Why You Should Stop Drinking Hot Cocoa in the Winter

Stephanie Booth

woman trying to keep warm in winterMilles Studio/Shutterstock

One of the perks of being outside on a blustery/rainy/snowy/downright icky day? The chaser of hot cocoa you have to look forward to at home. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no matter how much said mug of chocolate scalds your tongue (or how many marshmallows you add), it's not really warming you up.

We're not JUST throwing shade on hot cocoa, BTW. Warm apple cider, steaming chicken soup, mulled cranberry punch -- all hot bevs need to be called out too, says Debra Nessel, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian with Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California.

"You may have been raised to believe that warm drinks like hot chocolate are perfect winter beverages," Nessel concedes, "but your basal body temperature will fluctuate to try and counteract the effects of hot liquid, meaning your body temperature will drop from drinking even one cup of cocoa."

Surprisingly, COLD water has the opposite effect, Nessel notes. "It raises your core temperature to counteract the chilly liquid."

We know what you're thinking: Hot toddy!

But despite rumors to the contrary -- not to mention wishful thinking -- alcohol "is a horrible way to stay warm," Nessel says. "The rush of heat that drinkers feel is the warm, fresh blood leaving their core and heading to their extremities. Though you might feel warm in the short-term, it will make it harder to stay warm over time, increasing your risk of hypothermia."

Luckily, you have other options. CafeMom asked Nessel to share her fave ideas for staying warm from the inside out.

More from CafeMom: 9 Simple Swaps to Prevent Winter Weight Gain

1. Coffee

The high amounts of caffeine "stimulate your metabolism, encouraging your body to burn fuel," Nessel explains. Your best bet is drinking it black since cream and sugar will break down instantly and leave you with a nasty sugar crash.

2. Ginger

Think of it as the hand warmer of vegetables. "Ginger truly gets your blood flowing, helping to warm your extremities and keep away the chills," Nessel explains. You can maximize the benefits if you eat the root raw. And eat your root veggies! "You'll also get similar but less noticeable effects from other root vegetables like carrots or beets," she adds.

3. Hot food

Hot as in SPICY. Spicy pepper will help you warm you up and even cause you to break into a quick sweat, Nessel says. "You can thank a chemical called capsaicin that's found in all peppers, meaning you'll experience similar results with cayenne, jalapenos, or habaneros."

4. Peanuts

Surprised? We were. But apparently, peanuts are high in vitamin B-3, which promotes blood flow and kick-starts your metabolism -- two key components in fending off the cold, says Nessel. "With healthy fats and plenty of protein, they're a smart snack any time of year, but will also help you battle dropping temperatures."

And with the supposedly long and nasty winter that's bearing down on us, we'll need all the help we can get.

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