Beer and a Healthy Lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle is important to many Canadians. So if you choose to drink beer, where does it fit in?
Beer is a refreshing beverage enjoyed by many Canadians with a long history of being a popular choice at social events and celebrations as well as a preferred beverage for some at meal time. From a health perspective, many may find it reassuring to know that beer, like wine can fit into a healthy lifestyle when adults are healthy and drink in moderation.*
Thinking about calories in beer
We’re more mindful of the calories in the foods we eat and drink these days. It’s good to know a serving of beer has about the same number of calories as a serving of wine.**
Light and regular beer contains 99-147 calories per drink***, according to Health Canada’s Canadian Nutrient File**. Extra light beer is also available in Canada with calories as low as 67 per drink.
Thinking about the alcohol content in beer
Beer is available in a range of alcohol levels offering choices to suit varying tastes and options to moderate alcohol intake. Health Canada’s Food and Drugs Act defines the common name classifications of beers according to their alcohol level (percentage alcohol by volume):
|Alcohol (% v/v)||Common Name|
|1.1 - 2.5||Extra light beer|
|2.6 - 4.0||Light beer|
|4.1 - 5.5||Beer|
|5.6 - 8.5||Strong beer or malt liquor|
|8.6 or more||Extra strong beer or strong malt liquor|
|Beverage||Quantity||Amount of calories*|
|Regular beer (5% alcohol by volume)||1 bottle (341 mL, 12 oz.)||147 calories|
|Light beer (4% alcohol by volume)||1 bottle (341 mL, 12 oz.)||99 calories|
|Non-alcoholic beer (<0.5% alcohol by volume)||1 can (350 g)||129 calories|
Thinking about safer drinking
Did you know Canada has a set of low-risk drinking guidelines?
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines were developed in 2011 by a team of independent Canadian and international experts on behalf of the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce their immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm. They are supported by provincial and territorial health ministers and many Canadian health organizations.
Beer Canada supports the Guidelines because they are evidence-based and reflect a balanced approach to encourage responsible drinking and minimize risks. The Guidelines recognize that low-risk drinking helps to promote a culture of moderation and supports healthy lifestyles.
The Guidelines recommend no more than:
- 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days.
- 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
On special occasions the Guidelines recommend:
- For women, no more than 3 drinks on any single occasion.
- For men, no more than 4 drinks on any single occasion.
The Guidelines recommend these safer drinking tips:
- Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
- Drink slowly. Have no more than 2 drinks in any 3 hours.
- For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink.
- Eat before and while you are drinking.
- Always consider your age, body weight and health problems that may suggest lower limits.
- While drinking may provide health benefits for certain groups of people, do not start to drink or increase your drinking for health benefits.
According to the Guidelines, zero alcohol is the limit when:
- Pregnant or planning to become pregnant or about to breastfeed.
- Driving a vehicle or using machinery and tools.
- Taking medicine or other drugs that interact with alcohol.
- Doing any kind of dangerous physical activity.
- Living with mental or physical health problems.
- Living with alcohol dependence.
- Responsible for the safety of others.
- Making important decisions.
Diabetes and beer
The guidelines around drinking alcohol, specifically beer, is one of the most common questions health care providers and educators are asked when an adult patient is newly diagnosed with diabetes. According to Diabetes Canada, "as a general rule, there is no need to avoid alcohol because you have diabetes".
It's important to always consult your healthcare provider about alcohol and your health. Drinking beer is a personal choice. If you choose to drink beer, these tips can help.
Find out more about beer and nutrition via our Expert Registered Dietitian.
* Moderation means “no more than two drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men, with an extra drink allowed on special occasions” per Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. The Guidelines state low-risk drinking helps to promote a culture of moderation and supports healthy lifestyles. To learn more about the Guidelines visit: www.ccsa.ca/Eng/topics/alcohol/drinking-guidelines/Pages/default.aspx
Note: Drinking no alcohol is the safest choice for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed. The Guidelines also recommend no alcohol when driving and in some other situations, as well as for individuals with mental or physical health conditions.
** Based on the number of calories in a 341 mL (12 oz.) bottle of regular or light beer and a 142 mL (5 oz.) glass of table wine (Source: Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File, 2015 version). These serving sizes are considered a drink according to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
***A drink means 341 mL (12 oz.) beer with 5% alcohol content, 142 mL (5 oz.) table wine at 12% alcohol content.