Almost anywhere you go in the world, one thing you’re likely to be able to find is beer, but is beer paleo?
In fact, that’s one of the beer’s largest draws—it can be fun to try to sample as many exotic varieties and microbrews as you can find.
What is beer, anyway?
Beer is one of the oldest drinks in human history, dating back more than 7,000 years to ale, its most ancient form. In fact, some historians credit the making of beer as humanity’s first step toward technological advancement, since water wasn’t always safe to drink.
For the most part, beer is made from fermented barley. And unlike a drink like whiskey, beer isn’t distilled, so it still contains many of the proteins and other components of the food that is fermented.
Increasingly, there are beers made from other fermented foods, but still, the great majority is made from barley.
Is beer healthy?
Believe it or not, there are possible health benefits to beer. So long as the beer drinking is in moderation. Beer can bring people together for social events and beer is chock full of B vitamins, particularly B3, B6, and B9. Beer is 90 percent water and consists of soluble fiber and trace amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, fluoride and silicon.
How many beers a day is healthy?
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that men should need have more than 4 drinks per a day or 14 in a week, and women should not have more than 3 drinks a day or 7 per a week. The American Heart Association is about half this amount with men not to exceed 2 drinks a day and women 1 drink a day.
If you take the two organizations numbers and average them, men should stay between 2-4 drinks a day not exceeding 12-14 a week and women should drink about 1-3 drinks a day not exceeding 7 in a week. Remember, with beer moderation is key and everyone has a different healthy limit.
Beer is social
Beer has a big tendency to bring people together in fun social settings, and there is little doubt that hanging out with friends, relaxing, and laughing are all extremely healthy activities. Social activities are tremendous for mental health. Grab a beer and few buddies to help connect and relieve some stress.
Nutritional content of beer
There is also no arguing with the overwhelming evidence that beer is chock full of B vitamins, particularly B3, B6, and B9, because of the yeast content and other components in the beer. Here is the research from the experts about how beer might be healthy from the latest research.
Beer might increase bone health
A review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that moderate beer consumption, in men, increased bone density due to the silicon found in the pint. Silicon has been associated with increased bone mineral density.
Might increase your lifespan
A study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas found that people who drink moderately live longer than those who don’t drink at all. Just remember that binge drinking has been shown multiple times to greatly reduce lifespan with fatty liver disease, so make sure to drink moderately.
Beer contains vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
The nutritional components of beer vary with the type of beer. But beer contains antioxidants, B vitamins and a slew of trace minerals which are health for the bones and heart.
“Beer also has a unique antioxidant profile, with a majority coming from the malt and the remainder from the hops,” says Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian in DC and with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.
How beer is not healthy
However, it’s important to keep in mind that barley—which constitutes most beers—brings the same damage to our guts as we could expect from other gluten-containing grains like wheat. That means inflammation, disruption of gut flora, and all those nasties that arise from the gluten content of beer.
In addition, hops (a standard beer ingredient) is a huge source of phytoestrogens—the same toxin that makes eating soy not such a great idea because of the way the chemical reacts with our estrogen receptors.
Most importantly, however, we can’t forget about the alcohol. Alcohol is, plain and simple, a toxin, and the effect of alcohol on the brain is irrefutable.
So we’ve got some nice B vitamins in beer, but we’ve also got some toxins to worry about; where does that leave us?
Well, as far as researchers have learned, the evidence tends in one direction.
Studies show that beer can do some strange things in our bodies, like making us more prone to passive overeating (when we eat way too much because it’s just there) and disrupting our natural sleep cycles.
Beer has also been shown to increase the chances of developing multiple types of cancer, too. And it’s fairly well known that alcohol can have a negative impact on the liver.
When beer is not healthy
If you have another condition or take medication which can effect you negatively from alcohol including beer. Also, staying healthy so you do not develop fatty liver disease from drinking.
Research is saying for men a more than 8 oz a day daily for 20 years.
“About half the men who drink more than 8 ounces of alcohol a day for 20 years develop cirrhosis. Generally, the more and the longer people drink, the greater their risk of alcoholic liver disease.”
Some people don’t like the taste or alcohol effects them negatively.
Remember that your health is your personal journey.
What Paleo gurus say about beer being paleo?
It seems, then, that beer isn’t such a friendly drink after all, and Paleo experts tend to agree.
Mark Sisson says: “Overall, beers are pretty unPrimal. But if you can drink them without ill effect, I don’t think the occasional glass or bottle will do you much harm. Celiacs and gluten-sensitive should definitely steer clear, or opt for wine, cider, or other choices.”
The Paleo Mom says: “[If you’re working on autoimmune issues] make sure to stay away from any grain-based alcohols though, especially beer and ale which contain gluten. Alcohol is not good for anyone dealing with leaky gut issues. However, an occasional drink…is probably okay. Cooking with alcohol is also probably okay for most people, even if you don’t tolerate an actual drink. But once again, I do urge caution as you experiment to find where your individual line is.”
Is Beer Paleo?
Beer is not Paleo, but remember that quantity and quality are also key here. Non-alcoholic gluten-free beers (they do exist, though they’re rare) are fine, and an occasional sip here and there isn’t going to decimate your body. However, one of the dangers of beer is that it is addictive—more so than marijuana, studies say. So because the negatives outweigh the positives by a longshot, why not just avoid beer and go for a nice, relaxing cup of your favorite Paleo drink?
Ok, so it’s not technically Paleo, but with moderation you can still drink beer and even cook with it.
How to use beer in cooking
Don’t want to drink beer, then try cooking with it! Beer has a subtle flavor and can be used to break down meats and flavor stews. The hops and malt also adds a sweet touch of flavor.
Like all alcohol, when beer is exposed to heat, some of the beer dissipates with the heat. Thus, if you are cooking for kids, cook the food longer to dissipate or even eliminate the alcohol from the dish. For example, if a dish, like stew, has been simmering for an hour about 20% of the beer or alcohol is retained in the dish at low heat.
Here are several ways to incorporate beer in cooking:
- Guinness stews and chilis are my all-time favorite and with adaptions can be made Paleo!
- Add beer to sauteed vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, bok choy or onions for sauteeing or roasting.
- My favorite way to use beer: Add beer to marinades for beef, pork and chicken. This breaks down and tenderizes the meat similar to vinegar.