Many people dread winter because of the freezing weather, multiple layers of clothes, and icy driving conditions. But I grew up in Florida and was jealous of my friends who got snow days and were able to make snowmen outside and sit by a fire when they came home. Now that I have been living up north for about ten years, I still look forward to winter to enjoy staying indoors and snuggling with my family with a hot drink warming me from inside out. A hot drink is one of the best parts of winter and whether you choose coffee, tea, or even cocoa, they are not only delicious but they can also be nutritious.
The benefits of drinking coffee have long been debated. I believe that like everything else in moderation, it should not be harmful, and it might also be beneficial. The main concern about coffee is caffeine. One 8 oz. cup of coffee has 135 milligrams as compared to 1 cup of black tea with 50 milligrams and 1 cup of cola with 20 milligrams. Many people drink a lot more than one 8 oz. cup of coffee and high caffeine has been shown to cause a slight, temporary rise in blood pressure. However, in people with high blood pressure, decreasing caffeine intake has not been found to make an appreciable difference.
Caffeine appears to work to relieve headaches on its own and in conjunction with painkillers like aspirin. Some women believe that eliminating caffeine lessens premenstrual symptoms, but there are no studies to prove this. Caffeine affects sleep, it can delay onset of sleep and interfere with rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. There have been no reputable studies proving caffeine’s effectiveness for weight loss. However, coffee can replace other junk foods in an effort at weight loss.
Tea has long been praised for its health benefits in all forms. Green, black, red or white all seem to contain the same polyphenols that work as antioxidants in the body to help minimize risk for cancer and possibly heart disease. After water, tea is actually the most consumed beverage in the world.
Green tea, which is the least processed form of tea, was first found to have cancer-fighting properties. However, it is now believed that all tea coming from a warm weather evergreen known as Camellia sinesis have similar properties.
Herbal teas do not actually contain any actual tea, so they will not provide the same antioxidant benefits, but they can still warm your soul with no calories and may have other properties that help you digest food or feel better. For example, chamomile is a relaxant useful in dealing with nervousness, stress and anxiety, it is often used for digestive issues and many use it to help induce sleep. Ginger is also used as an added ingredient in teas and it aids in digestion and is one of the best herbs to fight nausea. Peppermint tea is also used as a digestive aid to ease an upset stomach and it freshens your breath when you don’t have a toothbrush handy. Hibiscus is an ingredient found in many herbal teas and may have some mild laxative properties; it also may help relieve nausea. There have also been studies showing that tea may do more than help prevent cancer, it may have effects on lowering cholesterol and improving cardiac health.
Even hot cocoa can be a good hot drink choice. If you choose a good dark chocolate cocoa powder you can get all the antioxidant benefits that were discussed in the February 2005 edition of Living Well Magazine. If you mix it with skim milk you will be adding the calcium and protein that we could always use more of. Make sure to skip the whipped cream, especially at Starbucks where if you order a regular hot chocolate you really only get mocha syrup. It is a higher calorie option than tea or coffee, but sometimes this is exactly the kind of indulgence you need to get through a cold wintry day when the kids are home all day and the babysitter can’t make it.
If you were not into hot drinks before, I hope you are now. These beverages offer warmth for your body and soul, especially during the winter. Enjoy them!