Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Bad For You?
A question we sometimes get asked by people is; “Is non-alcoholic beer bad for you?”. It seems a reasonable question as beer doesn’t have the greatest reputation for being healthy. I’m no nutritionist so I looked at what’s in non-alcoholic beer to try and solve this question.
With all natural ingredients and low levels of carbohydrates, sugar and calories, the answer to “Is non-alcoholic beer bad for you?” for most people is no. Instead, it’s a very good substitute to alcoholic and soft drink alternatives.
Let’s look into what goes into these drinks and why I think non-alcoholic beer isn’t bad for you, along with those situations when you should be more cautious.
What Does Bad For You Mean?
When answering the question on alcohol free beer being bad for you, the first thing to define is what is meant by bad for you and more importantly in what context.
It’s a fairly safe assumption that bad for you means unhealthy, but it’s the context that becomes important when answering the question. I could compare non-alcoholic beer to a carrot and the beer would come out unfavourably. However, very rarely in life are you given the choice of a non-alcoholic beer or a carrot.
Instead, you’re more likely to be in pub or restaurant choosing between a beer (alcohol-free or not) or a soft drink. Therefore, that’s the comparison taken here.
What is Non-Alcoholic Beer?
There’s also the issue of what makes a beer non-alcoholic. The laws on the labelling of non-alcoholic beers are more complicated than you’d think so it’s not a simple answer. Combined with the people’s common interchangeability of no alcohol, low alcohol and alcohol-free (despite their different definitions) and it's easy to get confused by what is meant by non-alcoholic.
There’s also the possibility that naturally occurring alcohol can be found in some fruit juices so aiming for 0.0% isn’t a fair comparison.
Therefore, to avoid any confusion, when answering the question Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Bad For you? I’ll be talking about any beers with an abv less than 0.5%.
The Usual Choices – Drinks To Compare
Keeping on the theme of the options in most pubs or restaurants, I want something to compare against for other alcohol free choices i.e. a soft drink, diet soft drink and fruit juice. Just saying soft drinks can also be vague and I don’t want to appear biased so I used the best sellers from 2020, this gives a list of:
The same data also gives the best-selling beer as Carling so a pint of that can be the beer for our test.
I admit, I’m going to be slightly less scientific for the alcohol-free option and choose one of my favourites, the Drop Bear Beer Co Tropical IPA as it’s award winning flavour demonstrates the great alcohol-free options available.
Now we’ve got our drinks, let look at a few areas and compare them.
Carbohydrates & Sugar in Non-Alcoholic Beer
Carbohydrates form an important part of diet providing the energy our bodies need. Beers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic contain carbohydrates from the malts and hops used in brewing them. Whereas soft drinks tend to get their carbohydrates from the sugar used to add sweetness to the flavour.
A problem arises if we don't use all the carbohydrates we're consuming because they then get converted to fat and stored in the body and can lead to excess weight.
Included within the carbohydrates group is sugar. The health impacts of excess sugar in your diet are well documented with the NHS recommend in a daily intake of 30g. If we compare the choice of drinks that we've got you can see a wide difference in the amount of sugar in each of them.
You can see that looking at the table that the Coca Cola and J2O have high amounts of sugar, with Coca Cola exceeding the recommended amount in a single can. Whilst the beer doesn't have any sugar, there is a large amount of carbohydrates. With only trace amounts of carbohydrates and sugar, the non-alcoholic beer is undoubtedly the healthier option.
However, the clear winner of this test is the Diet Coke with 0g of carbohydrates and sugar. We’ll look into how they pull off this magic trick in just a minute.
Calories in Non-Alcoholic Beer
Beer is famous for giving its biggest fans the biggest beer bellies and that is largely down to the high number of calories hidden in each pint. Which in turn is mainly caused by the alcohol content as alcohol contains nearly 7 calories per gram which is almost the same as a gram of fat.
With the soft drinks, it’s the high sugar content that delivers the higher calories. As most people only think of the calories in their food and not their drinks, these calories often sneak into peoples diet without them realising it.
Yet again, the alcohol-free beer beats its alcoholic cousin and the two non-diet soft drinks, but loses out to the Diet Coke.
So how does Diet Coke pull off this low-calorie, low sugar miracle?
Natural Ingredients in Alcohol Free Beer
Let's have a look at the ingredients in some of these drinks, although there is one problem - the Carling doesn't have to list its ingredients. Under UK law alcoholic drinks don't have to show their ingredients, but it does make you wonder why they don't want to list the ingredients?
Looking through the ingredients of the soft drinks we can also see the sweetness comes from the added sugar or in the case of Diet Coke, artificial sweeteners. This explains the latter's mystery zero calories from above.
Reading through those ingredients, there's only one that has 100% natural ingredients - the non-alcoholic beer. I know which one sounds more appealing to me. How about you?
Benefits of Going Alcohol-Free
By choosing soft drinks or the non-alcoholic beer you get the additional health benefits from excluding the alcohol:
Another less scientifically proved health benefit is saving on the calories consumed by making poor food choices after drinking alcohol. I'm sure I'm not the only one that stopped in at fast food place on the way back from the pub.
Any Downsides to Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Is alcohol free beer this magical drink that will help you with stay fit no matter what? I really wish it was, but sadly the answer is no.
Not all non-alcoholic beers are made equal. For the purposes of writing this I admit I chose a particularly good alcohol free beer to highlight how healthy they can be. As with all drinks, every non-alcoholic beer is different with some having higher calories, carbs, sugars and different ingredients.
Erdinger has vitamins B12, folic acid and isotonic properties,
but is also 125 calories a bottle.
One thing to keep an eye out on is the sugars in some non-alcoholic beers. Some only have 0.1g sugar per 100ml, but others can have nearly 4g. With this increase in sugar there's also an increase in calories.
I definitely recommended you check the nutritional information before choosing which beers to go for if this is something you concerned about. We’ve got a handy nutritional information table listing all our drinks so you can compare and find the ones best for you.
When Non Alcoholic Beer Might Be Bad For You?
Alcohol free beer does contain 0.5% abv of alcohol (which can be less than orange juice), but due to labelling laws it can actually mean that could be up to 1% of alcohol. For some, this might be a problem in certain health situations.
For example, if you're pregnant it’s recommended you avoid alcohol. You may be on medication that recommends avoiding alcohol or some other health condition. If in doubt, I suggest you speak to a doctor to get their opinion on drinking non-alcoholic beer.
Another situation that I cannot comment on is those recovering from an addition to alcohol. I've heard different opinions on whether drinking non-alcoholic drinks help or hinder recovery, so again I would suggest speaking to a specialist.
And The Answer Is…
Like I said at the beginning I’m no trained nutritionist, but my answer to Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Bad For You? has to be no for most people.
First off by drinking non-alcoholic beer you're avoiding alcohol which brings you health benefits like improved sleep, better muscle recovery, no hangovers and long term reduces the risk of cancer.
Then there’s the drinks themselves. They’re an all natural alternative to the usual non-alcoholic choices served in most pubs and restaurants. You can easily consume less calories and sugar (or artificial sweeteners) without having to compromise on taste or enjoyment.
Choosing Non-Alcoholic Beers
It's definitely worth remembering that not all alcohol-free beers are created equal. If you’re concerned about high calories or sugar, I'd recommend checking out our nutritional information table so you can see which beers are best for you.
If you’re going alcohol-free in a bid to keep your calories down, don’t forget to try our Under 50 Calories range. We’ve got a number of variety packs giving you the chance to try many different drinks.
Why not get yours today and find your new favourite non-alcoholic beer.
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