What Is Nonalcoholic Beer?
Nonalcoholic beer is beer that has either had the alcohol removed or has been brewed to contain less alcohol than the legal limit. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), beverages can claim to be nonalcoholic as long as they do not exceed 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Before you get alarmed, it’s important to note that trace amounts of alcohol can be found in many everyday foods and beverages due to natural fermentation. A study published in August 2016 in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found measurable alcohol in bananas, apple juice, and bread. Drinking nonalcoholic beer, even multiple ones, will not make you feel intoxicated. However, it can be a substitute for alcoholic beer when you want the taste without the hangover.
How Is Nonalcoholic Beer Made?
Beer is made by fermenting grains, during which microorganisms, typically yeast, convert sugar in the grains into alcohol and other by-products. Some traditional brands produce nonalcoholic beer by preventing fermentation, which also affects the flavor. Other brands remove the alcohol by heating the beer after fermentation. Unfortunately, neither of these methods produces great-tasting beers. To compensate, manufacturers sometimes add sugar or high fructose corn syrup, resulting in overly sweet beer.
Leading-edge brewers of nonalcoholic craft beer employ high-tech, confidential techniques to produce beer that tastes similar to traditional craft beer without the need for sweeteners. The flavor is fresh, robust, and often indistinguishable from the original craft beers that inspired them.
How Does Nonalcoholic Beer Compare to Regular Beer?
Removing alcohol from beer makes it healthier, but that does not mean you should consume it excessively. Most nonalcoholic beers offer minimal nutritional value and primarily consist of carbohydrates, similar to regular beer. However, they are lower in calories due to the absence of alcohol.
The advantage of nonalcoholic beers over their alcoholic counterparts is that they often provide a Nutrition Facts panel and an ingredient list, allowing you to assess whether a particular drink aligns with your personal goals. Some nonalcoholic beers do contain added sugar, which should be consumed mindfully. Alcoholic drinks typically do not provide this information, leaving consumers uncertain about what they are drinking.
Is Nonalcoholic Beer Healthy?
In addition to considering factors such as calorie count, carbohydrate content, and added sugar, it is crucial to find a nonalcoholic beer that you enjoy. This can help reduce your alcohol consumption in the long run, which is beneficial for your health. A study published in the journal The Lancet in August 2018 concluded that the safest level of drinking is none.
While previous studies have suggested that moderate alcohol intake may have health benefits, recent evidence indicates that even light to moderate drinking can have negative health effects, particularly in relation to cancer. Organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend abstaining from alcohol for cancer prevention.
Aside from avoiding alcohol, there might be other benefits associated with nonalcoholic beer. According to NPR, some Olympic athletes have embraced it as a sports drink. A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Nutrients in June 2016 found that nonalcoholic beer could be an effective recovery beverage after exercise. Some small studies suggest that nonalcoholic beer may reduce inflammation and even alleviate common cold symptoms. However, more evidence is needed to draw definitive conclusions.
Does Nonalcoholic Beer Have Any Health Risks?
It is important to remember that nonalcoholic beers do contain small amounts of alcohol. The 0.0 percent to 0.5 percent ABV range stated on the label is not always completely accurate. In the past, there have been instances where nonalcoholic beers were found to exceed the legal limit of 0.5 percent ABV. A study discovered that 30 percent of tested nonalcoholic beers had a higher alcohol content than indicated on their labels, with six of them containing up to 1.8 percent ABV.
Some caution should be exercised by certain individuals who may be affected by the alcohol content in nonalcoholic beers. There is ongoing debate about whether pregnant women should consume these beverages.
Others who should be cautious include individuals dealing with substance use disorders. The appearance, aroma, and flavor of nonalcoholic beers can trigger alcohol cravings for those in addiction recovery.
Ultimately, whether or not to enjoy nonalcoholic beers depends on individual comfort levels. Everyone is different. For some individuals, these beverages can support their recovery journey, while others find them triggering. Personal preferences may change over time, and what may be triggering early on in sobriety could be helpful later. It is crucial to know yourself and make an informed decision about whether nonalcoholic beers are the right choice for you.