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The Truth About Beer

Creating Craft Beers

There are an infinite number of options to create a wide range of flavorful craft beers, such as varying the ingredients or the brewing techniques.

Some brews use alternate grains like wheat, maize, or rice instead of barley and flavor the brew with agents such as fruits, herbs, and spices to create unique-tasting beers.

The carb or starch is the essential ingredient determining the strength and primary flavor of the beer. Wheat beer uses wheat as the starch, whereas high-gravity beers have more carbohydrates and thus higher alcohol levels.

Beer color is determined by the malt and ranges from pale amber to dark brown, depending on the degree of roasting. Dark beers like stout and porter get their color by using dark roasted malted barley.

Beer Is Good for You -- in Moderation

It might seem unlikely, but beer (just like any wine, spirits, or other alcohol), when consumed in moderate amounts, has health benefits.

"The strongest evidence suggests alcohol of any kind can increase good cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart attack by 30%, and thereby provide cardiovascular benefits," says Harvard researcher, Eric Rimm, ScD.

He says that "there is some evidence that alcohol can increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of diabetes and because beer contains plenty of fluids, it may help lower the risk of bladder cancer and kidney stones due to the added volume."

Wine, beer, and spirits each contain a little nutritional goodness from the basic ingredients used to make the alcohol.  

Beer is made from hops, yeast, and grains, which contribute carbohydrates, a small amount of B vitamins, and potassium. But experts don't suggest getting your nutrients from beer.


Moderation Defined

Be sure you are clear about the definition of moderation.

Experts recommend beer or any alcohol be consumed responsibly, only by adults, and in moderation defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

One drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer.

Health experts don't recommend that anyone start drinking beer, or any other alcoholic beverage, for health benefits.

Health Effects of Too Much Beer

Overconsumption of beer or any other type of alcohol is risky. 

"Heavy alcohol consumption wipes out any health benefit and increases risk of liver cancer, cirrhosis, alcoholism, and obesity. Heavy or binge drinkers may have increased risk of stroke, chronic hypertension, weight gain, colon and breast cancer," says Rimm, a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines advisory committee.

An estimated 75% of men and 65% of women in the U.S. drink alcohol, with only a modest number engaging in binge drinking, Rimm says.

Of course, if you are going to drink, do not drive.

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