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I do likes me a cold one on a hot summer day, and a fall ball game just isn't the same without an ale in my hand. Fear of the great beer belly has kept suds out of the refrigerators and hands of beer enthusiasts all over the land, but is it possible that one of America's favorite beverages has gotten an undeserved bad rap?
After all, beer is created from just four basic ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast. The result of these ingredients dancing together is alcohol and CO2. That's a combo that goes down easy, and there are so many ways to blend the brew that you're sure to find an ale, stout, lager or amber that is just right for you.
The dirty deets
Your doc may have told you that drinking alcohol in moderation is good for your health, but usually wine gets all the cred for the antioxidant benefits. Truth be told, beer and wine contain the same amount of antioxidants. There are some other things you should know:
• The protein and B-vitamin content of beer is higher than wine. Yeah, going for a brewski after a rousing game of touch football with your work team will help you replenish your protein better than a glass of chardonnay. But here's a buzzkill: Even though beer is a good source of B vitamins, the alcohol in it mostly cancels out those benefits.
• Beer offers anywhere from 95 to 360 calories in a 12-ounce serving, with the average bottle of beer in the 150-calorie range. A five-ounce glass of wine will run you about 120 calories. Sometimes the light beer is a better calorie choice than the wine. Since the FDA doesn't require calories to be on the label, do the homework and math on your favorite beer to know where it should be in your beverage lineup, because those calories do find a way to linger. (Call it a beer belly, call it a muffin top; you just don't want to find one circlin' your middle.)
• One to two beers a day is good for your bones. Brew contains silicon, which is in very few foods and is linked to bone strength and health. Now that's something to consider before going for your next bone-density scan.
• Think light in color equals light in calories? Not always the case. "Light" actually refers to the percent of alcohol and calories. Higher-alcohol beers have more calories, so if you're watching your weight, a Guinness is actually about the same as a Bud.
How to chow down
You get up to one (femmes) or two (dudes) alcoholic beverages a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. When it comes to suds, that means a 12-ounce bottle or a draught with an inch of head. More than that can tip the health benefits into the health damaging category.
• You want a well-chilled pint glass. Keep it in the freezer for at least a couple of hours so it's all white and frosty and smoky when you pull it out. Tilt the glass and pour a stream of refreshment down the side, standing the glass upright as you get to the end of the pour. This allows for the perfect amount of fluffy bubbles at the top.
• Beer is a great liquid ingredient to add to your soups, marinades and culinary whole-grain masterpieces and can replace broth, stock or plain water. It adds delicate flavor and aroma. The alcohol will cook off, so no need to worry about getting your buddies drunk off your eats.
• If there is leftover beer from your beer-can chicken, beer bread or beer-battered jalapenos, dump it over your head. Seriously, beer is great for restoring life and shine to your hair by nourishing and smoothing strands.
In the know
If you had begrudgingly written off beer, put it back on your roster. Strategically place it into your beverage batting order when you're at a game or looking for refreshment that pairs well with friends and fun. Don't overdo it, though. Too much of this good thing will take you out of your own starting lineup.
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