Indulgences and holidays go hand in hand, and while most of the focus is on how to keep from over-eating, many of us forget about the calories we can accumulate from over-imbibing.
But despite the talk of reining in holiday excess, there’s some good news for those of us who still like to raise an extra glass (or two) in celebration: Common ingredients found in your favorite holiday libations—such as cinnamon, cranberry, pomegranate and chocolate—can offer hidden health benefits.
So, cheers to moderation, and drink to your health this season!
Festive, fun and colorful, cranberries are known widely for their protection against urinary tract infections. But the potent berries are also an excellent source of Vitamin C, manganese and other phytonutrients called flavonoids, which help maintain cell structure and eliminate free radicals and other toxins from the body.
Drink Idea: Cranberry Mint Margarita (Serves 4)
- 16 ounces cranberry juice cocktail
- 8 ounces lemon-lime soda
- 6 ounces tequila
- 8 mint leaves for garnish
Combine all ingredients except mint leaves in a pitcher. Serve drinks cold, garnishing each glass with mint leaves. As an added touch, freeze a bag of fresh cranberries and add them instead of ice to keep drinks cool.
Cinnamon is one of the most beloved flavors of the season, but it has also traditionally been used as medicine throughout the world. With the highest antioxidant capacity of any spice, it is a powerful antimicrobial agent that may lower blood sugar and reduce inflammation, plus it is an excellent source of manganese, dietary fiber, iron and calcium.
Drink Idea: Spiked Hot Spiced Cider (Serves 4)
- 2 quarts apple cider
- 2 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 orange spice tea bag
- 4 shots apple brandy
- Orange rind twist
- Dash of cinnamon
Gently heat cider with cloves and cinnamon, bringing to a simmer. Remove from heat and toss in the orange spice tea bag, allowing it to steep for five minutes. Remove tea bag, and pour a shot of apple brandy into each mug, topping it off with the hot cider mixture. Garnish with orange twists and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Yes, chocolate may add more calories and fat to the average cocktail, but the fact that this sweet treat is also rich in antioxidants and boosts natural levels of serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter) makes up for it in spades. Chocolate has been linked to lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels, promoting healthy blood flow and even lowering blood pressure – just remember, the darker the chocolate, the more nutrients it contains.
Drink Idea: Hot Peppermint Patty (Serves 5)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- Dash salt
- 1/3 cup hot water
- 4 cups (1 quart) milk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 ounces peppermint schnapps (divided equally among five mugs)
- Whipped cream (optional)
- 5 teaspoons green creme de menthe (optional)
Stir together sugar, cocoa and salt in medium saucepan; add in water, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir two minutes, then add milk; stirring constantly, heat to serving temperature (but not to a boil). Remove from heat; add vanilla. Beat with rotary beater or whisk until foamy. Pour into mugs with peppermint schnapps, topping with whipped cream and drizzle of crème de menthe, if desired.
One of the original superfoods, pomegranates are a welcome addition to any healthy holiday table (or bar!), as they are rich in vitamins C and B6, plus potassium and fiber (the seeds offer about five grams per half cup). Studies also show that pomegranate juice may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol while boosting iron levels and brain power, plus just one glass contains as many cancer-fighting polyphenols as two glasses of red wine or 10 cups of green tea.
Drink Idea: Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail (Serves 2)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 ounces vodka
- 2 ounces fresh pomegranate juice
- 3 ounces sparkling wine
- Pomegranate seeds, as garnish
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Combine vodka, pomegranate juice, and 1 ounce (~2 tablespoons) sugar syrup. Divide among two tall, ice-filled glasses. Top each with sparkling wine, and garnish with pomegranate seeds.