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According to a recent American Heart Association survey, over 75 percent of the respondents believed that wine is heart healthy, but what about beer? Believe it or not the sudsy stuff is beginning to gain a reputation among health professionals as a beneficial beverage. Here are four guilt-free reasons to pop a few brewskies this summer:

It slashes heart disease risk

All alcoholic beverages, including beer, have been shown to boost HDL, the "good" cholesterol, lower LDL the "bad" cholesterol and thin the blood, to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Moderate alcohol consumption, which is one 12 oz beer a day for women and two for men, has also been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and improved brain function in older adults.

Beer offers unique benefits compared to wine and spirits

In the Nurses Health study, over 70,000 women ages 25 to 42 were tracked for the link between alcohol and high blood pressure. The study found that those who drank moderate amounts of beer had lower blood pressures than nurses who drank either wine or spirits.

It may help reduce kidney stones and boost bone density

In published research men who chose beer had a lower risk of kidney stones compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to the diuretic effect combined with beer's high water content. Other studies show that compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone, preventing it from forming a stone. Likely for the same reason, moderate beer drinking has been linked to higher bone densities among women.

Beer contains vitamins, minerals and surprise: fiber!

A standard 12-ounce lager contains just under 1 gram of fiber and a dark beer just over a gram. And in general regular beers contain several B vitamins. A 12-ounce brew also packs more calcium, magnesium, and selenium (a key antioxidant) than a serving of wine.

Here are three of my personal favorites, pretty unique picks - at one 12 oz bottle a day, again the recommended limit for women (note: men get two - and no, you don't get to save them up) it's more about quality than quantity. I can typically buy these one bottle at a time and savor every sip:

• Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale

• Dogfish Head Aprihop

• Bison Brewing Company Organic Chocolate Stout


Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.