Cheers to Beer!

Regardless of whether or not you'll tip a mug of green beer or a nice stout in honor of St. Patrick's Day, the health benefits of beer are worth toasting. Of course, if you don't drink, then it's not an excuse to start. But beer is not the enemy it's made out to be, despite bingeing that may cause the dreaded "beer belly." A mug of suds is fat-free and cholesterol-free, for starters. Beer has positive effects on heart health, including raising healthy levels of cholesterol and reducing harmful levels. It's rich in folate and vitamin B6, which prevents the buildup of homocysteine. Women who tipple are less likely to have high blood pressure, and the polyphenols it contains can be effective in slowing breast cancer cell growth. You might be worried about contracting "beer goggles" when you're drinking, but you needn't worry about cataracts when you imbibe - it may offer protection from them, according to a University of Western Ontario study.

Take Grandpa to happy hour - in moderation, beer has been proven to promote blood vessel dilation, sleep and urination in older people. Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and that blood vessel dilation is key in preventing them. A Harvard study proved that beer seems to preserve the mental abilities of older women as well. One to three drinks per week seems to be the best rule of thumb in reaping the health benefits of beer - and not all in one sitting. Any more, and you risk building up that dreaded beer belly.