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Nutritional Lowdown on Beer

Written by Keith Rockmael

Wine drinkers have had plenty of heart-healthy news to celebrate, but what about the beer-drinking population? Suds drinkers fear not. Here's the nutritional lowdown.

From micro to mass-produced, the beer section at most markets has swelled to Godzilla-size proportions.

What's on tap nutritionally speaking?
Beer can contain the following vitamins: Niacin, pyridoxine and riboflavin.
Beer contains the minerals magnesium and potassium.
The average pint of beer contains 210 calories
Always drink in moderation.

Do you want light, dark, imported or locally brewed, a pale or an amber ale? The choices are endless. But do you ever stand before those stacks of six-packs considering the comparative nutritional value in all those cans and bottles?

Don't laugh. Beer does contain some nutritional properties. You might be yanking someone's spigot to claim that beer is loaded with vitamins and minerals, but beer does contain trace nutrients and some vitamins, especially pyridoxine (better known as B6). Beer is also a source of the minerals magnesium and potassium.

Some microbreweries manufacture brews containing live yeast. Some also produce unfiltered and organic brews. Compared with industrial, pasteurized beers, these less-processed brews tend to have a few more nutrients and a lot more flavor. "This difference is not as great as that between bread from a health food store and plain white bread, but there is an analogy there," says Stan Hieronymus, former editor at Realbeer.com.

Don't Judge a Beer by its Color
Many people think that dark beer contains more of everything (alcohol, calories, nutrients) than light-colored brews. However, beer color and style are not the determining nutritional factors. Even those beer drinkers who calorie count may be surprised to discover that Guinness Stout contains one more calorie per ounce than Miller Lite. Even British Mild ale can be very dark in color, but often less than 3 percent alcohol by weight and close to Miller Lite in calories.

Before you down a six-pack of organic beer in celebration, remember: The key is moderation.

Research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that men and women who consume moderate amounts of beer (no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men a day) had a 30 to 40 percent lower rate of coronary heart disease compared with men and women who didn't drink. Not exactly the French Paradox, but we beer drinkers will take anything we can get.

So don't give up those spinach-on-whole-wheat sandwiches, but enjoy that occasional beer with confidence.

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