Busting beer myths


Busting beer myths

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Busting beer myths

Beer. Is it full of sugar? Packed with carbs and kilojoules? Guaranteed to pile on the belly? Loaded with preservatives? I’m here to kill the five most common beer myths and show you how a refreshing ale can be part of a balanced intake.


Myth 1: Beer is high in sugar

False. Beer has never been high in sugar. Although sugar is sometimes added at the beginning of brewing to ‘trigger’ the fermentation by the yeast and the conversion of malt’s starches into more easily digestible sugars, there’s not much remaining at the end. By the time the yeast has worked its way through all the starches and sugars, it’s converted them to carbon dioxide gas (the bubbles), plus alcohol. Cast your mind back to your basic chemistry from high school.

Surprisingly, most people think there is at least double the amount of sugar in beer than there actually is. Only 6 per cent of Aussie males are aware there is generally less than half a gram of sugar in a 375mL stubby of full-strength beer.

Myth 2: Beer is high in carbs

False. As with sugar, beer is not high in carbs. It generally has less than 3 per cent carbohydrate, which is derived from the breakdown end-products of malt. Fact: 87 per cent of Aussies don’t know what goes into beer.

Myth 3: Beer makes you gain weight

False. No more than any other alcoholic drink. The equation is simple: if you drink (and eat) more than you burn off, you’ll put on weight.

The kilojoules (or calories) in alcoholic drinks mainly come from the alcohol content, which in a beer can be 4 to 6 per cent for full-strength, 3 to 4 per cent for mid-strength or 2 to 3 per cent for light-strength beer.

So what makes you put on weight if you drink? Usually, it’s the sheer number of drinks you consume as well as the type of food you eat with it. Alcohol loosens inhibitions, so once you have more than a couple of drinks, you may eat greasy, salty foods you usually wouldn’t. Potato crisps, corn chips, salted hot fries, fried nuggets and cheesy pizza wedges all taste good after drinks, but can do a lot of damage. They are low in nutrition, high in refined carbs and bad fats, high in salt and hard to stop eating after just one!    

Myth 4: Beer is high in kilojoules relative to other alcohol types

False. Beer is not high in kilojoules relative to other alcoholic drinks, whether you compare across equal volumes (usually per 100mL) or by typical serving size.

Per 100mL (and as an average), full-strength beer has 143kJ whereas red wine has 324kJ and a spirit mixer (rum and cola) has 255kJ.

If you compare typical serves, a 375mL can or stubby of full-strength beer has 536kJ while a 170mL glass of red wine comes in at 551kJ. And that spirit mixer drink? A hefty 956kJ thanks to all that fizzy drink. 

Myth 5: Beer has lots of preservatives

False. In general, beer does not need the addition of a preservative to prolong shelf life. This is a widely held belief with more than 70 per cent of Australian males incorrectly believing that beer contains added preservatives.

There are two reasons why beer does not require a preservative: first, hops (the spice of beer) and alcohol are both natural preservatives that help to keep beer fresher for longer and, second, breweries handle beer under hygienic conditions and use packaging technology that prevents bacterial contamination.

Responsible drinking

Keep in mind that for long-term health, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than two standard drinks (less than the typical serves) a day for men and women. If you go out, it recommends no more than four drinks in any 24-hour time period.

People are actively choosing particular alcoholic drinks to better fit with their lifestyle needs and better achieve the balance that they’re looking for in their lives. Enjoy a glass of beer, but drink in moderation and as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 How the drinks compare


Typical serve size (mL)*

Kilojoules (kJ)

Beer – full-strength (4.6% ABV)



Beer – mid-strength (3.4% ABV)



Beer – low-strength/light (2.7% ABV)



Cider (4.8% ABV)



White wine (12.5% ABV)



Red wine (13.9% ABV)



Dark rum (38.8% ABV)



White vodka (38.7% ABV)



Mixer (rum & cola) (4.7% ABV)



Cream coffee liqueur (17.5% ABV)



Source: AUSNUT Database 2014

*‘Typical’ refers to what’s served in pubs, clubs and bars. This is usually more than the prescribed ‘standard’ drink serve size used to assess alcohol intake. A standard drink provides 10g of pure alcohol, which is about 278mL of full-strength beer or 375mL of mid-strength beer. 


Catherine is an accredited dietitian who is a member of the Lion Beer Advisory Panel, which oversaw the introduction of full nutrition labelling on all of Lion’s brands of beers in 2015. For more information, go to www.beerthebeautifultruth.comto read what goes into beer and see the full range of beers available. 


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