Make healthy and tasty coffee, tea and other hot beverages

Good news for the nearly 60% of Americans who drink coffee: research has linked it to a lower risk of heart failure, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer. It’s unclear what it is coffee that’s responsible for these benefits, or what other lifestyle factors might be at play. But with virtually no calories – before adding milk and sugar – and a heaps of protective plant compounds, it’s usually good to enjoy a morning cup.

It should also be noted that adding sugar and cream can make coffee and other hot drinks much less healthy.

There are many reasons to warm up with black, green, oolong or white tea. For starters, people who drink it get more health-promoting plant compounds called flavonoids, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Research suggests that flavonoids protect against heart disease and provide other benefits.

Pay attention to: Hot infusions. Those who regularly drank very hot tea – 149 degrees or more – had almost twice the risk of a type of esophageal cancer than those who drank cooler tea, says a 2020 study in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Tip: Allow all hot drinks to cool. If you can sip comfortably, you’re fine.

Be aware that while matcha and chai teas seem like healthy hot drinks, that’s not always the case. Traditional matcha is green tea powder whipped with water, and it is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances. The matchas sold in many US stores, however, are matcha lattes, creamy concoctions that can contain a lot of sugar.

Traditional masala chai is an Indian blend of milky black tea sweetened with spices. But the chai drinks sold in American stores are often made from syrupy concentrates and have little in common with the original.

It is possible to find healthier versions of both drinks. Just be sure to ask what’s in the one you order – or try making it yourself at home.

Nostalgia may be reason enough to enjoy a hot cup of cocoa on a snowy day. But the drink has additional benefits. Consumption of chocolate and other cocoa products was associated with a slight decrease in blood pressure in a 2017 review of 35 studies by Australian researchers. Cocoa may also help reduce inflammation and prevent insulin resistance.

Pay attention to: Sweet versions. These trendy hot chocolate “bombs” can provide 20 grams of sugar or more, several times the recommended daily maximum. Aside from the occasional sweet treat, a mixture of cocoa powder, hot milk, and a teaspoon of sugar per cup should satisfy the sweet tooth.

Not to be confused with apple juice, which has been strained, apple cider is darkened with apple pulp, which likely accounts for its higher levels of beneficial antioxidant phenolic compounds. Check the ingredients to make sure what you’re drinking is 100% juice. Cider is naturally sweet; added ingredients like caramel or cinnamon syrup are unnecessary.

Pay attention to: Apple cider sold unpasteurized or “raw”. It has been linked to outbreaks of E. coli and cryptosporidium infection, which can be particularly dangerous for older, immunocompromised adults.

Copyright 2022, Consumer Reports Inc.

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