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The Secret Health Benefits of Beer
By Jim Anderson

The French Paradox. It's become reknowned in the alcohol industry. Remember, it was the title of that 60 Minutes report by Morley Safer about ten years ago? In it, the link between the low rate of heart disease among the French and their fat-laden diet was a daily dosage of red wine. Since then, it's common to hear fledgling foodies tout the health benefits of red wine, as if it were the answer to all our health woes.

Well, there's no denying the results of that study. But what the public doesn't know is that the health value of beer has been known, documented and applied for centuries. But there are folks out there who don't want you to know about it.

When you compare the raw ingredients that go into wine and beer, you'll find that wine, on one hand, is made purely from grapes, water and yeast. Grapes are a fine source of sugars, fiber and chromium, but few of those things survive the fermentation and filtering process. Yeast has loads of complex B vitamins, but, again, they do not appear in the final product due to filtering.

Beer Kegs Beer, on the other hand, is made from grains, water and yeast. Grains commonly used are barley and wheat (with cheaper, mass-produced beers relying on corn and rice), both of which are loaded with a variety of vitamins that survive the fermentation and filtering process. And the vitamin value of the yeast is conserved in the hundreds of unfiltered beers that are on the market, both on draft and in bottles.

It's well-documented that the Paulist monks of 17th-Century Munich brewed beer for their own consumption. (Remember, there wasn't much drinking water available in European cities at this time, so they drank lots and lots of beer or wine, depending on their climate.) During the spring Lenten fast, these monks would always have on hand an extra-malty brew to get them through their fast without malnourishing themselves. This life-sustaining beer was brewed in the bock style, and called doppelbock because it contained roughly twice the amount of grains as their normal brew. The beer survives today as the original example of the style, Paulaner Doppelbock, and is available year-round for your feasting or fasting pleasure.

And if anyone is curious about the specific vitamin content of beer, they need look no further than the legendary nutritional information panel that appeared briefly on the six pack carriers of Grant's Scottish Ale from Yakima, Washington.

Legendary? That's right, when the brewery made their the nutritional information public back in the ealry 90s, (after all, even bottled waters are required to display it), they got a call from the Feds asking them to cease or desist, or something like that. To this day, no beer carries any nutritional information on its packaging.

Beer glass Fact is, there are lots of folks out there who don't want us to know how healthful beer is, because they think the negative side effects of beer drinking (i.e, catching a buzz) outweigh the health benefits. Never mind that they already require a warning panel that overstates the obvious about alcohol -- they're more than happy to collect a tax on the stuff, but they don't want to seem like they're condoning its use.

Not to steal anything from the wine world, but the real paradox here is why our government only trusts us with some information, and not all information. I, for one, am going to have a beer and think it over.

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