You may have noticed a recent increase in people abstaining from alcohol. In February 2021, beverage analysis firm IWSR predicted that the market for non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beverages would grow by 31% globally by 2024.
“Over the last few years, the “sober curious” movement has exploded in popularity,” says Kerry Benson, RD, coauthor of Mocktail Party: 75 Plant-Based Non-Alcoholic Recipes for Every Occasion. People are increasingly becoming aware of the physical and mental benefits of living an alcohol-free lifestyle.
This trend has resulted in the birth of a new generation of nonalcoholic beers. These new brews, inspired by flavorful craft beers, bear little resemblance to past nonalcoholic beers, which frequently had an off, cooked flavor. Not only do they taste better, but many of the newer buzz-free brews are formulated with a focus on health and wellness. Certain companies, such as WellBeing Brewing Company and Athletic Brewing Company, use their brand names to evoke a healthy lifestyle.
“Nonalcoholic beers are an excellent way for individuals to decrease their alcohol consumption while still enjoying the taste and experience of beer. By eliminating alcohol, you are removing a toxic compound that increases the risk of chronic disease, “Benson explains.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is a “toxic and psychoactive substance” that “causes 3 million deaths annually and accounts for more than 5% of global disease burden.”
Whether you’re just beginning your weight loss journey, pregnant, or recovering from an addiction, there are numerous reasons to consider these new options. However, before you purchase a six-pack, here is some information you should know about nonalcoholic beers and their effect on your health.
How Is Nonalcoholic Beer Defined?
Nonalcoholic beers are simply beers that have been brewed with no alcohol or with less alcohol than the legal limit. Beverages may be labeled as nonalcoholic if they contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Before you panic, keep in mind that many common foods and beverages contain trace amounts of alcohol. It is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology discovered detectable levels of alcohol in bananas, apple juice, and bread. A nonalcoholic beer (or even a few of them) will not provide you with a buzz. However, it can be used in place of boozy beers, providing an alternative for times when you want beer without the hangover.
How Is Alcohol-Free Beer Produced?
Beer is produced by fermenting grains, in which microorganisms, typically yeast, convert the sugar in grains to alcohol and other byproducts. Certain vintage brands produce nonalcoholic beer by inhibiting fermentation, which also inhibits flavor development. Other brands cook the beer after fermentation to remove any remaining alcohol. Regrettably, neither of these traditional methods results in great-tasting beers. In order to compensate, manufacturers occasionally add sugar or high fructose corn syrup, resulting in an overly sweet beer.
Brewers at the forefront of nonalcoholic craft beer use high-tech, top-secret methods to create beer that tastes more like traditional craft beer without the use of sweeteners. The flavor is more vibrant, bold, and frequently indistinguishable from the alcoholic craft beers from which they were inspired.
“I adore nonalcoholic beers, particularly those from Atlanta’s Rightside Brewing. They have a citrus wheat and an American IPA, both of which are quite good, “Benson notes.” Additionally, she recommends nonalcoholic beers from Athletic Brewing Company, Ceria Brewing Company, Partake Brewing Company, and Dogfish Head Brewing Company. They’re delectable, and they’re also lower in calories than standard beer.
What Is the Difference Between Nonalcoholic and Regular Beer?
While removing the alcohol from beer does make it healthier, this does not mean that it should be consumed in excess. The majority of nonalcoholic beers contain little nutritional value and are primarily composed of carbohydrates (usually on par with regular beer). Their abstinence from alcohol does mean that they are typically lower in calories: The popular Upside Dawn beer from Athletic Brewing Company, for example, contains only 50 calories and 12 grams of carbs per 12-ounce can. By comparison, a can of Budweiser contains 145 calories and 10.6 grams of carbs. (Bud Light contains 110 calories and 6.6 grams of carbohydrates.)
“What’s great about nonalcoholic beers in comparison to alcoholic beer is that they frequently include a Nutrition Facts panel and an ingredient list, which you can review to determine whether the drink meets your personal goals,” Benson explains. “For instance, a few nonalcoholic beers do contain added sugar and should be consumed with caution. Because alcoholic beverages typically do not include this information, we are left in the dark about what we are drinking.”
Is Nonalcoholic Beer a Healthier Alternative?
Apart from calorie count, carbohydrate content, and added sugar content, Benson recommends finding a nonalcoholic beer you enjoy. “That will assist you in reducing your alcohol consumption over time.” And abstaining from alcohol is unquestionably beneficial to your health. According to a study published in August 2018 in the journal The Lancet, “our findings indicate that the safest level of drinking is none.”
Other studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption may be beneficial to health over time, Benson notes. “However, an increasing body of evidence indicates that even light to moderate drinking may have negative health consequences, particularly when it comes to cancer. According to organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research, it is best to abstain from alcohol for cancer prevention, “she says.
Apart from abstaining from alcohol, there may be additional benefits to nonalcoholic beer. According to NPR, some Olympic athletes have embraced it as a sports drink. A randomized controlled trial published in June 2016 in the journal Nutrients discovered that nonalcoholic beer may be an effective post-exercise recovery beverage. Several small studies suggest that nonalcoholic beer may be beneficial for reducing inflammation and even common colds. According to Benson, these studies are encouraging, but “I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to draw conclusions at this time.”
Is Nonalcoholic Beer Harmful to Your Health?
It’s critical to keep in mind that even nonalcoholic beers contain some alcohol. Furthermore, the stated ABV range of 0.0 to 0.5 percent on the label is not a guarantee.Previously, there have been concerns about non-alcoholic beers exceeding the legal limit of 0.5 percent ABV. According to one study, 30% of the nonalcoholic beers tested contained more alcohol by volume than their labels indicated, with six beers containing up to 1.8 percent alcohol by volume.
“Some individuals should bear in mind that these products do contain trace amounts of alcohol. There is some debate over whether pregnant women should consume these beverages, “Benson explains.”
Additionally, anyone navigating a substance use disorder should exercise caution. For some people in recovery from addiction, the appearance, aroma, and flavor of nonalcoholic beers can elicit cravings for alcohol.
“Whether or not to drink nonalcoholic beers is really a matter of personal preference,” Benson says. “Everyone is unique. For some individuals, these beverages can aid in their recovery process. Others find it evocative. For many, it evolves over time, and what may have been a trigger early in sobriety may prove beneficial later.” Self-awareness is critical for determining whether nonalcoholic beers are a good choice for you.
The Nonalcoholic Beer Bottom Line
When nonalcoholic beers are substituted for alcoholic beers, your health benefits. It’s critical to remember, however, that while these alternative beverages typically contain fewer calories and carbs, they are not calorie-or carbohydrate-free. Additionally, as with any food or beverage, it’s a good idea to scan the labels, avoid options with added sugar, and consume them in moderation.
Nonalcoholic beers, according to Benson, are an especially good substitute in fitness settings, where alcohol has become ubiquitous in recent years. “If you believe you can rehydrate with a regular beer following a 5K race, you are mistaken,” she says. “A nonalcoholic beer would be a much better choice.”