Guinness as a meal?


in Oxford, Science

Both here and in Canada, I have frequently heard Guinness described as “a meal in a glass,” apparently on the basis that it is dark and flavourful. It is a position I have always found dubious, so I’ve decided to do some mythbusting.

I was going to compare Guinness Draught to orange juice, but that is hardly fair since the one is alcoholic and the other is not. Since Guinness is 4.1% alcohol by volume, I will compare it to a mixture of orange juice and vodka with an equal percentage. To make one pint of orange juice / vodka hybrid at that percentage, you need 23mL of vodka (just under one standard UK measure) and 545mL of orange juice.

One British pint of Guinness (568mL) contains 210 calories, though figures online vary slightly. 545mL of orange juice has about 250 calories. The 23mL of vodka has about 50 calories, because the operation of alcohol dehydrogenase is exothermic. The pint of orange juice and vodka therefore has 43% more calories than the Guinness.

Guinness is the clear loser, when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. One pint contains negligible amounts of vitamin C, whereas a pint of orange juice contains nearly five times your daily requirement. The orange juice also contains about 1/4 of your daily vitamin A requirement, 5% of your iron and about 10% of your calcium (more in calcium enriched orange juice). A pint of Guinness does contain 1.6g of protein, so it does have that leg up on the alternative presented. Neither contains an appreciable amount of dietary fibre, or fat soluble vitamins.

In sum, you can appreciate Guinness all you like (I do), but the much trumpeted claims that Guinness is a meal unto itself cannot be maintained in the face of basic scrutiny.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 29, 2006 at 12:24 pm

How do the satiety indices for the two compare?

Wade Boggs September 29, 2006 at 12:42 pm

And I say, England’s greatest Prime Minister was Pitt the Elder!

Milan September 29, 2006 at 12:46 pm

Barney: Lord Palmerston!

Milan September 30, 2006 at 2:50 am

For the bewildered, the above two comments parallel a debate from the Simpsons episode Homer at Bat.

Milan January 4, 2007 at 12:53 am
Anonymous March 19, 2007 at 2:21 pm

You’re likely to offend Irish pride with such allegations. At least, the sort of pride that has been constructed through decades of advertising, most of the claims in which are almost certainly faulty.

Anon March 28, 2007 at 1:38 pm

I’m very rarely extremely drunk, partly because I don’t approve of drunken vomiting and see it as a sign of weakness of character, although I’m often slightly drunk, because I don’t approve of reality and see moderate drinking as a sign of strength of character.

Milan March 17, 2008 at 9:52 am
. February 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Beer myths brought to a head

What is ale, is stout a meal in itself, and does fancy continental-style glassware improve the flavour of beer? Felicity Cloake lifts the lid on some of the myths surrounding beer

Meeting friends for a pre-dinner drink a few months ago, I found myself the victim of another stubborn beer-related myth. My oatmeal stout was, apparently, “a meal in itself” according to one disapproving sage at the table. I pointed out that not only was her innocent looking raspberry-flavoured confection stronger, and thus more calorific than the stout, but the idea that darker beers are fuller-bodied is absolute rubbish. There is no correlation between the colour of the beer and its strength (Duvel make an 8.5% that’s as golden as the locks of a fairy princess) or how ‘filling’ it is – that’s all down to the way it’s been brewed.

Girl_stuff January 16, 2014 at 3:18 am

Nope. Guinness also contains iron, silica for calcium absorption, calcium, pantothenic acid, Vitamins B3, B6, trace B12, choline, flavonoids…

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