For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, the latter months of the year bring with it shorter days and colder nights. As fall turns into winter, the natural tendency is to retreat into the comfort of a warm home and wrap up with a comforting hot drink. Hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate have a deep association with feeling comfortable and loved.
These healthy hot drinks do wonders to make the longer evenings feel bearable. However, if you’ve been working hard to adopt a wellness lifestyle, one that is active and maintains a healthy diet, you could be inadvertently sabotaging your hard work by drinking unhealthy hot winter beverages. This article considers why and how this occurs, and what healthy substitutes are available.
Caffeine can provide you with a welcome mental boost, particularly on cold mornings. However it should not be consumed in large quantities because (like with many things; moderation is best) it can have a negative impact on your health over the long term, such as increased blood pressure. Sugar, the other main component of many a favourite hot beverage, is also to be avoided.
Both popular hot drink favourites, coffee and tea, contain caffeine. Tea has 40-120 milligrams caffeine per 8 oz cup, while coffee contains a staggering 95-200 milligrams. Whilst taken black, tea and coffee have no calories, however adding sugar, cream and syrup to them can result in a high fat, calorie laden drink equivalent to a meal.
Winter favourites such as pumpkin spice latte, sold in one popular coffee house, has 50g of sugar and 380 calories. While their white hot chocolate has a staggering 490 calories for a grande, with low-fat milk and whipped cream. That’s more calories than two candy bars!
Hot chocolate sold by these concessions, may not have the caffeine, but can also be high in saturated fat. A salted hot chocolate in one coffee shop was found to contain 22g of saturated fat (which is more than you should have in an entire day), and 85g of sugar. What’s more, it also contained 380mg of sodium, making it entirely unsuitable for those who are concerned about heart health and maintaining low blood pressure.
However, one doesn’t have to forego the seasonal comforts of a hot drink on a cold winter’s evening, or one to start the day. Indeed, making sure that you stay hydrated by keeping up your fluid intake during the winter months, will ensure that your cellular functions are working properly and your immune system is functioning at its best. This will help ward off seasonal colds, flu and other illnesses.
What is required is to make sensible healthy hot drink choices. Not only is it possible to reduce caffeine and calories, you can also select drinks that have specific benefits. For example, there are healthy hot drinks that boost your energy and prevent illness. Below are five healthy winter drink choices that you can curl up with by the fire, confident in the knowledge that they are good for you inside and out.
Aztec Hot Chocolate
This sweet and spicy hot chocolate is perfect for cold winter nights and includes an arsenal of healthy ingredients. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, flavanols and disease-fighting antioxidants. Flavanols may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Cloves are naturally warming, and have anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic properties. Chillies are high in vitamins A and E, and help to stimulate the blood and the digestion.
1 cup water
1 cup almond milk
2 whole cloves
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
In a small saucepan, bring to boil the water, almond milk, cloves, ginger and crushed red pepper.
Remove from heat.
With a wire whisk, blend in the cocoa, vanilla extract, and cardamom.
Sweeten to taste with the Stevia.
Strain into 2 large mugs.
The Super-Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte
If the high sugar, caffeine and fat content has put you off commercial pumpkin spiced lattes, don’t worry, you can still enjoy the taste and get great health benefits with this alternative. Made with caffeine-free dandelion root and real pumpkin, this latte may sound unusual but once you’ve tried it you will be hooked.
When dried and roasted, dandelion root has a similar flavour to coffee, which makes it a perfect substitute. What’s more, this delicious pumpkin spice latte is much lower in sugar and has none of the artificial ingredients present in some commercial varieties.
If you are still not convinced that drinking dandelions is a good idea, dandelions have been shown to boost energy and immunity against disease. According to a study published in Advances in Haematology, dandelions purify the blood and help alleviate anaemia by significantly increasing both red and white blood cells. Recently researchers have also found that dandelions have high antibacterial activity against E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, and MRSA.
1-1/2 cups almond or coconut milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon roasted and ground dandelion root
1-1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon + more for sprinkling on top
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg + more for sprinkling on top
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and heat until hot or your desired temperature has been reached.
Pour into two large mugs.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Schisandra (also spelt Schizandra) is the berry of a climbing vine native to northeast China and parts of Russia. Its Chinese name Wu Wei Zi means five flavoured berry, which is a perfect description of its sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent taste. The berries are not eaten as fruits but are used in Chinese medicine and it is purported to promote longevity and overall vitality.
It is claimed that drinking schisandra tea detoxifies the liver, promotes a sense of well-being, and balances blood sugar. Several human studies have shown schisandra extract to improve concentration, coordination and endurance.
Schisandra berry tea can be made with 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried schisandra berries and 8 to 10 ounces of water. Schisandra is also commercial available in pre-made tea packets. Steep the tea for 20 to 30 minutes before drinking.
Cinnamon is a great booster for digestion, and may even help regulate blood sugar, which can help with weight loss. If you have a sweet tooth, cinnamon’s natural sweetness can help wean you off sugary drinks.
Boil a few cinnamon sticks in water for a half hour. Remove the sticks and enjoy on its own or pop in your favourite fruit tea bag.
Turmeric (also known as curcumin) is a healing herb in Chinese, Indian and Hawaiian medicine, and has been used for centuries to heal digestion and boost immunity (it is naturally antibacterial and antiseptic). Due to its ability to improve blood vessel function and even lower inflammation, it is an ideal pre and post workout beverage. A cup of hot turmeric tea, to get your blood flowing could be just the thing to motivate you to workout on a cold winter’s night. Turmeric is also a powerful antioxidant.
This version of turmeric tea is mixed with honey, to provide an added energy boost. The recipe makes enough basic ingredient for several cups of tea. The paste can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
1/3 cup raw honey
2 1/2 teaspoons dried turmeric
Blend the honey and the turmeric into a thick paste.
Place one teaspoon of the paste into a mug with the juice of one lemon. Add boiling water, stir well and enjoy.
Store the remainder of the paste in the fridge.