There is nothing more relaxing than a warm drink on a chilly day. Something about sitting back and enjoying the smooth taste and comfort of a toasty beverage with a friend or a great book just makes us feel good.
The bonus of some of these “feel good” drinks is that they are also beneficial for our physical health as noted beside each drink in the list below.
Yerba Mate Tea
This tea is a South American beverage that is made by grinding and steeping the leaves of the yerba mate plant. Although it contains caffeine and is a central nervous system stimulant, it is also loaded with vitamins, polyphenols, amino acids and antioxidants.
Although there has been some concern that an overconsumption of extremely hot Yerba mate tea may increase the risk of esophageal and other forms cancer, this is linked to the behavior in some cultures where it is consumed at exceedingly hot temperatures 5 or more times each day.
The good news is that Yerba mate contains more cancer-fighting flavonoids than green or black tea and when it is consumed safety, it can help prevent cancer.
Scientists have identified high levels of compounds in brewed teas called catechin flavonoids, which possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects. Both green and black tea have been found to have cancer preventive properties in animal studies. A study published in Biochemical And Molecular Biology International concluded that the water extracts of yerba mate “were more potent antioxidants than vitamin C.”
Yerba mate has additional benefits including:
- Improves digestion
- Reduces risk of diabetes
- Improves mood
- Promotes sleep
- Increases focus
- Relieves allergies
- Boosts energy
Although Yerba mate is traditionally prepared in a mate gourd, you can also make it in your coffee maker. Fill your coffee filter up 3/4 full with loose Yerba mate, pour a little bit of cool filtered water on top of the tea and close the coffee maker lid.
Pour in 8 -10 cups of water depending on how strong you like it. Once your tea is finished, add about 1 tablespoon of raw honey to a cup and pour in the Yerba mate on top, then add a few sprigs of fresh mint and stir.
A traditional favorite amongst old and young alike, warm cocoa is actually very good for you when made with natural ingredients. Researchers at Cornell University found that cocoa has nearly twice the antioxidant power of red wine and up to three times that of green tea.
Raw cocoa comes from a plant called Theobroma Cacao and is native to Central and South America. It is also found in Nigeria where it is known as the “food of the gods.” This famous plant has a rich history that spans cultures. It is a symbol of love and “feel good” hormones.
The School of Basic Medical Science, College of Medicine, University of Benin, Edo State department of Medical Biochemistry conducted a study titled “Total Phenolics and Antioxidant Capacity of Some Nigerian Beverages,” which stated that increasing antioxidants can protect humans from diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.
They phytonutrients that give raw cocoa its power are known as flavonoids. Catechins and epicatechins are found in high amounts and are well researched for their health promoting capabilities. One finding is that the flavonoids in cocoa are absorbed intact into the bloodstream – allowing maximum benefit to be derived.
Flavonoids may also contribute to a healthy heart. They have been linked to improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the plaque that can build up on artery walls.
The minerals in cacao also contribute to the health of the cardiovascular system. One study, published by Science Daily, found that eating 6.7 grams of chocolate per day had a protective effect on heart health. (We are talking about dark chocolate, not milk chocolate here.)
Organic, cacao also contains minerals including magnesium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, manganese and calcium. It also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B8 and E, and is a good source of protein and fiber.
The fats that raw cacao contains also support well-being. They include oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive and coconut oils, plus saturated fats, which the body needs to properly function.
Be sure to make your warm cocoa with 100% organic cocoa, organic milk and coconut crystals.
Ginger and Cinnamon Tea
Ginger has been used since ancient times for its numerous health benefits that include aiding digestive disorders, easing pain and killing germs. Ginger is well-known as one of the best detoxifiers on the planet. It also has a wide range of anti-inflammatory benefits and has been shown to combat ovarian cancer cells and inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells as well.
For a healthy warm treat try this easy recipe for ginger cinnamon tea.
- ½ cup thinly sliced organic ginger
- 6 cups water
- 2 organic cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp organic raw honey
Simmer the ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan for about 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve or tea strainer and add honey to taste.
Parsley and Pumpkin Warmer
Commonly used as a garnish, parsley is an extremely concentrated source of volatile oils and flavonoids. The unique blend of volatile oils has proven tumor inhibitors as well as anti-carcinogens, while the luteolin, one of the flavonoids in parsley, is a powerful antioxidant.
Even more, parsley is a potent source of vitamins A, C, K and folate. The herb offers a wide range of health benefits including aiding female reproductive health, stimulating digestion, acting as a diuretic and promoting heart health, to name a few. Try this warm and comforting drink when you are in the mood for something sweet and spicy.
- 1 organic apple
- ¼ cup fresh organic parsley leaves
- ½ tsp organic cinnamon
- ½ tsp organic pumpkin pie spice
- Pinch of organic nutmeg
- 1 cup boiling water
Dice the apple and mash lightly with a fork into the bottom of a mug. Add the rest of the dry ingredients on top. Boil the water and add to the mug.
Allow to sit for five minutes. Straining is an option but you can also allow the apple and herbs to remain in the bottom of the mug for stronger flavor.
The health benefits of tea are due to its high content of flavonoids. These are plant-derived compounds that are antioxidants. Out of the four tea types, green tea is the best food source, having a group of antioxidants known as catechins.
According to Harvard Health Publications, catechins have shown to be more powerful than vitamins C and E in stopping oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other strong immune boosting and cancer-fighting characteristics.
Studies associate green tea with the following health benefits:
- Improved weight loss
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Protection from diminished cognitive function
- Reduced mortality from all causes
- Prevention of Type 2 diabetes
- Reduced risk of bone fractures
- Prevention of liver disease
- Prevention of atherosclerosis
Besides powerful antioxidants, green tea increases the number of “regulatory T cells” in the body, which, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, are important for optimal immune system function.
Believe it or not, there is a method to making the perfect cup of tea. Although the strength of your tea is a personal preference and the longer you let your tea steep, the stronger it will be, there are other things to consider.
- Choosing Safe Tea: Always buy organic tea or you risk that it has been sprayed with pesticides.
- Water: Always use fresh and filtered water to make your tea – never treated tap water. The better your water tastes, the better your tea will taste.
- Steeping Time: A team at the University of Northumbria’s School of life Science found that the best tasting tea resulted from 2 minutes of steeping followed by 4 minutes of setting. This allows the water to cool from boiling to an optimal temperature that encourages the strongest release of flavors. If the tea is left to cool too long the flavors seem to be destroyed.
- Maximum Antioxidant Benefit: While you can pour water over your tea bag and let it set, you can get 5x the antioxidant power from your tea by simply bobbing the bag up and down a few times in the water. Although this takes a little more effort, it is well worth it, especially if you want to get all of the health promoting benefits from your tea. If your tea bag does not have a string, use a spoon to dip and remove the bag.
-The Alternative Daily