Okay, before we get started, let’s get something abundantly clear: We neither condemn nor condone moderate alcohol consumption. It goes without saying that excess consumption is bad news for your health and waistline. It lowers inhibitions and leads to poor food choices, overeating, poor sleep quality, skipping workouts, and more. Of course, there are obvious long-term repercussions, like brain atrophy, aging, and oh yeah, death.
On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence that alcohol in moderation, especially when enjoyed as part of an overall healthy lifestyle, may improve various aspects of health and even potentially protect against weight gain.
Beer Fun Fact: By volume, beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage globally.
Now, when most people think of healthy alcoholic drinks, red wine is the first that comes to mind. Conversely, most wouldn’t equate beer with a healthy diet. The first thing that probably comes to mind is the dreaded “beer belly.”
But guess what? That may not be entirely true. In fact, here are the healthiest beers that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle—without leading to the beer belly. Bottoms up!
The Healthiest Beers to Drink
Light Healthy Beers
Light beers, which are lowest in calories, alcohol, and carbohydrates, may be the best option. However, because of their lower alcohol content (and lack of flavor), it’s not uncommon for people to drink more of them, negating any potential benefits. So, if you opt for a light beer, be mindful of your consumption and keep it moderate. Here are some of our healthiest beer recommendations in the light beer category:
- Michelob Ultra (95 calories, 2.6g carbs)
- Amstel Light (95 calories, 5g carbs)
- Miller Light (96 calories, 3.2g carbs)
- Budweiser Select (96 calories, 3.1g carbs)
- Yuengling Light Beer or Lager (99 calories, 8.5g carbs)
- Heineken Light (99 calories, 6.8g carbs)
- Corona Light (99 calories, 5g carbs)
- Coors Light (102 calories, 5g carbs)
- Bud Light (110 calories, 6.6g carbs)
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Regular and Dark Beers
If you’re not one for drinking carbonated water that’s slightly yellow in color with a hint of alcohol (read: light beers), worry not. If you prefer a little body and flavor, there are some non-light (i.e., “regular”), darker beers that made the cut as well.
Beer Fun Fact: Moderate beer drinking may be beneficial for preventing cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions.
Dark beers? They’re loaded with calories and carbs, right? Not so fast. Some of the healthiest beers fit into this category. For example, Guinness Draught, a tasty stout, contains just 126 calories and 10 grams of carbs. Then there’s Yuengling Traditional Lager (an amber lager), which provides 135 calories and boasts a higher alcohol content than its lower-calorie light counterpart.
Bustling with flavor and packaged in a unique, stubby bottle with a cool logo, Full Sail Session Lager contains just 135 calories and 10 grams of carbs. If you’re looking for something with a slightly different flavor palette on a warm, sunny day, try Pacifico, which is a Mexican pilsner that rings in at just 135 calories and 12 grams of carbs.
If you’re a bit more of a beer snob (like I am), we have good news for you. You can still enjoy great-tasting craft beer without packing on the pounds. Even more, hop-heavy, flavorful beers may even possess some unique health benefits.
Like red wine, beer contains health-promoting polyphenols. For instance, xanthohumol, the most abundant flavonoid in hops, has been shown to possess powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. What’s more, xanthohumol has been shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibit pathogen bacteria, exerting prebiotic-like effects.
Beer Fun Fact: By no means is beer a nutrient powerhouse. However, healthy beers do provide amino acids, minerals (including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, fluoride, and silicon), and vitamins (including B vitamins).
In addition, hops also contain a compound called isohumulones, which give beer its bitter taste. Research has shown that isohumulones possess a variety of health benefits, including improving carbohydrate management, cholesterol metabolism, and blood pressure. In a randomized, controlled study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, Japanese researchers found that fasting blood sugar and body weight significantly decreased in human volunteers after 12 weeks of supplementation with isohumulones.
Not surprisingly, “hoppy” beers have the highest concentrations of these unique hop-derived compounds. For instance, craft beers have about 7 – 20 times more xanthohumol and 3 – 7 times more isohumulones than light beers. With that being said, “hoppy” craft beers are also typically substantially higher in calories and alcohol. In other words, there’s a fine line between healthiest beers benefits and detriments.
Along those lines, “session” beers are a good option, as these are lower in calories and alcohol. Here’s a list of a few of the healthy beers of the hoppy variety:
- Stone Brewing Co. Levitation Ale (132 calories, 4.4% alcohol)
- Flying Dog Session IPA (141, 4.7% alcohol)
- Stone Brewing Co. Go to IPA (144 calories, 4.8% alcohol)
- Founders All Day IPA (147 calories, 4.7% alcohol)
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (175 calories, 5.6% alcohol)
- Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA (180 calories, 5.6% alcohol)
Dry Hard Cider
It’s not beer, but it comes in a can, it’s carbonated, it has alcohol, and you drink it cold. It seems like it’s worthy of the list.
While beer has long held the position as the preferred alcoholic beverage, there’s been a surge in the market for hard apple cider in recent years. Compared to light beers, hard cider typically contains more calories and carbohydrates. Unlike beer, which is sugar-free (unless the brewer adds sugar), hard cider contains sugar—sometimes, a lot of it.
Beer Fun Fact: Beer, along with wine, is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet.
Hard cider is made with apples, which possess a myriad health benefits. Plus, hard cider is darn refreshing. When choosing a hard cider, we recommend opting for dry cider, which is typically lower in sugar and calories. Here are a few of our favorite healthiest beers (I know, they are ciders 🙂 ):
- Woodchuck Crisp Hard Cider (120 calories)
- Michelob Ultra Light Cider (120 calories)
- Magners Irish Cider (125 calories)
- Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider (140 calories)
- Harpoon Cider (140 calories)
- Strongbow Cider (140 calories)
- Wyder’s Apple Cider (150 calories)
- Samuel Smith Organic Cider (150 calories)
Now that you know the truth about the healthiest beers, crack open and enjoy a cold one (in moderation, of course).