When it comes to St. Patty's Day, I like to go all out, but I don't want a post-Patty's Day beer belly. How bad is beer? And is the green beer any worse? -Emily F. Cortland, NY
Oh, St. Patrick's Day. I can already smell the corned beef, cabbage and beer. Lots and lots of beer. It seems like St. Patty's Day is an opportunity for beer-lovers to tap that keg, get the party started, and then go big or go home. But, not so fast. Before you start slugging back Guinness, Harp Lager and Smithwick's, grab those beer goggles (OK, magnifying glasses), and let's take a closer look at our beloved brew.
Beer is not typically branded as nutritious sippin,' mostly because of its high carbohydrate and calorie content, not to mention its association with the dreaded "beer belly." It's nothing new that the calories from alcohol add up pretty quickly, or that alcohol can be harmful to the liver, so I won't beer-labor that. But simply stated: Each regular 12-ounce beer will set you back about 150 to 200 calories, and a light beer contains about 110 calories. And a habit of overdoing it with beer goes beyond calorie counts; overconsumption can lead to increased risk of liver damage, some cancers and cardiovascular problems.
But beer is not all gloom and doom. To an extent, the luck of the Irish is with us, because beer actually has some benefits. We all want to age gracefully, and beer may help us do just that. Some studies have suggested that moderate beer consumption—we're talking one 12-ounce beer per day—may help us live longer and keep our minds young, prevent heart disease and diabetes, and reduce the risk of cancer. Plus, bioflavonoids found in hops, which give beer its flavor, have antioxidant properties.
As for green beer? I'm all about going green, but it's not my color of choice for beer. No different than a Shamrock Shake from McDonalds, your St. Patty's Day green beer gets its hue from green food coloring, which has been linked to cancer and headaches. While it's unlikely that even heavy-weight drinkers will consume enough green food dye from beer in one day to cause medical mayhem, as with all things artificial, I would still advise you stick to beer in its natural hue.
When it comes to your St. Patty's day fun, I'm all for indulging, but do so consciously. When choosing your brew on this festive day, your best bet in terms of calories and health benefits is Guinness. And as usual, alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water. Do like the Irish do, and get your jig on! Sláinte!
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!