We humans like hot drinks. They are comforting, soothing, and… Good For You! But not all hot beverages are of equal value health-wise. Whether you must have a cup of coffee in the morning, a cup of tea as an afternoon pick-me-up, or a nighttime mug of hot cocoa, you should know what’s good about these drinks that have been a part of our culture since prehistoric times.
Almost 60 percent of the adult American population say they drink coffee, it’s one of the most popular drinks in our country and all around the world. Caffeine is the substance that makes us crave that hot liquid momma every day. The good news is that for most people, four to five cups a day is plenty. Research has shown it can lower the risk of heart failure, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Scientists think it may have something to do with several protective plant compounds found in the drink. Also, coffee, without the cream and sugar, has about zero calories, depending on brewing style.
The bad news is that caffeine. Everyone has different reactions to the chemical. Research has found that consuming more than six cups a day or drinking it late in the day can affect your sleep. Considering that most of us don’t get enough sleep, that’s not good.
Teas and Tisanes
Technically, teas are made from the tea plant, a member of the camellia family. What we call “herbal teas” are actually called tisanes. In either case, dried leaves (or flowers) are soaked in boiling hot water to extract the compounds in the plant so we can drink it. These compounds are called flavonoids, and are in all types of tea: black, green, oolong or white. Studies show tea drinkers have more antioxidants and other healthful compounds in their systems.
Herbal tisanes have been used for millennia as medicine. Peppermint tea helps settle indigestion. Chamomile tea helps settle nerves and relax us to sleep. Even if they don’t help with some problem, they still can be good for you and help lower your stress.
Chai and Matcha
Traditional matcha is green tea ground into a powder. The powder is whisked into hot water to make a drink with lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. But read your labels. Many of the matchas sold in American stores are actually matcha lattes with lots of added sugar and process ingredients adding unnecessary calories.
A similar problem exists with chai. Traditionally, chai is strong, sweet black tea with milk and spices. You can make it at home, it’s not that hard. But beware of many of the chai drinks sold in the U.S. that are made from concentrates loaded with sugar.
There is nothing better on a cold, snowy day. But hot cocoa can actually be a health drink if you do it right. First of all, chocolate helps lower blood pressure, ease inflamation and prevent insulin resistance. But, once again, watch out for those sugar-laden premixed packets. All it takes to make hot cocoa is warm milk, cocoa powder and a teaspoon of sugar per mug.
Hot Apple Cider
This is another cool weather drink usually found around in the fall. Because cider contains apple pulp, unlike juice which is filtered, it still contains beneficial compounds and antioxidants. Make sure your cider has not been made from a sugary concentrate.
Beware of “raw” or unpasteurized cider, it could kill you. They have been involved in contamination outbreaks of food bourn disease.
Finally, A Warning About Hot Beverages
No, this is not because some lady burned herself on hot fast-food coffee. This is about the danger of drinking liquids that are too hot. A study in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention recently showed that drinks hotter than 140℉ can cause a type of esophageal cancer. As in cooking, let it rest for a minute or two. You should never burn yourself with your drink.