The Surprising Health Benefits of Beer
Think about a time when you may have been playing a little pool at a local sports bar. Did you ever notice that, after a few beers, you or someone else may have begun to hit difficult shots, sparking the phrase 'I play better when I'm drunk'? Whether you're aware of it or not, there might just be some science to back up the claim!
If you've been reading up on our site lately, it's possible you've noticed a higher volume of health articles related to alcohol. It may have quite a bit to do with the fact that here at Wellki HQ, nestled in the lovely state of Minnesota, our summers are cherished seasons. And with such great, warm weather, we enjoy a drink or two at ball games, concerts, barbecues and most other outdoor events as much as we can! That, and as always, we like to bring you the best (and most relevant) health topics currently being studied.
For those of us that are currently of drinking age, and looking to better our health, there really is no more relevant topic. It's obviously very important to understand that moderation is key when discussing any potential health benefits of any type of alcohol. The current rule on weekly intake states that any amount of drinks above 14 will begin to cause lasting damage to internal organs -- specifically the liver. However, if you limit consumption to simply one or two drinks, on a few nights a week, a few surprising benefits have begun to be revealed.
Helps With Outdoor Workout Recovery (In High Temperatures)
We'll start off the list by thinking once again about summertime; heat, humidity, sunshine and exercise. Sounds like a recipe that would normally be cured by drinking lots of water, right? According to a Spanish study, it turns out that beer may actually provide better hydration than water alone. However, I can't say that this means that beer is the new 'miracle' cure for cooling off the summer heat following a run. And it certainly won't beat out the benefits of some of the best post-workout foods for recovery of essential nutrients.
That being said, the point here is that the study mentions beer is better at hydration. That's important to note, because it does make sense if you just think about it. Beer itself is generally 90-93% water; the remaining elements that make up the full 100% add just a bit of extra nutrients that water doesn't. The carbonation in beer provides a better quench to your thirst, while the carbohydrates assist in replacing calories lost during exercise. Again, keep in mind that this is the effect of a beer -- not six. Remember the importance of moderation, and enjoy the added benefit!
Can Act As A Cold Remedy
Before you crack a cold one to cure your nasal congestion, understand that this magical elixir must be warm beer! That's right, though this may not be the most enjoyable or tasty benefit, it does indeed work! The barley in most beers helps to improve circulation, and act as a decongestant when warmed up. I've recently been battling a head cold, and tried this myself just this past weekend. A recipe I read online suggested heating it in a double boiler (two pots, stacked) and adding a tablespoon or so of honey. I'll admit that it was a bit odd, tasting warm beer that way, but it was almost like an herbal tea remedy... with a bit of alcohol to help soothe the sinus pressure. It's certainly not for everybody, but then again, cough syrup doesn't taste too wonderful, either. If you feel like it, give it a try the next time you're feeling stuffed up.
You might be thinking that those aren't life-altering benefits of perhaps a nice pumpkin ale, so what say we hit you with the heavy hitters?
This is absolutely an umbrella statement, because I'm about to rattle off a list of harmful ailments and diseases that a couple beers every now and again will help prevent:
- Heart Disease
- Reverse Cellular Damage
- High Blood Pressure
- Fight Cancer
- Kill Viruses
- Kidney Stone Formation
- Lower Cholesterol
And that's just a short list of the big ones! Thanks to the anti-oxidants and vitamins contained in many beers, there's a wealth of additional health risks that are reduced by having moderate beer consumption. This is made particularly more evident in tests done in contrast to those who didn't drink at all. It sounds made up, but I'll stress again (...and again) that most of these studies involving beer consumption show health benefits for anywhere between one to three beers. Obviously, someone who doesn't drink at all will be healthier than someone who abuses alcohol, so be sure to make that necessary distinction.
For beer to show such a variety of health benefits, it's all in the ingredients. Sure, there's the alcohol content, but thanks to the barley and hops (as part of the brewing process), a beer will contain anti-oxidants, vitamins and polyphenols that are contributors to risk prevention. It's the best of all alcohols in this respect, even beating out the likes of red wine! With that in mind, it's the darker or hoppier ales that contain the strongest ingredients, so definitely opt for the more crafty beers on the market.
This is probably the sneakiest benefit, where people have always had a hunch that alcohol helps people become more creative. However, it's not until recently that's studies have begun to show evidence of this booster. There are many famous painters, writers and other artists that have long been associated with heavy drinking, as a contributor to much of their overwhelming success. While the quantity may be far off, it turns out that they may have been onto something.
A recent study involves a cognitive problem solving exam, where participants have to think creatively to master different problems. In the study, one group had nothing to drink, while the other group participants performed the tasks after consuming two beers. Turns out that the group that had been drinking performed 40% better than those who hadn't. The reason why? It has to do with the cerebral cortex, the part of your brain controlling conscious thought, language and interaction.
After a couple of beers, the alcohol content interacts with the cerebral cortex, causing you to feel slightly less focused. While this makes it difficult to do things like reading, and certainly driving, your brain then breaks free from distractions that you worry about with a clear, sober mind. When you become less distracted, or worried, about the world around you, that's when the creative portion of your brain emerges with ease -- allowing you to come up with great ideas, and creative problem-solving strategies.
Think about how may distractions you normally run into, when trying to get a particular task done. Maybe you surf the web, check out a gaming app on your phone -- anything but the actual task at hand. Procrastination is basically all about your brain's executive functioning mechanism (the task ordering and delegating) constantly placing importance to different things. I'm not saying that beer is the cure for this, but it does help to focus less on everything else, and more creatively on one single thing. If there was one way to say it, beer is a tool to help you if you're searching for a creative idea.
Now that you've seen some of the lesser known health benefits of beer, I'll go ahead and stress (for the last time) that once beer consumption moves from moderate to heavy, the benefits go right out the window. This is not an article designed to get people to start drinking (or drinking more) beer, just an informative piece on what the drink brings to the world of health and wellness. If you remember a previous article on the new rules of alcohol and exercise, the same rules apply here -- keep your consumption to one to three beers on just a few nights in the week.