If you enjoy being toasty and cozy while sipping on warm wintertime favorites, here are some tips for choosing beverages that not only taste delicious, but will also help to boost your immunity and fight off pesky winter colds and flus.
Your Morning Cup of Joe
Many people look forward to warming up with coffee on a cold winter morning. And there’s good news—coffee contains healthful antioxidants and, when consumed in moderation (no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is about three to five cups of coffee), offers the following health benefits: protection against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and liver disease and cancer.
Interestingly, the thing to watch with coffee is what is being added to it. Many people opt for lots of sugar, artificial sweeteners and/or nondairy creamers. Refined sugars may weaken the immune system by reducing your white blood cells’ ability to destroy bacteria, so limiting it is ideal. And chemicals in foods, like artificial ingredients, increase the toxic burden in the body and lead to inflammation, which is associated with chronic diseases. Because artificial sweeteners are synthetic and non-dairy creamers are typically a combination of synthetic chemicals mixed in with hydrogenated oils, sugars and milk products, this artery-clogging, insulin-spiking combo may actually hamper immunity.
Here’s what to do: If you don’t like your coffee black, try drinking it with a small amount of skim or low-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk and a teaspoon or less of sugar. Or try one of these DIY creamers, which contain only small amounts of sugar per serving (less than a teaspoon), plus nutrients like cinnamon and cocoa, which are antioxidants that may help to bolster the body.
Note: While old-fashioned cream may be a good option from a chemical perspective, the calories add up quickly. It’s a good idea to avoid the saturated fat, as well as drinking your calories, as research shows you’ll want to eat just as many calories later, which may result in weight gain.
Most cafes serve hot chocolate with whipped cream and whole milk, which means the fat content of these drinks rivals an order of French fries.
Here’s what to do: Skip the whipped cream and ask for nonfat milk or unsweetened almond milk and you’ll slash more than 120 calories and 14 grams of fat. At home, for an under-100-calorie treat, mix one cup of non-fat milk with one tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder (this is the unprocessed version of cocoa powder that retains the antioxidants). Add one teaspoon of sugar or a small amount of stevia to taste.
Here are a few more hot chocolate variations to try:
Spiced Hot Chocolate For an alternative, add a splash of peppermint for a minty chocolate—or better yet, add a fresh peppermint leaf and muddle it in the hot chocolate. Mint contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant rosmarinic acid, which can help your body relax and restore.
Skinny Peppermint Caffe Mocha
Homemade Hot Chocolate Leave off the optional fat-free whipped cream and this drink makes a good snack—it has 12 grams of protein and just a teaspoon of sugar per serving, plus a few chocolate chips.
Lemon Mint “Detox” Drink This drink contains ginger and mint, which have anti-inflammatory properties, so they protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals and other toxins. Keeping your cells healthy means you’ll bolster your body’s defenses. Lemon gives you a shot of vitamin C and acts as an immune-booster to help strengthen your body and your immunity to help fend off foreign invaders.
Raspberry Anti-bloating Tea Every ingredient used to make this tea is a phytonutrient superstar—the raspberries, lemons, orange, cinnamon and cloves all fight damage and inflammation created by toxins that enter the body (including stress, pollution, and those from a unhealthy overindulgences such as alcohol and foods with artificial ingredients and hydrogenated oils) and they bolster the body’s defense against illness.
Chai Tea Latte This drink feels really indulgent and dessert-like, yet it contains potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that fight inflammation. In fact, black, green, white and oolong tea contain the amino acid theanine, which brings on a mental calmness, yet alertness, which is ideal for keeping you healthy because it helps to fight stress, which is often the cause of a weakened immune system.