Gluten-Free Beer: A Tasty and Healthy Option?

  • 2 Minutes Read

Like beer but concerned about gluten and keeping a healthy diet? Find out about gluten-free and gluten-removed beers here.

Gluten-Free Beer: A Tasty and Healthy Option?

Gluten has long been part of traditional beers. Glycoproteins (gluten) come from barley and wheat, specifically in the form of hordein and gliadin, respectively. They can, however, trigger symptoms in those with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages. It is estimated that one in 133 people have Celiac disease (or around 3 million Americans).

The market for gluten-free products is now approaching $5 billion annually, and the craft beer market continues to grow and expected to hit $18 billion annually by 2017. Twenty-one million U.S. households actively purchase gluten-free products for health reasons.

It would seem appropriate for these two growing markets to merge, and in varying degrees they have. But before we dive into a discussion about gluten-free (and gluten-removed) beers, let's consider alcohol consumption and how/if it fits into a healthy diet.

Without trying to make a case for beer consumption, there is an emerging list of studies highlighting the "benefits" of drinking beer. These reasons include that beer contains all the minerals the human body needs for survival. Beer contains polyphenols, antioxidants that protect against the damaging effects of oxygen and nitrogen in the body and may help prevent high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. The amount of antioxidants found in beer depends on the type of beer, with darker beers and craft beers having more than light adjunct lagers (i.e. macro-beers).

Compared to cocktails, drinking beer can save one over 150 calories per drink, and if one makes that switch for three drinks a week for three months it saves over 5,000 calories. For light beer choices, Beck's Light has 64 calories per 12 ounces, and Amstel Light has 95 calories. On the higher end, Sierra Nevada IPA contains 231 calories per 12 ounces, and Budweiser has 145 calories. In most cases, a beer with a higher ABV (Alcohol by Volume) contains more calories.

As a nutritional source, however, alcohol does not serve as an essential source of calories, like carbs, proteins, and fat do. And for losing weight, creating a calorie deficit is what's needed to drop pounds. Drinking beer before dinner may also cause one to eat, on average, about 20 percent more per meal than when one doesn't drink beforehand.

However, even the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men and still consider it "moderate" intake. So if you like beer and gluten intake is something you need to consider, there are some choices on the market. Let's look at them.

The gluten-free beers on the market today are actually divided into two classes (and there are ongoing battles with the FDA as to what classifies as "gluten-free" for labeling purpose, just FYI). These two classes are gluten-free, where a beer is made from cereals, such as millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat and corn to produce a gluten-free beer. In Europe, to be gluten-free a beer must contain less than 20 parts per million. In Australia, however, only beers with no trace of gluten can be gluten-free.

This important, especially with the second class of beers being marketed, which are gluten-removed beers. This means that beers are made with traditional ingredients, including malted barley and wheat, and then during fermentation the gluten is removed, typically by adding an enzyme that attacks and eats the gluten. However, traces of glycoproteins are often still found in these beers. And if one is highly sensitive to gluten, this should be taken into consideration. Technically, products made with gluten-containing grains are not allowed to have labels saying "gluten-free," but some studies are showing that as long as gluten is less than 20ppm, a person with Celiac disease can consume it. In the U.S. there are several popular choices for gluten-free beers, including New Planet (5% ABV, 170 calories per 12 ounces) and New Grist. Omission Beer from Portland makes gluten-removed beers.

Alcohol & Other Beverages->Beer Meal Planning & Diets->Gluten Free & Celiac
Aug 22, 2013
Ryan Newhouse - health writer, MyNetDiary

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