Coffee, Tea, and Other Hot Drinks Can Do More Than Just Warm You Up
Quick health tips for making these beverages better for you
Whether you’re lingering at a café with a friend, grabbing a quick cup at a convenience store, or sitting in your own kitchen, a soothing sip of a hot drink can make even the chilliest weather more bearable. But not all hot drinks offer the same health benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
Good news for the almost 60 percent 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 not clear what it is about coffee that’s responsible for these benefits, or what other lifestyle factors might be at play. But with hardly any calories—before adding milk and sugar—and a bunch of protective plant compounds, it’s generally fine to enjoy a morning mug.
Watch out for: Caffeinated coffee after mid-afternoon. Drinking it even 6 hours before bedtime can disrupt slumber, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. And while coffee’s effect on people varies, the Food and Drug Administration recommends a limit of four to five cups per day.
Also worth noting is that adding sugar and cream can make coffee and other hot drinks far less healthful.
There are loads of reasons to warm up to black, green, oolong, or white tea. For starters, people who drink it get more health-boosting plant compounds called flavonoids, according to a 2020 study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Research suggests that flavonoids protect against heart disease and offer other benefits.
Nostalgia may be reason enough to enjoy a warm mug of cocoa on a snowy day. But the drink has additional pluses. Consuming chocolate and other cocoa products was linked with a small decrease in blood pressure in a 2017 review of 35 studies by Australian researchers. Cocoa may also help decrease inflammation and prevent insulin resistance.
Watch out for: Sugar-packed versions. Those trendy hot chocolate “bombs” can deliver 20 grams of sugar or more, several times the recommended daily max. The occasional treat aside, a mix of cocoa powder, warm milk, and a teaspoon of sugar per mug should satisfy a sweet tooth.
Hot Apple Cider
Not to be confused with apple juice, which has been filtered, apple cider is clouded 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 percent juice. Cider is naturally sweet; added ingredients like caramel or cinnamon syrup are unnecessary.
Watch out for: Apple cider that’s sold unpasteurized or “raw.” It has been linked to outbreaks of E. coli and cryptosporidium infection, which can be especially dangerous for older and immune-suppressed adults.
Best Coffee Makers From Consumer Reports' Tests
No matter what kind of coffee maker you’re looking for—a drip, single-serve, or cold-brew model—you’re sure to find one that fits your needs and budget in Consumer Reports’ coffee maker ratings. Here are a few top performers, listed in alphabetical order.