Feeling tired, cold, or under the weather? Sometimes, there's nothing better than relaxing with a mug of something hot, whether it's a flavorful coffee or a comforting herbal tea. And if you're dealing with a cold, hot drinks help to replace fluids lost from fever and loosen mucus. But they also may actually protect your health all year long. Consider the benefits of these healthy drinks. 


Benefits: Java’s caffeine can make you feel more alert, boost your mental and physical performance, and elevate your mood. Both regular and decaf are rich in polyphenols, those antioxidants that may help regulate blood sugar, prevent blood clots, and neutralize DNA-damaging free radicals.

Need to know: Eight ounces of coffee typically has about 100 milligrams of caffeine. Limit yourself to 400 milligrams a day as a healthy drink option. Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, more than that may make you feel jittery, interfere with your sleep, or cause heart-rhythm or blood-pressure problems.


Hot tea is just one of several healthy drinks you should be drinking this season.

Benefits: Tea’s antioxidants and other compounds may protect against cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and memory decline. And researchers at Penn State found that people who drank multiple cups of hot tea a day had a body mass index 3 points lower, on average, than non-tea drinkers. To get the most antioxidants, let the tea steep for at least 3 minutes.

Need to know: Adding any type of milk to your tea may actually block the absorption of some of the antioxidants.

Herbal Tea

Benefits: Herbal teas aren’t really teas; they’re caffeine-free infusions of flowers, roots, barks, and berries. Although the evidence is slim, some people use slippery elm tea for coughs and sore throats because it is viscous and coats the throat. Chamomile tea has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, according to Case Western Reserve University researchers. (Inflammation is a factor in many diseases, from eczema to certain cancers.)

Need to know: Common herbal teas are healthy drinks when it comes to sore throats or stomach woes. But before trying to use them for more serious medical conditions, consult a doctor.

Hot Cocoa

Benefits: Cocoa contains flavanols, antioxidants that may lower blood pressure, reduce stroke risk, and protect against diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. Drinking two cups a day may also boost cognitive function in people with impaired blood flow to the brain, Harvard researchers reported in the journal Neurology.

Need to know: Indulging in a cup of hot cocoa too often could expand your waistline. Sugar is first on the ingredients list of individually packaged mixes, such as Swiss Miss. Each serving has 8 grams of sugar, or about 2 teaspoons, and 90 calories.

Check Consumer Reports' 2015 Holiday Guide for our picks of the best gifts, details on the latest deals, time-saving tips, and much more. And see our countdown calendar for top gift ideas for everyone on your list.

Hot Toddy

Benefits: This cold-weather drink of warm bourbon or rum, plus antioxidant-rich honey, lemon, and cloves, can’t prevent a cold or the flu. But it might help soothe a sore or scratchy throat or make you feel more comfortable.

Need to know: Don't mix alcohol with cold and flu drugs. Remember that the healthy limit for alcohol consumption is one drink a day for women and two for men. And a hot toddy counts!

Should You Sip Your Medication?

“Sip while hot,” say the package directions on at least 74 multi-symptom cold and flu products. Those powders, which you dissolve in hot water and drink like tea, contain some combination of a pain reliever (acetaminophen), a decongestant, an antihistamine, and a cough suppressant. But our medical advisers don’t recommend multi-symptom products. You might not need all those drugs, and some have side effects. Nor is there evidence that meds in hot liquid get into your system quicker—and therefore help you feel better faster. Instead, take a single ingredient drug to target each symptom you have along with a hot beverage of your choice if you want those soothing benefits.