Feeling guilty about knocking a few back? It might be time to stop the guilt! Moderate beer consumption has been shown to help protect against heart disease and lower the risk of hypertension. (Just remember, we're talking moderate consumption, not all-night err-night affairs.) Alcohol consumption and the risk of hypertension in women and men. Sesso HD, Cook NR, Buring JE, et al. Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston MA. Hypertension, 2008 Apr;51(4):1080-7. May alcohol-induced increase of HDL be considered as atheroprotective? Králová Lesná I, Suchánek P, Stávek P, et al. Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine - IKEM, Centre for Cardiovascular Research, Prague, Czech Republic. Physiological Research, 2010;59(3):407-13. . As it turns out, all beers are not created equal, so grabbing whichever tallboy is on special this week doesn’t guarantee health benefits. Here, we've rounded up the beers most likely to bring a health punch to the party.
A-HEAD OF THE GAME—THE NEED-TO-KNOW
Many of beer’s benefits stem from natural antioxidants, called phenols, which are found in beer, wine, and many foods, such as brightly-colored fruits (think apples, oranges, and cranberries). Ales typically have one of the highest phenol concentrations, meaning they also pack more heart-protecting powers than other beer varieties Characterization of phenolics content and antioxidant activity of different beer types. Piazzon, A., Forte, M., Nardini, M. National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, Rome, Italy. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010 Oct 13;58(19):10677-83. Characterization of Brazilian lager and brown ale beers based on color, phenolic compounds, and antioxidant activity using chemometrics. Granato, D., Branco, G.F., Faria Jde, A., et al. Department of Food and Experimental Nutrition, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Journal of the Science of Food and Agricultural, 2011 Feb;91(3):563-71. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: beers and the effect of two types of beer on an animal model of atherosclerosis. Vinson JA, Mandarano M, Hirst M, et al. Department of Chemistry, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2003 Aug 27;51(18):5528-33. . While phenols do provide some health benefits, slamming a keg won’t offer much more than a killer hangover. Stick with moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women, and up to two for men) to get the health benefits without feeling down the next day Nutritional and health benefits of beer. Denke MA. Center for Human Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Veterans Health Administration North Texas Health Care System, USA. The American Journal of Medical Sciences, 2000 Nov;320(5):320-6. .
Also Check Out: 60 Healthier Drinks For Boozing
Of course, phenol content isn't the only factor to take into consideration when choosing a cold brew. To help you make healthier choices while out on the town, we’ve created a list of our 10 favorite healthier beers, including some old-time favorites and some interesting blends. (And don’t worry—we’ve got our gluten-free friends covered, too!)
Popping Bottles—The Ultimate Beer List
Looking for a full-flavor lager that’s still light on calories? Search no further. Yuengling managed to combine the health benefits of a lager with a lower carb count. At only 99 calories, this is a solid selection for a healthier classic brew.
Alcohol Content: 3.8%
Carbs: 9 grams
This newer brew skips the gluten and uses sorghum, corn, and raspberry puree malt to create a not-too-sweet, fruity brew with extra antioxidants (from the berries). Perfect for those looking to enjoy themselves while avoiding gluten. Bonus: New Planet donates a portion of sales from this beer to Colorado-based non-profits using the 3R philosophy—reduce, reuse, recycle.
Alcohol Content: 5%
Carbs: 17 grams
Abita Purple Haze: Don’t enjoy the bitter taste of beer but still want to reap the heart-health benefits? Have no fear! Abita infused this brew with real raspberries to deliver a fruity aroma and a sweet taste. The berries pack an antioxidant punch and give the beer its namesake purplish hue.
Alcohol Content: 4.2%
Carbs: 11 grams
Complete with a hint of fresh ginger (one of our favorite superfoods!), this unique ale combines unique herbs and spices to bring out a full flavor. This lighter-bodied brew is perfect for those that want full flavor without sacrificing their waistline.
Alcohol Content: 4.5%
Carbs: 12.1 grams
This dark Irish blend—famous for quenching thirsts on St. Patty’s day—is a classic beverage with a creamy, decadent flavor and a sneakily healthy twist! Packed with phenols, this super-dark staple brings the taste and feel of a stout with fewer carbohydrates and calories.
Alcohol Content: 4%
Carbs: 10 grams
Creating a light beer that still stands up to the Sam Adam’s taste was no easy task. Brewers stuck to the basics and invented a lighter calorie beer that didn’t sacrifice flavor, making this beer perfect for those looking to stay health-conscious without skimping on taste.
Alcohol Content: 4%
Carbs: 9.7 grams
This brew packs the hops without expanding the waistline, since it's relatively light in calories. Complete with a fruity, herbal aroma and a slightly bitter finish, this beer delivers a healthy wallop! Not to mention, it has some pretty awesome packaging.
Type: Pilsner (Lager)
Alcohol Content: 4.8%
Carbs: 14 grams
This full-bodied, old-school brew is a far cry from bland mass-produced lagers. With a positively measly calorie count and plenty of flavor, this classic beer is perfect for any summer gathering or meal. Plus, it comes in adorable "stubby" bottles with sweet retro labels. What's not to love?
Alcohol Content: 5.1%
Carbs: 10 grams
Looking for an organic pale ale that is made free of potentially hazardous pesticides and chemical fertilizers but still tastes great? Look no further! Butte Creek has managed just that with this Indian pale ale.
Type: India Pale Ale
Alcohol Content: 6.5%
Calories: 200 (12 oz.)
Carbs: 19 grams
Combining a heap of hops with slight hints of orange blossom is no small task. Sierra Nevada pulls it off with this award-winning brew.
Type: Pale Ale
Alcohol Content: 5.6%
Carbs: 14.1 grams
*Note: All nutrition facts are based on a 12-ounce serving unless otherwise noted.
Have a favorite healthier brew not listed here? Share with us in the comments below! Not a beer drinker? What other healthy cocktail (or mocktail!) do you sip on for both health benefits and tasty enjoyment?
Originally posted on July 10, 2012. Updated May 2014.