5 Drinks With Surprising Health Benefits

We all have a wish list of food and drinks that we pray science will deem healthy so that we can enjoy them guilt-free (bacon, french fries, sour candies, soda... please). If you're reading this, scientists, you would really do me a solid if you could just, say, publish a study that drinking a liter of one's favorite soft drink will cure the common cold.

Sadly, I suppose that's just not realistic.

But over the last ten years some fascinating research has been changing our perceptions of certain drinks. And I'm not talking kale juice. Favorable findings are changing the bad reps of many drinks we enjoy on a daily-basis — highlighting their surprising health benefits. After skimming this list there will be no more guilty feelings when sipping your favorite mocha, or enjoying a little drank now and then. These results thankfully give us yet another reason to feel happy about happy hour.

Of course, as is key in life, everything in moderation. Just because coffee has some amazing benefits, sadly doesn't mean we can basically hook ourselves up to a caffeine-drip. But next time someone gives you side-eye when you pour yourself another glass, you can throw scientific shade right back at them. So get ready to start sippin' and feeling good about it!

1. Wine

In recent years, a bevy of studies have linked wine to everything from heart health and weight management to fighting cancer. Most of the studies are promising, however none are conclusive. Humans have been indulging for over 10,000 years and yet the health benefits of alcohol is still a hotly debated topic. In the 1980s people began to wonder about what's deemed the "French Paradox." The phrase describes the fact that the French population has relatively low rates of coronary heart disease (CHD), yet consumes a diet rich in saturated fats such as butter and cheese. Some suggest that red wine might be the mitigating factor.

A Harvard review of 100 studies shows that moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of some of the most common causes of death, including stroke, cardiovascular disease, and heart attack. Studies showed consistent risk reduction hovering between 25 to 40 percent. There are many possible explanations for this, among them that consuming moderate alcohol leads to a spike in our high-density lipoprotein or "good" cholesterol, as well as reducing likelihood of blood clots. There have also been studies linking moderate drinking to a less likely chance of developing type two diabetes.

Need one more reason to pour yourself a glass of red? It seems certain antioxidants have been found in wine that may also have cancer fighting properties. A 2014 study discussed the beneficial properties of Ellagic acid, found in red muscadine grapes and oak barrels used for aging wine.

And lastly, let's not forget the social aspect of having a drink with friends or the pleasant digestive aspect of having a glass of wine with a meal. Oh boy, now I've made myself thirsty.

2. Coffee

Can't start your day without a strong cup of joe? No worries! The effects of drinking coffee can lengthen your life and is associated with lower risks of all-cause mortality. A 2015 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that non-smokers who drank three to five cups of coffee a day had a 15 percent lower risk of premature mortality, compared to those who didn't enjoy the java. Some research has supported that on cup of coffee can decrease chance of stroke by 20 percent, as well as helping to lower the risk of diabetes.

Coffee contains minerals like chromium and magnesium, which helps the body control insulin which regulates blood sugar. Coffee is high in antioxidants, which help fight tissue damage. While coffee is not a treatment for chronic disease, evidence suggests that the healthy habit can help with colon and liver cancer recovery, and reduce inflammation and heart disease. While even decaffeinated coffee contributed to benefits, studies show that caffeine can also improve cognitive function and mood.

As long as you do not overload your mug with sugar and syrups, you can enjoy all the health benefits of this versatile beverage.

3. Chocolate Milk

It seems the drink we loved as kids may actually be the perfect post-workout recovery tonic. If you jog, cycle, or participate in other intense endurance exercises, your muscles' store of glucose, or glycogen is reduced. Your muscles need this source of energy to perform their best, and stay fueled. Nutritionists at the American College of Sports Medicine suggest that a serving of carbs within a half hour of an intense workout will replenishes the levels. But how to best consume it?

You could spend your hard-earned dough on fancy powders and drinks, however it according to research it may be that chocolate milk constitutes a more cost-effective option. Kelly Pritchett of the department of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia confirmed this when speaking to The Guardian, "We now know that chocolate milk has the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, which your muscles require to replenish glycogen levels." The three-to-one ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams hits the sweet spot, and it even has higher levels of calcium, potassium, vitamin D and other key nutrients, than most sports drinks. However, if you are sensitive to milk, you can also substitute soy, almond or another dairy-free alternative, and that too will give you necessary protein you need to stay active.

4. Tea

Nothing warms you up on a cold winter night quite like brewing a nice pot of tea. For the English and Japanese it's part of their culture, and even religion. Now, science is supporting the health properties of tea, giving even more reasons to drink it, besides the taste. It's common knowledge that tea is chock full of antioxidants— green and black teas contain ten times the antioxidant properties found in fruits and vegetables. The camellia tea plant is the source for all types of tea, and it is naturally rich in polyphenols (a type of antioxidant). These have been associated with repairing damaged DNA, and some animal studies have found tea to have anti-carcinogen properties.

Green tea is also associated with stroke reduction, as one 2013 study proved. Those who drank four cups of green tea a day had nearly 20 percent lower risk of stroke when compared to the casual tea drinkers. The compound catechin, another type of antioxidant found in tea, can help with blood flow and blood pressure, as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. Sounds good enough to me! Let's get brewin'.

5. The Beer And A Shot Combo

Okay, hear me out — I'm not saying that you need to up your consumption of booze, but when you do imbibe, there are some benefits that will put your conscious at ease. Of course, the effects of alcohol are a double-edged sword. It affects nearly every part of your body, including liver, stomach, heart, and brain. It messes with your cholesterol and insulin levels, and even dehydrates you, causing inflammation, as well as altering your mood, coordination and judgement. Ethanol is certainly a drug — however, in moderation alcohol can have many beneficial properties.

When you order your next IPA, you can let the bartender know that the hops used in it actually contain a flavonoid called Xanthohumol. This antioxidant has been linked to impeding cancer-causing enzymes, as well as protecting against degenerative brain disorders, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Beer may also improve bone density according to a 2010 study. Beer's naturally high silicon content may, according to the National Institutes of Health, improve bone growth and protect against risk of osteoporosis. And when that same bartender asks if you want the "beer and shot combo" you can let them know that whiskey, which is aged in oak barrels similar to wines, may also pick up some of the anti-carcinogenic properties from the phenol antioxidant Ellagic acid contained in said barrels.

And when the bartender asks if you'd like another round, you should probably switch to water. Bottoms up!

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