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St. Patty's Day is around the corner: Surprising health benefits of beer

As a doctor, I get a lot of questions from patients in my practice and in my email inbox. Here’s one that was sent to me recently by a viewer:

Dr. Manny, are there any health benefits to drinking beer? Which beers are the ‘healthiest’? - Brian

Well, Brian, this is what I have to say: If you've got a St. Patty's Day party coming up, don’t be afraid to knock back a cold one. Beer has several surprising health benefits.

Despite beer’s bad reputation, it actually has a number of natural antioxidants and vitamins that can help prevent heart disease and even rebuild muscle. It also has one of the highest energy contents of any food or drink. Of course, this means you need to set limits – one beer gets you going, four makes you fat.

If you’re worried about dehydration, keep in mind that beer is 93 percent water. Also, according to a Spanish study, beer may actually provide better hydration than H2O alone when you’re sweating it out under the sun.

So with all of this in mind, which kind of beer should you reach for? Calorie-wise, you may be tempted to grab a light lager, but for health benefits, a dark beer is the better choice.

Dark beers tend to have the most antioxidants, which help reverse cellular damage that occurs naturally in the body. A recent study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture has also found that dark beer has higher iron content compared to lighter beers. Remember, iron is an essential mineral that our bodies need. Iron is a part of all cells and does many jobs including carrying oxygen from our lungs throughout the rest of our bodies.

Another good choice is microbrews, which are healthier than mass-produced cans, because they have more hops. Hops contain polyphenols, which help lower cholesterol, fight cancer and kill viruses.

Just remember the golden rule: Everything in moderation. You don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of your friends by drinking too much, and you certainly don’t want to put yourself at risk for any long-term health effects like liver problems, kidney diseases and heart disease.

Email me your health-related questions at drmanny@foxnews.com.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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