Is Guinness Really a ‘Meal in a Glass’?

Popularly referred to as a “meal in a glass”, does Guinness really offer sufficient nourishment required to keep a body ticking over?

The Guinness Diet

It is a heinous culinary faux pas committed by ignorant diners across the land – that of accompanying a meal with a pint of Guinness. As a “meal in a glass”, by drinking a pint of stout with your dinner you are essentially consuming two meals side-by-side and as such are either a greedy devil or totally clueless.

Of course, if it is indeed a meal in itself, containing all the necessary vitamins and minerals a body requires to stay alive, then surely it should be possible to forgo regular solid meals and live off a diet of Guinness?

It is an idea that has inspired a few stout individuals to take up the challenge of surviving solely on Guinness for a specified period. Forgoing food and water, one Guinness lover existed for a week on four to ten pints of Guinness a day – albeit supplemented with milk and orange juice due to stout’s lack of calcium and vitamin C.

Although they did manage to survive the week intact, the experience would not have done their body much good. The New Scientist estimated that in order to survive on the nutrients provided by Guinness alone you would need to drink nearly 50 pints of it every day. The negative health benefits of doing so would obviously strongly overshadow any pleasures.

Less a Meal and More a Nibble

A pint of Guinness only actually contains around 160-170 kcal of energy, which is less than skimmed milk, orange juice or most other beers for that matter. What’s more there’s only around 7.7g of carbohydrates – the equivalent of quarter cup of sunflower seeds – and no fat at all.

Besides highlighting stout’s lack of sustanance it also shows that, contrary to popular belief, beer doesn’t actually make you fat either – not even ‘heavy’ stout. It is not beer that makes you put on weight but rather the terrible fatty foods that it gives you an appetite for. The individual that undertook this experiment lost nine pounds over the space of the week. If bar snacks or post-pub fast food had not been banned then no doubt the results would have been very different.

So the idea that Guinness is meal in a glass is obviously a myth; in terms of culinary sustenance it provides barely a nibble. But why then is that it has developed this reputation?

Guinness is Good For You?

The origin of the myth could perhaps be traced back to the beginning of Guinness’s long held reign as an advertising powerhouse when, during the 1930s and 1940s, its iconic advertising campaigns promoted the notion that Guinness has nourishing qualities with such slogans as ‘Guinness is Good For You’, ‘Guinness for Strength’ and ‘Guinness Makes You Strong’.

Before the government eventually stepped in and outlawed Guinness’s claims on being good for you due to a lack of medical foundation, the drink was indeed widely believed to have health benefits.

Its perceived high iron content led to it being given to post-operative patients, as well as to blood donors. At one point pregnant women and nursing mothers were even advised to drink Guinness. Since it has been revealed that a pint of Guinness actually only contains 1.1mg of iron – recommended daily allowance for women is 14mg and men 8.7mg – medical experts are less keen to recommend it. Those in need of iron rich substances would be better advised to consume some lean red meat.

Funnily enough, now that it is accepted that Guinness isn’t the elixir of life, recent scientific studies have revealed that it actually does have health benefits – just not as a food replacement. A daily pint of Guinness with a meal can help reduce heart clots and the risk of cardiac attacks as a result of containing antioxidants, which slow down the deposit of cholesterol on the artery walls.

The Black Stuff

Another reason for the belief that stout has nutritious qualities is its colour. There is commonly held thought is that the darker a beer is the richer, stronger and more full-bodied it is – and Guinness is pretty much black!

But this is yet another myth; the colour of beer is wholly due to the grain used in its making, with dark coloured beers featuring more toasted or roasted barley malt and pale brews containing fewer or no darker malts. What’s more the use of roasting malt doesn’t make it any heavier or more calorific.

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