Brewing up good health

Beer is good for you. Really. The health benefits range from stronger bones to lower blood pressure, from reduced risk of heart disease to better brain function. Regular, moderate consumption of beer has been proven beneficial in study after study.

To be clear, the benefits are from MODERATE consumption – one to two beers a day. Don’t go thinking slamming a six-pack a night will help. The only thing that’ll help is your beer gut and your local liquor store’s bottom line.

Maybe we should change the old “apple a day” expression to “A beer a day keeps the doctor away.” There’s a reason beer has been called “liquid food” for centuries – it’s nourishment in a glass and was considered a key piece of one’s diet until recently.

Heck, the pilgrims settled in Plymouth not because they thought it was a lovely place … they settled there because they were running out of beer! The first permanent structure they built was a brewery. They don’t tell you that on the tour of Plimouth Plantation, but it’s true. Transforming water into beer was how they made water safe to drink, so a brewery was critical to survival.

Beer actually plays a major role in history and the development of civilization, but that’s a topic for another column, so let’s get back to modern-day benefits of beer.

The advantages of regular, moderate beer consumption increase as we age. It lowers the risk of dementia in adults aged 65 and over and helps stall brain function decrease. Beer also helps build a stronger skeleton, reduces the risk of heart attacks, and can help prevent death from cardiovascular disease!

So the next time you have dinner with your parents or grandparents, offer them a beer (ideally a locally-brewed craft beer). They’ll thank you and you’ll smile inside knowing you’re actually helping them.

Not only does beer have all these (and more) health benefits, it also tastes great and actually makes us happy. A new Indiana University study showed that a mere taste of beer changes brain chemistry to induce pleasure.

That’s right, the first sip of beer actually makes the drinker happier. On a bio-chemical level. Crazy, eh?

Another unexpected benefit: moderate beer consumption raises good cholesterol (HDL), according to the Boston University School of Medicine.

Finally, beer is a cornucopia of nutrients! It’s crammed with calcium, niacin, vitamin B6 and other B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folic acid, and the anti-biotic properties of hops.

So the next time you’re pondering if you should partake in mankind’s oldest drink, remember that it can absolutely be good for you, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Originally published on May 5, 2013