Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nutrition on Tap

A recent lunch at Local Three Kitchen & Bar got me thinking about the popularity of craft beer. This farm-to-table focused Atlanta restaurant boasts a beverage list with nearly a dozen craft beers on tap and two pages of bottled beers representing an impressive bevy of breweries from locally crafted to internationally known. Printed next to the name and origin of each lager, pilsner and ale is the percent alcohol by volume (ABV) contained within such as a Blanche de Bruxelles from Belgium with a demure 4.5% and to a Unibroue La Terrible from Quebec with a hefty 10.5%. (For comparison, wines range between 12 percent and 14 percent ABV.) In any potent potable as the percent alcohol content goes up so does the number of calories, so this got me wondering more about beer’s nutrition profile. Long associated with an unhealthy paunch –the beer belly - it turns out just the opposite can be true. Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli who professes, “I love my lagers” says “Beer contains more water than wine so it’s more hydrating and fills you up so helps curb your intake. Dark beers are especially satisfying because they’re richer tasting.” Giancoli shares nutrition facts on beer’s health benefits in the Winter 2011 issue of the American Dietetic Association’s member publication, ADA Times. She says, “When it comes down to it, we’re a nation of beer drinkers so dietitians should know more about this popular beverage so they can better advise Americans.”

Heart Health and Beyond
Red wine often gets all the glory as a heart-healthy drink, but it’s the ethanol in all alcoholic beverages, including beer and spirits, that’s associated with a lower incidence of heart disease, gallstones, risk of type 2 diabetes and improved brain function in older adults. The recently released US Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include a recommendation for moderate alcohol consumption: one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men.
What’s a drink? Wine- 5 ounces, Beer-12 ounces, Spirits- 1.5 ounces.

With beer as your drink of choice, you’re downing more than ethanol for your health. “Beer specifically has been associated with additional health outcomes, including lowering the risk of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to its high water content and diuretic effect,” Giancoli notes, “Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones. Additionally, beer drinkers seem to have a more protective effect towards greater bone mineral density due to the high content of the mineral silicone in beer.”

During an interview in Atlanta this week, when I told him of beer’s nutritional pluses, Kevin Concannan, who is the USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (as well as a beer drinker) replied, “This is the best news I’ve heard in years.”

A Toast to Beer’s Many Boasts - Source of B vitamins including vitamin B12: One 12-ounce regular beer provides 3 percent of the recommended daily amount of B12 for adults. Source: USDA Nutrient Database
- Fluid fiber: While the USDA Nutrient Database currently lists beer’s fiber content as zero, Giancoli says recent research conducted by brewing chemists shows lager contains up to 2 grams of soluble fiber per liter, while dark beers can contain up to 3.5 grams.
- Protein in small amounts: One 12-ounce regular beer contains 1.64g protein
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Co-owner of Local Three, Ryan Turner, who promotes artisan food and craft beer pairings on the restaurant’s menus reveals, “I didn't know about the protein, but I was aware of the nutrients and fiber. I need to justify my own consumption somehow with my doctor, so this is great to know.”


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