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5 Hot Drinks that Pack a Nutritional Punch Recommended by Consumer Reports

Tim Boyer's picture
Nutritional Hot Drinks

The winter days are long and dreary and your immune system is constantly challenged with a bombardment of cold viruses from family, friends and a nose-sniveling public. While drinking any beverage will not guarantee 100% protection against a cold, several can provide relief and a nutritional punch that will help keep you healthier.

The following is a list of this month’s Consumer Reports on Health recommendations and caveats of what your hot beverage choices are and why they can make a difference toward your health this winter.

Hot Health Beverage #1: Coffee

The benefits of drinking coffee are numerous. Consumer Reports states that both the caffeinated and decaffeinated forms of our old friend the coffee bean include polyphenols and antioxidants that can help regulate blood sugar, prevent blood clots and neutralize DNA-damaging free radicals.

However, when you are feeling down from grey skies and green mucous, caffeine from your coffee can provide immediate relief as a way to lift your mood while sharing a cup with a friend and provide a boost to your mental and physical performance.

The caveat, however, is not to drink too much in one day. One 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine in it and you should limit yourself to less than 400 milligrams a day—preferably with your last cup several hours before bedtime. And if you are worried about weight gain from drinking coffee, try these 3 coffee choices that won’t add inches to your waist.

Hot Health Beverage #2: Tea

Tea is hands-down the most beneficial hot beverage that you can drink throughout the day. Tea’s health benefits are staggering due to the dosage and number of different antioxidants that even one cup of hot tea can provide as well as its weight loss abilities.

However, two things are important to keep in mind: Even though you may be in a hurry, let your tea steep for at least 3 minutes to get its full complement of health-promoting benefits. And, avoid adding milk to your tea as the milk will actually block the absorption of some nutrients states Consumer Reports on Health.

Hot Health Beverage #3: Herbal Infusions

Contrary to what many believe, herbal teas are really not teas at all; but rather, caffeine-free infusions of non-tea leaf plant parts such as roots, bark, flowers and berries. Consumer Reports on Health tells us that there is very little evidence supporting the medicinal value of herbal infusions. However, an herbal infusion of slippery elm tea for a sore throat may provide some benefit as it is thick and can coat a sore throat.

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Hot Health Beverage #4: Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa is not just for kids—adults can benefit from it as well. Hot cocoa is a rich source of flavanols and antioxidants that can lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of having a stroke and improve the insulin sensitivity in diabetics. Furthermore, research has shown that 2 cups of hot cocoa a day appears to boost cognitive function in people who suffer from decreased blood flow to the brain.

However, the caveat is that hot cocoa can be too much of a good thing as many makers of instant hot cocoa include excessive amounts of sugar in each packet of mix. You can experiment at home with unsweetened dark cocoa in powder form at home and gradually add sugar or an artificial sweetener just to the point that makes your drink palatable—and more healthy.

Hot Health Beverage #5: Hot Toddy

A hot toddy consists of warmed rum or bourbon to which antioxidant-rich honey, lemon and cloves are added for a delicious and relaxing beverage that can soothe a sore throat and make staying down in bed a little easier on an otherwise busy person.

However, it is alcohol and as such the usual warnings must be adhered to:

• Only one drink a day for women (two for men)
• None for children—EVER!
• Do not take with cold and flu medicines
• Do not operate heavy machinery or send e-mails to your boss while having your hot toddy

Last Bit of Advice from Consumer Reports on Health

Avoid cold and flu multi-symptom packets that marketers would have you believe that dissolving the contents in hot water and drinking as a tea will give you relief much sooner. Consumer Reports on Health states that there is no evidence that drinking a combination of pain reliever, decongestant, anti-histamine and cough suppressant in hot water will make you feel better sooner.

In addition, physicians researched about these multi-symptom tea products advise against taking OTC meds that provide a combination of ingredients for symptoms that you do not have. Their advice is to take a single ingredient meant for treating each cold and flu symptom you may have.

For an informative article about fighting the cold and flu, click-on the titled link, “Avoid the Cold & Flu This Winter with Dr. Oz's 4 Natural Immunity Boosting Solutions.”

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Reference: Consumer Reports on Health Jan. 2014 issue