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7 Healthy Reasons to Be Drinking Beer

Wine hogs the spotlight when it comes to healthy alcoholic drinks, but beer is actually a pretty formidable competitor. In fact, the most important thing isn’t what you drink, but how much: People who frequently hit happy hour reported less ill health than abstainers, no matter what their alcohol of choice, according to a study of 19,000 adults published in in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The sweet spot is at one drink a day for women, two for men. And brews offer health perks a glass of vino doesn’t. Check out these seven benefits of a beer (and these 20 Bikini-Friendly Beers).

It Can Help Your Workout Recovery

Forget the Gatorade—downing a pint post-workout could help you recovery faster, says a Spanish study. Researchers at Granada University asked students to exercise until their body temperature reached 104 degrees, and then had them rehydrate with beer or water. People who refueled with a beer were actually slightly more hydrated than those who drank plain ol’ H2O. Great news for when you head straight from the gym to drinks, although we still suggest stocking up on water and protein to help your body recover. (Check out the Best Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks for Every Workout.)

It Protects Your Brain

Compounds in hops may protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, according to a new study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Chinese researchers discovered that hops compound xanthohumol, known to have antioxidant and anticancer benefits, may slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

It Boost Your Immunity

Beers with your buds can actually keep your body healthy. Non-drinkers were three times more likely to catch a cold, in a study by the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury. Why? Moderate drinking boosts your immune system and help it fight off infection, reports a study from Oregon Health and Science University. Researchers aren’t sure of the exact reason, but point to some booze benefits we already know, like antioxidants protecting our cells from damage. But stick to one a day: Heavy drinkers showed even less resilience against viruses than abstainers or moderate drinkers. (Also check out these other 5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Without Medicine.)

It Strengthens Your Bones

Women who indulge in at least two beers a day actually have stronger bones, according to a study analysis in Natural Medicine Journal. Beer is an excellent source of bioavailable silicon, an element fundamental to our basic bone and skeletal bone structure. For example, 64 percent of the silicon found in alcohol-free beer is absorbed, while only 4 percent of the same compound in bananas is absorbed, reports the same study. Plus, certain compounds in hops may help slow the release of calcium from bones, keeping them healthy.

It's a Healthy Source of Vitamins

Beer gets a bad rap for being unhealthy, but it’s actually chock full of vitamins: Most varieties contain several B vitamins, and actually pack more calcium, magnesium, and selenium than wine. But dark brews beat the others for nutritional value. A standard 12-ounce lager offers just under one gram of fiber, while a dark beer has just over a gram. More impactful, though, is the amount of iron: Dark beers have free iron content of 121 parts per billion (ppb) compared to pale beer’s 92 ppb and non-alcoholic beets 63 ppm, according to a Spanish study. Why does that matter? Iron carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and other organs, so when your iron intake is low, oxygen circulates more slowly, which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and irritable. (Are Iron Supplements the Kick Your Workout Needs?)

It Protects Your Ticker

Wine gets all the credit for helping your heart, but actually all drinks can help: Alcoholic beverages—including beer—boost HDL (good) cholesterol, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and thin your blood, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, multiple studies have shown. And beer in particular can help your ticker: Moderate beer drinkers (that means one a day for women) had a 42 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to abstainers, an Italian study shows. (Need some snacks? The Best Fruits for a Heart-Healthy Diet.)

It Lowers Your Diabetes Risk

In an analysis of over 20 studies on drinking habits and health, Canadian researchers found that both people who never drank or who drank too much were actually at the greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who indulged in two drinks per day were 40 percent less likely to develop the disease. Stay in that Goldilocks range: Another Swedish study found that women who reached for one or two alcoholic drinks a day were at a lower risk, but once they started indulging more, their risk increased.

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