With the growing popularity of non-alcoholic beverages, more people are turning to non-alcoholic beer, or near beer, as a healthier alternative to drinking alcohol. Interestingly, some are also drinking it for its added health benefits, some with some very specific applications.
We already know that drinking a lot of alcohol is not healthy. If you regularly consume a lot of alcohol, you’ll be cutting back on your alcohol consumption with every non-alcoholic beer you consume, and you’ll be that much healthier. While that might seem simple, the combination of less alcohol with the reduced calories found in many non-alcoholic beers could make a huge impact on your health.
But is non alcoholic beer good for you? Some would go so far as to argue that non-alcoholic beer is actually healthy. Because it is made similarly to beer, non-alcoholic beer has little or no alcohol, but retains some of the same compounds found in beer, which is already debated as having its own health benefits. Studies have suggested these potential benefits to drinking non-alcoholic beer:
- Reduced inflammation
- Sleep aid
- Immune system
- Beneficial to gut microbiome
- Reduced risk for heart disease
- Stimulates breast milk production with antioxidant boost
Non Alcoholic Beer Benefits Explained
While the studies listed in this article provide some very interesting prospects for healthful uses of non-alcoholic beer, more studies and work need to be done to provide more conclusive evidence. Here are examples of how non-alcoholic beer benefits our health:
1. Reduced Inflammation
Believe it or not, strenuous exercise can increase one’s likelihood of getting an upper respiratory illness. In one study with marathon runners, drinking non-alcoholic beer for three weeks before and two weeks after a race reduced inflammation, with a decrease in white blood cell activity by 20 percent. Not only that, it suggested a reduction in the incidence of upper respiratory tract illnesses that typically affect that group.
Aside from sports performance and recovery, chronic inflammation has been linked with the development of many illnesses, including asthma, autoimmune disease, diabetes, neurological diseases, cancer, and others. Polyphenols have been studied in this field and show promise in their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory influence of cellular pathways, as discussed here. So, one might make the case that the polyphenols present in non-alcoholic beer could help combat chronic inflammation.
However, there are many factors at play: your unique DNA and health conditions, the polyphenol content found in the particular non-alcoholic beer you drink, among other variables. More studies need to be done to approve the clinical use of these natural compounds as it pertains to chronic inflammation.
Athletes lose water and electrolytes during strenuous exercise, and it’s widely recommended to replenish elements post-workout to help in the recuperation process. Usually, a sports drink or electrolyte tablet is consumed after exercise. In Germany, Olympic athletes are drinking non-alcoholic beer for post-exercise recovery.
It has sodium, chloride, and potassium in it, which are all major players in fluid retention and electrolyte rebalancing. It’s also packed with vitamins and minerals. In this study, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol post-exercise did not have any adverse effects on the recuperation process. Those features, plus the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits make non-alcoholic beer an interesting option for post-workout rehydration. Not to mention the added bonus of enjoying a beer after putting in some hard work!
Some non-alcoholic beers are marketed as isotonic beverages. When you see this word, they are referring to the electrolytes and rehydration potential of non-alcoholic beer.
In addition to post-workout hydration, a double-blind study was performed to assess the effects of drinking non-alcoholic beer pre-exercise. Male soccer players ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes after drinking .7L of non-alcoholic beer. The results suggest that drinking non-alcoholic beer before exercise could help maintain electrolyte balance during exercise. Not only that, it suggests that drinking water might even incite a drop in Na+ in plasma during exercise.
From this, one could deduce that non-alcoholic beer might be better to drink than water before exercise for maintaining electrolyte balance.
3. Hops in Non Alcoholic Beer Offers Sleep Aid
The non-alcoholic beers produced similarly to alcoholic beer contain hops. Hops are the flowers of a plant called Humulus lupulus, and they are often attributed to giving beer its bitter flavor. Another interesting quality of the plant is its sedative effects.
One scientific study was conducted with female nurses, who consumed 333ml of beer at dinner each night for 14 days. Compared to the control group, the nurses who drank the NA beer experienced improved sleep quality, including falling asleep faster, having less measured activity through the night, and reduced anxiety.
While you might also experience these effects when drinking a similar amount of alcoholic beer before bed, why not skip the alcohol and opt for all the bonus health benefits of non-alcoholic beer?
4. Non Alcoholic Beer Might be Beneficial to Gut Microbiome
Many fermented foods and drinks have an effect on our gut flora by introducing helpful bacteria created through the fermentation process. While beer undergoes fermentation, it has also been suggested that the polyphenols and phenolic acid found in non-alcoholic beer may enrich the bacteria diversity in the gut.
In a 30-day study, test subjects that drank 330ml of non-alcoholic beer per day saw an increased proliferation of bacteria in the gut microbiome, a decrease in fasting blood serum glucose, and an increase in functional β cells (these are responsible for secreting insulin, which regulates blood sugar).
The gut microbiome has been linked to inflammation, skin conditions, brain function, mood, and many other issues. Non-alcoholic beer might be one way to boost the health of your gut.
5. Reduced Risk for Heart Disease
The term “heart disease” refers to multiple conditions that affect the heart. Heart disease is the number one cause of death, according to the American Heart Association. Any advances in reducing the fatality rate of heart disease is worth our attention.
Stanford Health Care defines endothelial dysfunction as a “type of non-obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) in which there are no heart artery blockages, but the large blood vessels on the heart’s surface constrict (narrow) instead of dilating (opening).” While not always the case, some researchers believe this condition is an early warning for blockage in the arteries as well as heart attack or stroke.
When this constriction of the blood vessels is caused by too much bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, non-alcoholic beer has shown promise in reducing the dysfunction in this study. In addition to that, a blockage in blood vessels caused by a blood clot is called thrombosis. In another study, non-alcoholic beer was suggested to prevent blockage in young adults.
6. Breast Milk Production and Antioxidants in Breast Milk
Multiple studies suggest that drinking non-alcoholic beer might be beneficial to nursing mothers. In this instance, non-alcoholic beer had a positive effect on the secretion of prolactin, a hormone responsible for milk production. Peak serum prolactin increased by 2.4 times the baseline value. This poses an interesting possibility for mothers who may have difficulty with nursing because of low breast milk production.
In addition, after nursing mothers drank non-alcoholic beer, the alcohol levels were negligible, posing no known risk to babies, while the levels in the antioxidant capacity of their breast milk increased.
How Much Alcohol is in Non Alcoholic Beer?
The amount of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer varies by product, but to be considered “non-alcoholic” it must have less than .5% alcohol by volume (ABV). There are even a few that have 0% alcohol. Most breweries only list “less than .5% ABV” on their products, without getting more specific. That might be ok, because…
Get this: a ripe banana has approximately .45% ABV, hamburger buns have ~1.2% ABV, and soy sauce, 2%. I had no idea about this until Monday mentioned it in their FAQ. So keep this into consideration when selecting a non-alcoholic beer based on its ABV. They all have to be under .5% and this is not much more than a ripe banana. Would you consider a ripe banana unhealthy?
Brands marketing totally alcohol-free beer, either 0% ABV or 0.0, are Hairless Dog, Suntory, Carlsberg, Budweiser, Nirvana Brewery, Bitburger, and Heineken. It should be noted that Heineken discloses a miniscule 0.3% actual ABV for their 0.0, and given what we now know about food and alcohol, who knows if others have trace amounts that are also negligible.
How Many Non Alcoholic Beers Equal One Beer?
Compared to beer, non-alcoholic beer has a lot less alcohol. Alcohol content varies greatly in different styles of beer, on average between 4.5%-8% ABV. A non-alcoholic beer must have less than 0.5% ABV, so you would have to consume 9-16 beers to reach those levels of alcohol, respectively. That’s a rough estimation, also assuming the non-alcoholic beer is near .5% alcohol content.
For non alcoholic beer with a lower ABV, it would obviously take even more. In addition, the amount of time it would take to consume that many beers is also a factor, so you aren’t really in danger of consuming even close to the same amount of alcohol when drinking non-alcoholic beer.
How Many Calories in Non Alcoholic Beer?
When evaluating a food or beverage to be healthy, caloric content is a common measure for comparison. The amount of calories in alcohol free beer varies, just like it varies in beer. There are low calorie alcoholic beers and low calorie non-alcoholic beers, but on average, non-alcoholic beer has less calories. In my research, I have found a range from 0-130 calories per 12oz of non-alcoholic beer.
Out of over 100 NA beers evaluated, here is a list of the lowest calorie non alcoholic beers with 25 calories or less per can or bottle:
- Suntory ALL FREE – 0 calories
- Lagunitas Hop Hoppy Refresher – 0 calories
- Partake Brewing Pale – 10 calories
- Partake Brewing IPA – 10 calories
- Partake Brewing Blonde – 15 calories
- Surreal Brewing Natural Bridges Kolsch Style – 17 calories
- Estrella Galicia 0.0 – 21 calories
- Drop Bear Tropical IPA – 22 calories
- Gruvi Weisse – 25 calories
- Partake Brewing Red – 25 calories
- Surreal Brewing Juicy Mavs Hazy IPA – 25 calories
Is There a Low Carb Non Alcoholic Beer?
Besides calories, you may also want to make note of the amount of carbs in non alcoholic beer. For a fair comparison, low carb alcoholic beer usually has between 2-3g carbohydrates per 12oz can. Not all non-alcoholic beer is low in carbs.
After evaluating over 100 NA beers, these the the products that boast less than 3 carbs per can or bottle:
- Lagunitas Hop Hoppy Refresher – 0g
- Partake Brewing Pale – 0g
- Buckler Non-Alcoholic Beer – 0g
- Suntory ALL FREE – 1g
- Drop Bear Yuzu Pale Ale – 1.3g
- Drop Bear Tropical IPA – 1.65g
- Partake Brewing IPA – 2g
- Partake Brewing Blonde – 2g
- Surreal Brewing Natural Bridges Kolsch Style – 2.3g
Is There a Gluten Free Non Alcoholic Beer?
There are several great gluten free non-alcoholic beers available in the UK, but the only one available in the US is Suntory ALL FREE, and it’s a light beer substitute. Bravus Brewing company brews their beer to reduce gluten content, and Surreal Brewing Company makes 2 gluten-reduced styles – their Kolsch style and Chandelier Red IPA. Partake and Bitburger also have some very low-gluten non alcoholic beers.
If you happen to be in the UK, some of the best brands that brew gluten free non-alcoholic beer are: Big Drop Brewing Co, Drop Bear Brewing Co, Nirvana Brewery, and Jump Ship Brewing. Here’s a list of some low gluten and gluten free beers:
- Drop Bear Brewing, All Beers – Gluten Free
- Suntory ALL FREE – Gluten Free
- Nirvana Brewery Dark and Rich Stout – Gluten Free
- Partake Brewing IPA – Gluten <5ppm
- Partake Brewing Pale – Gluten <5ppm
- Big Drop Brewing, All Beers – Gluten <10ppm
Other Nutrients in Non Alcoholic Beer
Several natural ingredients used in the beer-making process have historically been considered medicinal and are packed with various nutrients that haven’t been mentioned. Since non-alcoholic beer is often marketed toward the health-focused and athletic crowds, some of the micronutrients are listed.
While a lot of research has been done in this area around alcoholic beer, not many breweries go so far as to list out all of these items for their non-alcoholic products. It’s not clear if they are still present after the alcohol removable process (if used) or if the amounts are so small they aren’t worth listing.
Here are some commonly listed micronutrients in non-alcoholic beer and what they do:
- Vitamin B6 – turns food into energy
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) – helps form DNA and RNA, combats against homocysteine, which is harmful in large quantities, particularly important in pregnancy, as it is critical during periods of rapid growth
- Vitamin B12 – helps with red blood cell formation, helps anemia
- Chloride – electrolyte, maintains fluid balance and manages blood pressure
- Magnesium – helpful with nerve function, blood sugar regulation, brain function, bone development, and many other things
- Potassium – electrolyte that helps nerves and muscles work properly
- Calcium – bone growth, help heart, lungs, and nerves function
- Iron – vital for transporting oxygen to the blood
- Sodium – electrolyte, controls blood pressure and blood volume
Non Alcoholic Beer and Pregnancy
With all the potential health benefits, you might be wondering if pregnant women can drink non-alcoholic beer. From all the research I have done on this subject, I have not found a definitive answer on this subject. Ultimately, you should discuss anything associated with your pregnancy and your health with your doctor.
That being said, if you decide to have a non-alcoholic beer while pregnant, here are some options that are completely alcohol free:
- Lagunitas Hop Hoppy Refresher
- Hairless Dog: Coffee Stout, IPA, Black Ale, Citra Lager
- Suntory ALL FREE
- Carlsberg 0.0
- Budweiser Zero
- Nirvana Brewery: Dark and Rick Stout, Traditional Pale Ale
- Bitburger: 0.0 Alcohol Free Radler, 0.0 Pilsner, Drive
If you are still unsure about whether or not you want non-alcoholic beer, you might want to check out all the non-alcoholic spirits previously reviewed for some very delicious mocktails.
Best Tasting Non-Alcoholic Beer
Under the subject of health, I have shared examples of the lowest calorie, lowest carb, and gluten free non-alcoholic beers, but when making decisions about our health, we often balance our priorities, and obviously, one of them is taste.
After all, healthy choices are not sustainable if we don’t enjoy them. So, after evaluating a lot of beer, here are some of the best-tasting non-alcoholic beers that are also healthy:
- Surreal Natural Bridges Kolsch Style
- Partake Brewing IPA
- Clausthaler Premium Non-Alcoholic Beer
- Gruvi Weisse
What Do You Think? Is Non Alcoholic Beer Good For You?
Non-alcoholic beer obviously has a lot going for it as an alternative beverage: it can rehydrate or regulate your fluids during exercise, help with sleep quality, possibly reduce risk for heart disease, and it might even offer help to nursing mothers. What’s more, it benefits the gut, which offers a chain reaction of potential positive effects on the body. It seems to have some very interesting specific applications for athletes, nursing mothers, and insomniacs.
While non-alcoholic beer might be full of micronutrients, healthy bacteria, and electrolytes, a lot of them still have close to 100 calories and 20g of carbs per can, so you cannot assume they are all the same. The term “healthy” will likely depend on your priorities when it comes to these measurements. However, there are plenty of non-alcoholic beers listed in this article that fall well below those ranges and still offer all of the potential health benefits listed here.
After many hours of research on non-alcoholic wine, beer, and spirits, I believe we’ll be seeing more and more beverages emerge that are not only “non-alcoholic” but offer other health benefits. This might mean all natural ingredients packed with micronutrients or even beverages with nutrients added to them to make them more efficiently healthy. One thing is for sure: non-alcoholic beer is coming for the fitness market, and I’m ok with that.