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Winter Wellness: 6 Warm Drinks for Good Health

Helping to keep you warm this winter, each of these six hot beverages also has a unique health benefit.

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Winter’s chill prompts many to seek warmth for combating icy toes, frozen noses and shivering teeth. Besides the beauty of a snow-topped landscape, many look forward to the contrast between feeling warm and cozy inside against the cold and blustery air outside. As such, drinking hot beverages to keep warm and toasty seems to play a major role in the joyful anticipation of winter. If you live somewhere where cold weather descends, make sure to know which warm drinks are good for you and the health benefits they offer.

In addition to a fireplace, heater and insulated clothing, drinking a warm beverage is a staple for cold-weather dwellers. However, not all warm drinks are created equally. Fortunately, many of our favorite warm drinks also have nutritional benefits. American Dietetic spokesperson Debbi Beavais, a registered dietitian in Rochester, NY, reminds us to be mindful of what we drink; because adding cream, sugar and other flavors to a warm beverage can turn that drink into a calorie bomb.

In an effort to help guide people to make the best choices, the following six beverages can serve more than one purpose – taking the chill off AND keeping you healthy:

  1. Green Tea – Made from unfermented tea leaves, green tea contains high amounts of antioxidants that are called polyphenols. Studies have shown that drinking three cups of green tea a day can decrease heart attack rate by 11 percent, raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and help lower the risk of bladder, breast and colorectal cancer.
  2. Coffee – Arguably the most popular warm beverage worldwide, coffee has seen its share of controversy. Although some people are sensitive to its caffeine content, acidic properties and natural oils, coffee harbors several health benefits. Research shows that compared to non-drinkers, regular coffee drinkers are at reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, liver cancer, cirrhosis, heart rhythm problems and strokes.
  3. Mulled Wine – As long as the recipe does not rely upon sugar or other calorie-laden sweetener, mulled wine consisting simply of red wine heated with spices can be healthy in small doses. That is because red wine contains potent antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory effect known to slow Alzheimer’s disease progression, reduce the risk of macular degeneration and heart attack. However, those with liver disease are advised against drinking any alcohol.
  4. Elderberry Brew – Mixing a tablespoon of elderberry syrup into a cup of hot water could be the perfect winter drink. A little bit sweet, tart, warm and soothing, elderberry contains high levels of Vitamins A, B and C and is reported to stimulate the immune system. Ideal for warding off winter’s share of colds and flus, black elderberry (sambucus nigra) is a natural antiviral substance.
  5. Hot Water + Honey + Lemon – Simply adding honey and fresh-squeezed lemon to hot water is an ancient wintertime folk remedy for common cold weather ailments. Lemon cuts mucus in the back of the throat that may cause soreness and honey coats the throat. Thus, this drink provides temporary relief for a sore throat or cough. In addition, inhaling the steam from a recently prepared cup can help break up congestion.
  6. Hot Cocoa – When prepared with dark chocolate and low-fat or skim milk, hot cocoa aids in relaxation and benefits cardiovascular health. Besides increasing serotonin levels which produces a calming effect, dark chocolate reduces inflammation which can lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel health. Although nutritionists advise moderation regarding chocolate consumption, carefully prepared hot cocoa is a heart-healthy beverage.

As long as you have access to a stove, tea kettle, coffee pot or microwave, staying warm this winter by drinking one of the delicious hot beverages listed above can double as a healthful endeavor.

http://wellnessmama.com/1888/how-to-make-elderberry-syrup-for-flu-prevention/, How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Flu Prevention, Retrieved December 9, 2012, Wellness Mama, 2012.

http://www.harristeeter.com/yourwellness/e_letter/healthy_hot_drinks.aspx, Healthy Hot Drinks, Dr. Russ, Retrieved December 9, 2012, Harris Tweeter, Inc., 2012.

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306777,00.html, Hot Drinks for Chilly Days, Retreived December 9, 2012, Health Media Ventures, Inc., 2012.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/five-warm-drinks-health-coffee-tea-cider-chocolate_n_1025772.html#slide=425689, Warm Up! The Health Benefits (And Pitfalls) Of 5 Fall Drinks, Amanda L. Chan, TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2012.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/110410-benefits-lemon-water-honey/, Benefits of Lemon Water & Honey, Megan Smith, Retrieved December 9, 2012, Demand Media, Inc, 2012.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22972323, Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions, Kinoshita E, et al, Retrieved December 9, 2012, Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, September 2012.

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food, Coffee and Your Health, Neil Osterweil, Retrieved December 9, 2012, WebMD, LLC, 2012.

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/hot-healthy-holiday-drinks, Hot and Healthy Holiday Drinks, Louise Chang, MD, Retrieved December 9, 2012, WebMD, LLC, 2012.

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