BY Alyse

Is Light Beer Really Guilt-Free?

Among all forms of alcohol, beer is often given the worst wrap when it comes to alcohol’s effect on weight. This stigma is likely due to the fact that beer contains a fair amount of calories, as well as carbohydrates, which many still falsely associate with weight gain. In response to its bad reputation, many beer manufacturers now produce “light”, “low carb”, “low calorie”, and “ultra light” beers…to name a few. What is the difference between light beers and their full-calorie counterparts? Read on to find out what benefits you get from opting for light beers over regular varieties.

Beer is not “fattening” in the sense that it does not contain any fat…however, it can easily lead to weight gain. Since the calories in beer (or any other liquid calories for that matter) are not registered by the body as providing as much satisfaction as solid food calories, it is very easy to consume more calories than you expend in a day.  About two-thirds of the calories in a regular beer come from alcohol (which contains 7 calories per gram), while the other third come from the carbohydrates (4 calories per gram) in beer.

What exactly does it mean to be “light”?
Generally, 12-ounce light beers contain about 100calories, 5grams of carbohydrates, and 3.5-4.5% alcohol by volume. The decrease in calories is mostly from a reduction in the amount of carbohydrates. You may wonder why ALL the carbohydrates are not removed from beer to further decrease the calorie content. Well, without any carbohydrates, beer would not be beer. Carbohydrates are an important component of the quality of beer because they create its body.

Although most light beers generally contain the nutrient profile above, there are a few outliers to this standard. In the United States, although light beer is understood to be lower in calories than regular beer, there is no maximum level for calorie or alcohol content of light beers and no law requiring nutritional information or alcohol content to be printed on the product. Therefore, the term “light” only means that the calorie content is reduced in relation to the brand’s regular beer, NOT to all regular beers.

Note : “Light” does NOT mean lower in alcohol content (at least not in the United States). Many light beers are very close to their regular counterparts in terms of alcohol potency…therefore don’t think that drinking light beer means that you will get less drunk!

Alyse’s Advice
For all you beer drinkers out there, you may think that the light beers on the market give you full reign to throw back the bottles without having to worry about your waistline. Unfortunately, this is simply not true! Why are you drinking – for pleasure or to get drunk? If it’s the latter, you’re in the wrong state of mind. The impact of alcoholic beer on your health and weight depends more on the amount that you drink than the type you choose. To obtain the health benefits of beer without the potential negative side effects, women are advised to limit their consumption to no more than 12 ounces/day and men to no more than 24 ounces/day, regardless of whether the beer is light or regular. Limiting the amount is more important than the type of beer you choose because alcohol decreases your inhibition and may result in over-consumption of food and high calorie beverages. However, opting for the lower calorie beers may allow you to have some extra room in your stomach for a few additional nuts at the bar!