Food Fight! St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Food Fight - St PatricksErin Go Bragh! Saint Patrick, who lived during the 5th century, is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. For over 1,000 years people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17, bringing the tradition to North America in the 18th century. Montreal has had a St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1824, but New Year City’s was first in 1762! Historically a religious festival, St. Patrick’s Day to many is now all about revelry, shenanigans and all-things green, including the abominable green-dyed beer.

In addition to corned beef and U2, one of Ireland’s best known exports happens to be Guinness – a dry stout that has become one of the best selling beers worldwide. But is there any truth to the rumour that Guinness is actually good for you?

Who will take this St. Paddy’s Food Fight! – cold-fermented, Bavarian lager or the pride of Ireland, dark and smooth Guinness?

Lager   vs* Guinness
Bavaria Origin Ireland
15th century 1759
348 kcal Calories 208 kcal
14.2 g Carbohydrate 8.9 g
3.88 g Protein 6.22 g
41.4 mg Sodium 35.5 mg
0.1 mg Iron 1.2 mg
29.6 mg Calcium 23.6 mg
4.1 mg Niacin 4.7 mg
70.9 mcg Folate 35.5 mcg
Note: We used *real* pints for this St. Patrick’s Day Food Fight! = 20 fluid ounces!

No Baloney’s results? We were a bit disappointed at how close the micronutrient profiles were, but we still have to award the win to Guinness based on 40% lower calories. We were expecting much higher iron content given the now-presumed myth that women are given Guinness after childbirth in the UK to boost iron – admittedly, 13% of your daily post-pregnancy requirement still isn’t too shabby!

GuinnessAs for whether “beer is the new wine” with respect to health, there is plenty of evidence that beer is rich in similar good-for-your-heart phenolic compounds like flavonoids (1-3). Interestingly, studies show that warm-fermented dark ales are actually higher in total phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity than either stout or lager (4,5).

But before you go and down several pints on Sunday for your health’s sake, keep in mind that the benefits of flavonoids are negated by alcohol content after 1 – 2 drinks. Research consistently shows that there is an inverse association between light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease risk, including from beer alone, BUT the lowest risk of heart disease-related death occurs with no more than 1-2 drinks per day; stroke mortality is lowest in people who have a modest alcohol intake of ≤1 drink per day (6,7). It doesn’t take much!

In fact, an Israeli study looked at the impact of supplementing a heart-healthy diet with one 331 ml bottle of beer (they used Maccabee beer, a pilsner-style lager) vs. mineral water in recent bypass surgery patients (8). The beer group experienced significantly increased plasma antioxidant levels and decreased LDL and triglyceride levels!

Not a stout drinker? Here are some other great ways to enjoy Guinness on March 17th:

Slainte! (unless you are vegan, that is…)

*Nutrition information: “Lager, premium” and “Stout, Guinness” from online UK Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset (CoFIDS); available online (COFIDS) through the Food Standards Agency website preserved by the National Archives.


  1. Denke MA. Nutritional and health benefits of beer. Am J Med Sci 2000; 320:320-6.
  2. Bamforth CW. Nutritional aspects of beer—a review. Nutr Res 2002; 22:227-37.
  3. Negrão R, et al. Angiogenesis and inflammation signaling are targets of beer polyphenols on vascular cells. J Cell Biochem 2010;111:1270-9.
  4. Callemien D, Collin S. Structure, Organoleptic properties, quantification methods, and stability of phenolic compounds in beer: a review. Food Rev Int 2010; 1:1-84.
  5. Collins VJ, et al. Phytochemicals from beer: identification, antioxidant activity, absorption and bioactivity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2010; 69.OCE1.
  6. Di Castelnuovo A, et al. Meta-analysis of wine and beer consumption in relation to vascular risk. Circulation 2002;105(24):2836-44.
  7. Ronksley PE, et al. Association of alcohol consumption with selected cardiovascular disease outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2011; 342:d671. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d671.
  8. Gorinstein S, et al. Bioactivity of beer and its influence on human metabolism. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2007; 58:94-107.

One thought on “Food Fight! St. Patrick’s Day Edition

  1. Pingback: Beer and Bulging Bellies? | No Baloney

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