Sure, coffee’s great, but if you’ve never ventured beyond your beloved java, you’re missing out on a whole host of hot, cozy beverages that offer health benefits to boot. Whether you’re trying to reduce your daily caffeine intake, looking to boost your health, or just want to shake things up, these tasty drinks will help you stay warm all winter long. Plus, they’re all easy to make at home!
Coffee may be the standard in warm morning beverages in many regions, but with options like these, you may realize that branching out with your beverage choice is long overdue.
Golden milk, which you may also see called turmeric milk, turmeric latte, or haldi doodh, may be new to you, but it has centuries of history in Indian culture. The base is milk of any kind — cow, goat, cashew, oat, the list goes on — which is typically mixed with turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and a sweetener like honey. Other spices, including pepper and nutmeg, may also be added. Regardless of the exact mix, the stunning golden drink is served warm and can be a source of protein (depending on the milk choice).
Turmeric is a source of the polyphenol curcumin, and studies show that its health benefits are no joke. And while further research needs to be done to show just how effective it may be in various forms and doses, with the anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects of turmeric, it’s no surprise that golden milk is reported to have a variety of medicinal uses, from soothing an upset stomach to fighting inflammation and even the common cold.
Slightly spicy and a little sweet, ginger has been lauded for its medicinal uses in China for millennia, and given tea’s history in Asia, it makes perfect sense that the spice would be brewed into a warm beverage. A cup of ginger tea is easy to make: Simply simmer fresh, peeled, thinly sliced ginger in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes, or steep a bag of ginger tea in hot water; then, if you want, add honey (or your sweetener of choice). You can also make it in your favorite type of milk, if you prefer.
Containing powerful polyphenols called gingerols, ginger increases circulation to warm the body and is proven to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s believed by many to have an even wider variety of health benefits, including immune support, cancer prevention, weight control, and pain relief, along with the ability to help quell nausea from morning sickness, chemotherapy, and motion sickness. Now, while the research is there to back up some of these benefits, not all are scientifically proven. Still, experts agree ginger tea, in moderate amounts, is good for your overall health.
Although, in other parts of the world, “chai” is synonymous with “tea,” the Western world typically thinks of masala chai, a spicy Indian tea, when they hear the word. This type of chai tea is usually brewed with both warm water and warm milk (of any type: plant or animal) and is a fragrant mixture of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and pepper, along with a sweetener.
Chai is full of health-boosting ingredients. You’ve already seen what ginger can do, and both black tea and cinnamon may lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. Cinnamon, along with ginger, can also help to reduce blood sugar levels. That mix of spices may also aid digestion and reduce nausea. There’s little doubt chai is beneficial for your health — just keep the amount of sweetener you add in check to avoid excess sugar consumption.
Best news of the day: Chocolate can be a health food! At least, that’s the case when it comes to dark chocolate without loads of added sugar. And hot cocoa, when made with high quality cocoa powder mixed into your favorite type of milk, is an easy and popular way to get a healthy hit, especially if you go easy on the sweetener.
Cocoa powder, which can be a good source of polyphenols and cacao flavanols, has been shown to offer a plethora of health benefits, including improving metabolic risk factors. From lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol and blood sugar levels to boosting brain function and mood, cocoa powder has a lot of potential. It may even reduce your risk of cancer and obesity! However, it’s important to know that processing and heating cocoa can reduce all those benefits, as can treating it with alkaline (which is often done to reduce the bitter flavor). Also, keep in mind that many cocoa products may be packed with added sugar and high in fat, which means that even the highest quality cocoas are best consumed in moderation.
Matcha, or matcha green tea, has ancient roots in Japan, where it’s a part of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It’s made from matcha leaves grown on green tea bushes, which are shaded to increase chlorophyll production (which gives the leaves a signature bright green color). Those leaves are picked by hand, but, unlike other green tea, they’re ground into a fine powder (generally called matcha powder or matcha green tea powder), which is then mixed into hot water rather than steeped. Sweetener can be added, but you might enjoy the taste just as it is!
All green teas, matcha included, have antioxidants called catechins, but matcha is particularly high in a catechin known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which may have cancer-fighting effects, along with other benefits like reducing risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Most studies done on the health benefits of matcha and other green tea are population-based, which means the focus is on the differences in health between groups of people who drink it versus those who don’t, so further studies are needed to prove causation. However, in the meantime, there are enough exciting findings to make sipping on matcha in moderation a very worthwhile habit.
With so many yummy — and good-for-you — options for hot drinks, this winter is looking a little toastier already.