One of the reasons why I started Beer n Biceps was to help correct misconceptions surrounding alcohol, health and fitness. There are a lot of unfounded beliefs about the health benefits (or lack thereof) of beer. Does beer contain vitamins? What about minerals? Is beer healthy?
Beer contains B vitamins, it also contains certain minerals. Beer can be a good source of fibre. Drinking beer on a full stomach is best for absorption. Too much alcohol can actually reduce vitamin and mineral absorption as it interferes with the digestion process.
As you can see, the story of beer, vitamins and minerals is complicated. Depending on your goals, you can make beer sound very healthy or very unhealthy! In this article, I will attempt to strike a balance.
Whether beer contains vitamins or not kind of depends on what beer we’re talking about. Not all beers are created equal in this regard. According to realbeer.com, many mass-produced beers filter out the vitamins during the filtration process.
But there are many beers that are unfiltered, German beers, English ales, Belgian ales, and an increasing number of microbrewery beers do not filter their beers and are therefore excellent sources of B vitamins.
There are 13 vitamins, and I will now go through each one so that you can discover which vitamins are present in your pint.
Beer does not contain any trace of vitamin A. If you are looking to increase your daily intake, you can get vitamin A in cheese, eggs, dairy, and liver. Beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A by the body. Sadly, beer does not contain beta-carotene either. You can find it in green, yellow, and red vegetables such as peppers, carrots, and spinach.
There are several B vitamins, so I’ve grouped them all together here. Beer is a decent source of B vitamins, particularly niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Beer is a decent source of vitamin B1. A litre of beer contains about 10% of your recommended daily intake (0.1mg). Thiamine aids digestion and keeps the nervous system healthy. You can also find thiamine in fruit, eggs, wholemeal bread, and breakfast cereals.
Beer is a decent source of vitamin B2. A litre of beer contains 0.3mg of vitamin B2, which is roughly 25% of your recommended daily intake. Like vitamin B1, riboflavin is responsible for the nervous system and helps the body gain energy from food. You can find vitamin B2 in dairy, meat, eggs, breakfast cereals, oats, and rice.
Beer is an excellent source of vitamin B3. A litre of beer contains almost half of your recommended daily intake. Niacin has similar functions to thiamine and riboflavin, helping with energy production and supporting the nervous system. You can also find niacin in dairy, eggs, meat, and fish
Beer is a decent source of vitamin B5. A litre of beer contains just over 10% of your recommended daily intake. Pantothenic acid mostly helps to release energy from food, you can find it in meat, potatoes, oats, eggs, and broccoli.
Beer is an excellent source of vitamin B6. A litre of beer contains about 30% of your recommended daily intake. Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, has many functions. It is instrumental in helping the body extract energy from protein and carbohydrates and helps to form haemoglobin. This is the part of red blood cells that transports oxygen. Vitamin B6 can be found in meat, dairy, cereals, eggs, peanuts, and potatoes.
Beer is a decent source of vitamin B9. A litre of beer contains about 25% of your recommended daily intake. Folate helps the body to create red blood cells and is vital for pregnant women to take as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Folate can be found in breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, and in liver.
Beer is an excellent source of vitamin B12. A litre of beer contains around 35% of your recommended daily intake. Vitamin B12 has the same functions as the other B vitamins; improving red blood cell formation, supporting the nervous system, releasing energy from food. It can be found in meat, eggs, dairy, and some breakfast cereals. If you follow a vegan diet then you may be deficient in vitamin B12. In which case, a vegan-friendly beer may be helpful.
Beer does not contain any vitamin C. In fact, drinking too much beer can actually affect the absorption of vitamin C as beer can affect digestion. You can find vitamin C in oranges, peppers, cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, and potatoes.
Beer does not contain any vitamin D. However, sitting outside in a beer garden with a beer couldn’t do any harm! Your body can actually create vitamin D from sunlight. In the winter months you can top up your vitamin D levels with red meat, oily fish, or eggs. Or consider a vitamin D supplement.
Beer does not contain any vitamin E. Interestingly though, increasing your vitamin E intake may actually help to fight the side effects of chronic alcohol abuse. A 2010 study found that:
Vitamin E can mitigate the toxic effects of alcohol and can be suitably used as a potential therapeutic agent for alcohol-induced oxidative damage in liver.
You can find vitamin E in certain cooking oils such as olive oil, it can also be found in seeds and some nuts. Vitamin E works to strengthen the body’s integumentary system (skin) as well as the immune system.
Beer does not contain any vitamin K. You can mostly find vitamin K in green leafy vegetables, and cereal grains. If you are on certain blood-thinning medication then you need to watch your vitamin K intake as it can affect how they work. Luckily, beer is free of vitamin K so you can drink as much as you like (well, not exactly).
Beer contains 11 different minerals (average), these minerals come from the water used, the grains, and the yeast. Different beers can contain different amounts of each mineral, this is influenced by the type of water used (hard or soft), or which grains are used. How the beer is manufactured can also influence which minerals are found. The minerals that are present in beer are:
Beer can be a source of calcium. However, it really depends on what type of beer you are drinking and where it is from. A Polish study in 2018 compared beers from several countries. German beer was particularly high in calcium, while beers from Portugal, Thailand and Italy were very low. While beer can contain a decent amount of calcium, it is not as good a source as the more traditional foods and drinks.
Beer does contain copper, but not much. A pint of beer would constitute less than 5% of your recommended daily intake. While copper has many health benefits, it is so common in diets that deficiencies are rare. Copper can be found in yeast, which probably explains why there is a presence in beer.
Beer is not a great source of iron, but it is present. The idea that beer (particularly Guinness) is a good source of iron is a commonly held belief. But not only is beer a poor source of iron, Guinness is actually worse than most! According to this website, beer contains 0.09mg per 100ml. That is an average of 0.42mg for a pint. Guinness contains just 0.3mg, making it below average.
Beer does contain magnesium and could be considered a good source. A litre of beer contains 75.4mg which is around 25% of your recommended daily intake. Magnesium has many health benefits, and is often used for exercise recovery and to help improve sleep. Sadly though, alcohol can negatively affect both sleep and exercise recovery, so your post-workout beer isn’t going to do too many favours.
Beer does contain manganese, but it is a poor source. A litre of beer contains around 6% of your recommended daily intake of manganese. People supplement with manganese to improve brain function. While alcohol can actually improve cognition, chronic alcohol intake can negatively affect your brain.
Beer is an excellent source of phosphorus. A litre of beer can contain almost half of your recommended daily intake. But just like calcium, the amount of phosphorus in a beer depends on the country of origin. Beers from Portugal, Italy, and Germany had high levels of phosphorus. While beers from Mexico had very low levels. As with copper, phosphorus comes from the yeast in beer which explains why different countries and beer styles can have such vastly differing levels.
Beer is a decent source of potassium. A litre of beer contains around 10% of your recommended daily intake. Potassium also comes from the yeast, and it can have a big influence on the taste and colour of the beer!
During the technological processes used in the production of beer, potassium passes from malt to wort in the concentration between 0.3 and 0.5 g/L, influencing color and taste (Styburski et al 2018)
Beer barely contains any selenium. A litre of beer contains 3.1 micrograms of selenium, while the recommended daily intake of selenium is 75 micrograms. Meat, fish, seeds, nuts, and pulses are excellent sources of selenium, so you could try a nice steak alongside your beer to get the more selenium in your diet. Check out my article on pairing beer and steak to find which beer works best.
Beer is a great source of silicon. However, science doesn’t know too much about the health benefits of silicon. So it is rarely advertised. A 2010 study found that beer was an excellent source of silicon, which could help to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis! Beers that are high in malted barley and hops are particularly good sources.
Beer does contain sodium, but the amount is very low. A litre of beer contains 45.1mg of sodium, while the recommended daily intake for men is 1600mg! Sodium has had a bad reputation in health circles, but it is worth remembering that it is an essential mineral. Sodium can lower your blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, and decrease your risk of kidney damage. Sadly, beer is not the answer to sodium deficiency.
Beer does contain zinc, but just barely! A litre of beer contains around 3% of your recommended daily intake. This is a shame because zinc has many health benefits. It can help improve sleep, maintain healthy testosterone levels in men, and improve wound healing. Wholegrains and dairy are great sources of zinc, so eat some cheese (and pair it with the right beer).
The truth is that beer is not a particularly good source of vitamins or minerals. That does not mean that it is unhealthy. As I explained in my article on beer and health, beer has its place as part of a healthy lifestyle. Provided you drink sensibly. If you are deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral, eating more fruit, vegetables, meat, or dairy will get you better results than increasing your beer consumption. But three or four beers per week could definitely help you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.