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Cheers to beer! Five reasons to raise a glass for your health

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Hubby and I may not officially be Portland residents just yet, but that hasn’t stopped me from looking up a few fun facts about our soon-to-be new town.

Like, for example, did you know that PDX is home to more breweries (50+) than any other city on Earth?

And it just so happens that, according to some more of my “research,” downing a cold one could be the ideal recovery drink for all this marathon training I’m doing.

Yep, long considered an indulgence of the inactive, beer actually offer serious health benefits for athletes.

Not only is it an excellent hydrator (93 percent water), but it also has one of the highest energy contents of any drink, not to mention a bunch of natural antioxidants and vitamins.

But if that’s not reason enough to imbibe (in moderation, of course), you can raise a glass and toast to these five health benefits:

1. Sturdy Skeleton: Beers rich in silicon, such as pale ale, have been linked to the stimulation of bone-building cells. A 2009 study at Tufts University also found that men and women who downed a drink or two daily had higher bone mineral density.

2. Happy heart: Alcohol increases the levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to prevent blood clots and hardening of the arteries. What’s more, Harvard reports show that moderate drinking cuts this risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 25 to 40 percent.

3. Clean kidneys: A Finnish study found a correlation between beer drinking and a reduction in the risk of developing kidney stones – by as much as 40 percent. Its high water content helps prevent dehydration, plus the hops may limit the leeching of calcium from bones, both of which contribute to stones.

4. Boost brainpower: Moderate drinkers (those who consume one drink per day) may also count a sound mind among the benefits of their regular beer consumption. A 2005 New England Journal of Medicine study showed that, compared to non-drinkers, this group not only lowered their risk of mental decline by as much as 20 percent, but also scored better on mental skills tests.

5. Curtail Cancer: Much like grapes, hops also contain antioxidants, which are substances that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Plus, a certain compound found in hops (xanthohumol) is thought to inhibit some of the enzymes that can trigger cancer, and it may even go as far as to help the body break down harmful carcinogens.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it looks like I have a little more, er, “lifting” to add to my weekly training routine...

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