Is beer healthy?
Is beer good for health? Just think about some of the words used when we toast someone. Santé, Gesondheid, Sláinte. They are words that translate roughly as ‘health’. Humans have used alcohol for millennia as a delivery method for medicinal botanicals, as a painkiller, sterilant and for the advantages ethanol itself offers.
In small quantity ethanol alcohol can reduce the threat of coronary heart disease by raising the amount of 'good' cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein), and lowering the risk of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Alcohol is a vasodilator meaning it dilates blood vessels leading to unimpeded flow and ideal pressure.
Some naysayers describe alcohol as containing empty calories and having no health benefits. This is not true. All alcoholic drinks have some benefits (in moderation and with caveats) and beer has a plethora!
Health Benefits of Beer
Beer is arguably more benign than other intoxicating beverages because of its combination of ingredients, each beneficial to health, and lowish alcohol level.
Calories from alcohol are often described as 'empty', meaning they have no nutritional value and no benefit for the body. Not so with beer because one of the ingredients, malted cereal, contains proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and soluble fibre. When food and drink is fermented its nutritional value increases in a transformation known as biological ennoblement so the soluble malt in beer is much more nutritious than it would be if it was eaten.
Beer is especially rich in the vitamin B-complex (so is brewers’ yeast) essential in almost every process in the body including energy production, digestion, central nervous system, healthy hair, skin, and nails. One of the essential minerals is silicon. It derives from the husk of the cereal and maintains healthy joints and bone density, and is vital for collagen formation, the protein in blood vessel walls, tendons, and skin. In medical studies the beer drinkers were less likely to suffer from osteoporosis than non-drinkers –silicon being one reason because beer is the biggest dietary source of silicon with a pint containing over half the recommended daily intake.
Brewers’ Yeast - Superfood
Yeast provides a multitude of health benefits too and it is present in unfiltered and unpasteurised beer. In addition to being nutritionally dense, containing protein, chromium, potassium, copper, selenium, iron, zinc and B-complex vitamins, it strengthens the immune system and is probiotic making it useful for treating digestive tract disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. Brewers’ yeast has been used for decades in herbal medicine for its antiseptic, and stimulant properties and to treat seasonal allergies, respiratory problems, and type 2 diabetes. With the latter that is because brewer’s yeast contains the highest glucose tolerance factor (GTF) of any food. GTF is a dietary essential because it enhances the effect of insulin in utilising glucose efficiently to maintain optimum blood sugar levels.
Hops – Miracle Flower
Hops are a floral pharmacy and can be used to treat a variety of complaints for example migraine, indigestion, tension. They have a sedative effect and are used in herbal sleeping tablets to treat insomnia. A beneficial substance in hops is a flavonoid called xanthohumol. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects and may combat the progression of chronic liver disease. Hops also help to prevent calcium leaching from the bones which cause osteoporosis and kidney stones.
Helicobacter pylori bacteria, the cause of infection connected with stomach cancer, gastric and duodenal ulcers is inhibited by hops. After soya hops contain the second highest amount of the micronutrient phyto-oestrogen, consequently natural hormone replacement therapy supplements contain hop extracts. Consumption of phyto-oestrogen is also connected with a decreased incidence of breast cancer in humans.
Social Benefits of Beer
What about the social benefits of beer? A lack of communal contact with humans can affect a person’s mental health which can lead to physical illness. Drinking beer and socialising triggers endorphins that activate opiate receptors in the brain reducing pain, boosting pleasure, and resulting in a feeling of well-being. A visit to the pub to drink beer and socialise with other people is good for the health and good for the soul!
Signed copies of The Philosophy of Beer by Jane Peyton are available via this link