In life, there are two kinds of people: beer drinkers and wine drinkers. Wine tends to get all the health credit, while beer is synonymous with the dreaded beer belly. For years health experts have praised wine, hypothesizing that it's high antioxidant content, specifically resveratrol, was the key to the drinks life-extending benefits. But new evidence shows that your favorite beers can offer health benefits too. So when it comes to picking an alcoholic beverage, which should you choose?
All About Wine
Wine, especially red varietals, has a high concentration of polyphenols, nutrients known for their high antioxidant activity. Polyphenols help decrease inflammation and protect our bodies from oxidative damage (damage that, over time, contributes to aging and many chronic diseases). Studies link moderate wine consumption to decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and a reduced risk of heart disease. A 2013 study found that low to moderate wine consumption may help reduce rates of depression.
While older research found that wine offered more heart benefits compared to beer, more recent studies are suggesting a similar effect between the two. A 2012 study review found that people who drank moderate amounts of wine or beer had a 42% lower risk of heart disease than non-drinkers.
Beer may have some other benefits outside of heart health. Beer contains B-vitamins, including vitamin B12, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. These brain-boosting nutrients mean beer provides more than just carbs and calories. Other research shows that beer may make your bones strong. Beer is rich in silicon, an element linked to stronger bones. In one study, men who drank one to two beers per day had better bone density than those who didn’t drink.
When it comes to calories, how do wine and beer stack up?
A five-ounce glass of red, white, or rose clocks in at about 100 to 125 calories. Sweeter varieties, like dessert wines, will have a higher sugar content.
Meanwhile, an average 12-ounce serving of beer contains about 150 calories, slightly more than a glass of wine. Lighter versions are about 50 calories less, with a 12-ounce serving of light beer coming in around 100 calories, similar to wine. Heavier beers with a higher alcohol content are higher in calories, with some craft beers containing upwards of 300 calories.
When it comes to your weight, research reviews showed that while heavy drinking contributes to weight gain, low to moderate intake of alcohol (either wine or beer) did not cause any change in weight.
Regular low to moderate drinking has been shown to extend your lifespan and may improve your health in a number of ways. If you like wine, there is a lot of research that indicates it is especially healthful. But if you’re a beer drinker, you’ll still get some benefits.
The key phrase here is low to moderate drinking. What does this mean? For women, drink no more than one drink per day; men no more than two drinks. One drink is equivalent to five ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. Avoid binge drinking multiple drinks in one night, as this provides little benefit and may be harmful.
By Alissa Rumsey
Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, is a nationally recognized, award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist and the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness, where she specializes in intuitive eating, helping people ditch diets and cultivate healthy relationships with food and their bodies. Her philosophy is rooted in the anti-diet and Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, as she believes true health comes from nurturing behaviors to enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. You can follow her on Instagram, visit her blog and download her free guide: 5-minute Mindful Eating Exercise.