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Everyday shopping: Hot drinks

We take a look at healthy options for warming winter drinks.

Coffee sometimes gets a bad rap. But drinking coffee increases alertness and coffee contains a good dose of antioxidants.  Moderate consumption has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

However, too much coffee can give you the 'jitters' and could have negative long-term health effects. Most people can tolerate the equivalent of 2-3 espresso shots or 4-5 cups of instant coffee each day, but listen to your body and avoid overdoing it.

If you want roasted coffee, choose fresh local products. Well-known roasters now available in supermarkets include Allpress, Atlas, Gravity, Caffe L'Affare and Robert Harris.

As far as instant coffees go,  freeze-dried coffee has the truest coffee flavour, followed by granulated and then powdered. These are all cheaper than ground or whole beans.

There are several decaffeinated instant coffees. These still contain a very small amount of caffeine. If you really want a caffeine-free drink there is a range of 'coffee substitutes' made from barley, rye and chicory. Brands include Caro, Ecco, Inka and Aromalt.

Black tea is still the one we drink most often. It's worth trying some different brands and varieties for the distinct flavours they all offer. Bell Tea blends its teas in New Zealand; Dilmah is a popular brand from Sri Lanka; and Chai Tea is a younger New Zealand company.

Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea but instead of fermenting the leaves, they are steamed quickly to retain their colour.

Both green and black teas have good nutrition credentials. They contain potent antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and may even help reduce cancer risk. They also contain fluoride, which is important for bones and teeth. Leave the tea to brew for at least three minutes to enable the flavour to develop. You'll also get more antioxidants in your tea by leaving it longer.

Remember that it's best not to drink tea with meals as it inhibits the absorption of iron from the food you eat. Leave it an hour and then enjoy your cuppa.

Herbal teas bear no relationship to black tea. They're made from other plant leaves, flowers, roots, spices and fruit flavours, so they don't have the same properties. Some herbal teas do claim other benefits: they're caffeine-free; and there's bound to be a flavour you'll love. Check the pack for any cautions on herbal teas, for example liquorice teas are generally not advised during pregnancy or if you have high blood pressure. Healtheries and Red Seal both have extensive ranges.

The products with a high amount of cocoa in them – like Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate – could claim some nutrition credentials thanks to the specific antioxidants in the cocoa, but the high sugar content tends to override any health benefits.

The Jarrah range of coffee blends contain milk and sweetener, so all you need to do is add hot water. These are low in kilojoules. There's a flavour here for everyone. The Nescafé Café Menu range is super convenient for the office with individual sachets.

First published: Jul 2008



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