5 Surprisingly Healthy Beverages You Should Add to Your Diet

If you struggle to choke down a nice cup of green tea and can’t get behind the idea of having a glass of antioxidant-fueled red wine with your dinner either, then you may think the only healthy beverage in your diet is water. While it’s important to stay hydrated with plain old H2O, the nutrients in your diet don’t just have to come from food — they can come from your drinks as well. Soda is loaded with sugar and empty calories, and your favorite alcoholic cocktail isn’t keeping your healthy, either, but you may be surprised to see a few of your favorite beverages have more health benefits than you think. Check out these five inconspicuous beverages that you didn’t know could actually improve your health.

1. Beer

mug of beer sitting on a wooden counter in low lighting

Beer is surprisingly good for your health. | iStock.com

You may think of beer as inferior to red wine when it comes to health benefits, but actually, beer may be better for you than you originally thought. Organic Facts explains beer has a flavonoid, found in the hops, that has has anticancer properties. Beer might actually be as effective at fighting cancer as red wine, so if you’re not a wine drinker, here’s a good reason for you to reach for your favorite IPA.

Beers also contains vitamin B6, which is great for the heart. Beer drinkers also tend to have lower blood pressure and increased bone density, according to the same story from Organic Facts. Don’t worry if that glass of red wine with your dinner seems a lot less appealing than an ice-cold beer — you won’t be sacrificing any health benefits by making the switch.

 2. Hot chocolate

Hot cocoa with marshmallows

The cocoa in hot chocolate is more beneficial than you think. | iStock.com

If warming up a mug of hot chocolate is all you can think about after you’ve finished shoveling your driveway, there’s good news for you. Not only is hot chocolate one of the most delicious and comforting winter treats out there, but it also has some important health benefits. Mother Nature Network explains a study conducted at Cornell University found that the antioxidant concentration in hot chocolate is nearly twice as high as that of red wine. Additionally, hot chocolate’s concentration of antioxidants is higher than that of both green tea and black tea by three to five times.

The beauty of hot chocolate is you get to reap cocoa’s benefits without all of the saturated fat that’s in a chocolate bar. If you want a boost for your brain, then here’s another reason to reach for the hot chocolate — this beverage can help you think better because it increases blood flow to the brain, according to the same story. Try reaching for hot chocolate instead of coffee when you want to feel more alert.

 3. Coffee

Croissant and coffee on wooden background

Your morning cup of coffee is doing good things for your body. | iStock.com

Tea has always taken center stage when it comes to the tea versus coffee debate, but a cup of joe has a ton of health benefits as well. In addition to helping us feel more alert, caffeine has actually been shown to have a positive effect on our ability to form memories. Furthermore, coffee contains antioxidants that have been shown to improve heart health, which may lower your risk of heart disease overall. Coffee may also be linked to lower blood pressure due to the compounds in the coffee bean that activate nitric oxide, a molecule in the body that relaxes the arteries and can improve circulation overall. And for those who are concerned about the effects that sitting at a desk all day has on their body, it’s worth noting Livetrong.com says coffee may help boost metabolism.

 4. Soy milk

soy milk on a table

Soy milk might even be healthier than dairy milk. | iStock.com

Cow’s milk has the calcium content to fulfill your daily needs, and almond milk is highly regarded as one of the healthiest non-dairy options you can drink, but don’t forget about soy milk. Made from soaking, grinding, and boiling soybeans with water, this milk alternative is great for hitting your protein goals, keeping your energy high, and getting other essential nutrients. According to FitDay, soy milk is ideal if you have a family history of heart disease, as it improves your blood lipid profile and contains mostly unsaturated fats. Dairy milk, on the other hand, is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can be bad news for those with a family history of heart disease.

As far your waistline is concerned, soy milk is also naturally lower in sugar than dairy milk, making this the ideal milk for those who want to lose weight. The natural plant-based estrogen found in soy is not to be feared, either, as it can actually help your body better absorb calcium. Some research suggests it may reduce your risk of prostate cancer as well.

 5. Apple cider

Three glass mugs of steaming hot mulled apple cider

Mulled hot cider is a healthy fall treat. | iStock.com/Lauren King

If you love the fall because it’s apple cider season, then you might want to grab an extra gallon or two when it’s available for purchase. Apple cider trumps other fruit juices because it is unpasteurized, unfiltered, and only contains the natural sugar from the apples. Darla Ferrara, a writer for Jillian Michaels’ site, states apple cider contains flavonoids that help fight the damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants can also fight chronic illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and thrombotic stroke.

The pulp that’s found in apple cider is rich with fiber as well, which is excellent for your digestive system and may even lower your cholesterol. The fiber in the drink can also suppress your appetite, so you may not even need your typical afternoon snack. And you can count your glass of cider as one of your daily servings of fruit.