Published November 25, 2013
On a cold winter’s night, there’s nothing quite like wrapping your hands around a steaming mug of cocoa, tea, or coffee. Recently, studies have shown that these warm beverages not only heat up our bodies, but could also heat up our immune system and help prevent illness.
This season, spice up your holiday gatherings and festive celebrations with some warm winter drinks that are as healthy as they are tasty – at least in moderation. Your guests will appreciate your efforts to warm their hands and please their palates, while watching out for their health.
Savor a Spot of Tea
All teas that are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, which include black, green, and white teas, contain antioxidant compounds called catechins. Catechins have been linked to a number of health benefits, including lower risk of diabetes, cognitive impairment, heart attacks, and some cancers. There is also evidence that these antioxidant compounds can boost our immune system. (Herbal teas are not derived from the leaves of the Camellia plant, and do not have catechins. Some herbal teas, however, are said to have different health benefits, like aiding in digestion or promoting relaxation.) Brew your tea for at least three to five minutes to trigger a powerful release of beneficial antioxidants.
The sweetly satisfying chai tea recipe below blends antioxidant-rich black tea with immunity-boosting ginger, cholesterol-lowering cinnamon, and stomach-settling cardamom.
Recipe Courtesy of Epicurious.com
Combine first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan. Using mallet or back of large spoon, lightly crush or bruise spices. Add 6 cups water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add milk and sugar. Bring tea just to simmer over high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Strain chai into teapot and serve hot.
Cozy Up to Cocoa
More than just a deliciously decadent treat, hot cocoa has a number of health-promoting properties. Cocoa has a rich supply of flavonoids, which are plant-derived compounds that help increase blood flow throughout the brain and body. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England found that consumption of flavonoid-rich cocoa resulted in significant increases in cerebral blood flow. Flavonoids also act as natural antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Cocoa is an excellent source of antioxidants. A cup of hot water with two tablespoons of pure cocoa has two to three times more antioxidants than a glass of red wine, and as much as five times more than a cup of black tea. Studies have also found that regular cocoa consumption can significantly lower blood pressure, while increasing heart-healthy cholesterol (HDL) and lowering unhealthy cholesterol (LDL). Although cocoa tastes great at any temperature, hot cocoa is the healthiest choice since higher temperatures elicit a greater release of powerful antioxidants.
Reap the many healthy and delicious benefits of cocoa with a cup of Spiced Hot Dark Chocolate. According to Ayurvedic medicine, warming spices like cinnamon and cardamom can boost your energy levels. Using soymilk helps dark chocolate’s antioxidants to be more fully absorbed.
Spiced Hot Dark Chocolate
Recipe Courtesy of WholeLiving.com.
In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and whisk over medium-low heat until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is steaming hot, about 5 minutes. Serve.
Enjoy a Cup of Joe
Many of us rely on a strong cup of coffee to get our motors running in the morning. We may not realize that we’re also relying on it as a significant source of disease-preventing antioxidants. In fact, researchers at the University of Scranton found that a cup of coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the typical American’s diet, and that nothing else even comes close. Because of its rich supply of antioxidants, recent research has linked regular consumption of coffee to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, gallstones, and some types of cancer. Of course, moderation is key when it comes to coffee, since caffeine can be addictive and can trigger insomnia, irregular heartbeat, and anxiety. Still, one to two cups of coffee each day can put some pep in your step while packing some major health benefits.
A splash of cognac ups the anti-oxidants in this delicious hot cocktail. Plus, cinnamon has been shown to lower bad cholesterol, and citrus zest is full of compounds that are believed to fight cancer.
Coffee with Cognac
Recipe Courtesy of EatingWell.com
Add brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon stick, orange zest and lemon zest to coffee. Let steep over coffee warmer or in a thermos for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer into cups. Add Cognac to taste.
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