do it by ranking them.

  1. Light beer
  2. Lager
  3. Ale
  4. Sour
  5. IPA
  6. Porter
  7. Stout
  8. Barrel-aged beer

Each of these beer styles has range of calories. For example, a Heineken Silver has 95 calories and 3.2g of carbs, while a Coors Light has 102 calories and 5g of carbs. IPAs, on the other hand, might have somewhere closer to 200-250 calories per can, ranging upwards of 300 for really boozy options.

That’s basically as unofficial a list of healthy beer types as you’ll ever see, and it really just came down to a little bit of common sense and guessing. Of course, these beers are practically interchangeable depending on the brewer, the ingredients, and the alcohol content. Use this poor ranking at your own discretion.

Is Unfiltered Beer Good For You?

It turns out that a lot of people are wondering whether unfiltered beer is good for you. It also turns out that yes, unfiltered beer is good for you! Relative to regular beer, of course.

Because unfiltered beer keeps a lot of the little fellas like yeast and hops, some of benefits of these things — such as vitamin B and folic acid — stay in the brew. And that’s good for you!

Hey! Now that you’ve been wondering what types of beer are healthy(ish), it’s a good time to point out that I’ve mentioned some of my favorite lo-cal beers in an ongoing post.

Thomas Short
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