Hot, Healthy Winter Drinks

January is usually a month for profound, new-beginning type topics, but what keeps coming up for me during single-digit days and a sweet, snowy winter is this one: hot, healthy winter drinks! Here are a few, along with the benefits they bring:

Hot Cocoa

Dark chocolate gives the brain a powerful, short-term boost to cognitive skills. Flavanols, a key ingredient in dark chocolate, increase blood flow to key cognitive areas of the brain for 2-3 hours after consumption, enhancing overall alertness and task-performance for the short term. Dark chocolate provides additional benefits as well. It contains phenylethylamine, which activates neurotransmitters in the brain that control mental attention and alertness. Chocolate also raises the brain’s levels of serotonin and endorphins. Serotonin produces a feeling of calm and stabilizes mood, while endorphins send high levels of energy to the brain and provide a sense of euphoria. Note that it’s important to use dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao to achieve a significant effect. And use portion control, as calories are high!

Mulled Wine

For after-hours, red wine is a fantastically healthy drink in moderation. It is high in resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant which enhances cardiovascular functioning, and activates sirtuins, longevity genes that reduce cellular decay and help cells repair themselves. Spices used in the “mulling” add to the healthy benefits! Oranges and lemons are filled with Vitamin C. Cinnamon can improve neurotransmission and keep blood sugar in check, while both cinnamon and cloves are high in antioxidants, antiseptics, and antimicrobials which aid in fighting cold-weather ailments. Enjoy!

Apple Cider with Cinnamon

If you prefer a non-alcoholic option, try this as an alternative. Apples contain the antioxidant quercetin, which protects brain cells from the type of damage that triggers diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. You can mull the cider with cinnamon or any of the spices above to add in the benefits they provide!


Okay - not as exciting, but for those of you who love tea or are watching your calories… Both black and green tea are rich in antioxidants which promote healthy blood flow and can enhance memory, focus, and mood. Sweeten with honey for health and brain functioning: a recent study showed that honey can reduce anxiety, improve spatial memory, and assist aging people in their ability to memorize. Note - your best bet is to buy local honey that has been processed with nutrient-retention in mind.

So there you have it - permission to indulge in healthy, comforting drinks that benefit the mind and soothe the spirit. Imbibe in moderation, and enjoy our wonderful winter!

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