Health

3 Weird Ways Eggnog Is Low-Key Good For You

And one way it’s not.

Cups of eggnog with cinnamon. Eggnog's health benefits are surprising.
Renáta Dobránska/Moment Open/Getty Images

Nothing says it's the festive season like a glass of eggnog by the fire. The classic winter drink, which is made of eggs seasoned with alcohol and doused with cream and nutmeg, can be found all over the place come December, from Starbucks' eggnog lattes to down-home versions heavily spiked with bourbon. Eggnog is a treat with some health benefits, even if, like all intensely rich festive drinks, having one is often more than enough.

"The holiday season is all about traditions, and if your tradition includes making homemade eggnog, there are a few things you should know about the potential health benefits," Dr. Seema Sarin M.D., head of lifestyle medicine at EHE Health, tells Bustle.

Whether you make your own eggnog at home and opt for a favorite variety of spices (and your choice of alcohol), or nab some at a store or café, eggnog is a staple of the winter season. According to Smithsonian Magazine, people have been drinking eggs mixed with milk and alcohol since at least the 13th century. George Washington himself published an eggnog recipe, though his packs a punch: it contains the usual suspects, like cream and eggs, but also brandy, rye, rum, and sherry. Good luck focusing your eyes after that.

Here are the nutritional benefits and drawbacks of its deliciousness.

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A Cup Of Eggnog Has A Dose Of Vitamins

Festive drinks aren't the same as a well-balanced breakfast, but eggnog contains a surprising amount of vitamins. "A cup of eggnog has over 400mg of the mineral potassium, about a third of your daily needs of calcium, and some vitamin B12, riboflavin/B2, vitamin A, phosphorus, and iron," Ginger Hultin RDN, a dietitian and nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Bustle.

You can thank eggnog's combination of eggs and dairy-based products for the vitamin boost. Be aware that if you use a non-dairy milk to make yours, you may not get the same exact benefits, though you might reap others. Soy milk is fortified with calcium for bone health and contains vitamin K, which is helpful for blood clotting, while almond milk provides a dose of protein and fiber.

The Egg Is A Source Of Protein

The eggs in eggnog, Hultin says, mean that it also contains 10-12 grams of protein. Protein's an essential part of your diet, performing important roles in things like muscle formation and blood flow, according to Harvard Health. One dose of eggnog isn't enough to make up your daily protein needs — that's about 50 grams, depending on factors like your body mass — but it's not nothing.

Some eggnog recipes use raw eggs, while others gently cook them, or season them in alcohol for a period of time to intensify flavor and kill bacteria. The FDA considers salmonella a health concern for unpasteurized uncooked eggs in the U.S. "If a homemade recipe calls for raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs that have been through a heating process to kills lingering bacteria and avoid salmonella risks, and keep it chilled," Dr. Sarin says. If your store-bought eggnog is labelled as pasteurized, it's bacteria-free — with the same protein benefits as the homemade version.

The Spices Can Be Anti-Inflammatory

"Eggnog commonly contains nutmeg, which contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants," Hultin says. Antioxidants help protect your cells against oxidative stress, a process that damages and inflames them. A study of the health benefits of nutmeg published in Phytochemistry Reviews in 2016 found that nutmeg has known antioxidant properties.

Still, drinking eggnog isn't the same as popping an Advil, no matter what anti-inflammatory spices are in there. "It is important to note that studies done in people don’t clearly support using cinnamon or nutmeg for any health condition," Dr. Sarin says. And, she says, using a lot of spices in one go can cause gastrointestinal problems, according to the National Institutes Of Health.

The Alcohol Won't Help Your Health

"Any health benefits of eggnog are far undone by the fact that these are alcoholic drinks," Liz Weinandy M.P.H R.D.N L.D., registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. In her professional opinion, eggnog with booze in it should be drunk with caution because of the health impacts of alcohol. A study of 195 countries published in The Lancet in 2018 found that the safest amount of alcohol to consume is, well, none: even small amounts are linked to health problems like heart issues.

If you'd still like to enjoy the traditional winter bev without the added risks of alcohol, booze-free recipes abound. And at least you won't have to worry about drinking one cup of George Washington's brew and being unable to stand up.

Experts:

Ginger Hultin R.D.N.

Dr. Seema Sarin M.D.

Liz Weinandy M.P.H. R.D.N. L.D.

Studies cited:

Abourashed, E. A., & El-Alfy, A. T. (2016). Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of the secondary metabolites of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.). Phytochemistry reviews : proceedings of the Phytochemical Society of Europe, 15(6), 1035–1056. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11101-016-9469-x

GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators (2018). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet (London, England), 392(10152), 1015–1035. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2

Lee, KJ., Kim, KS., Kim, HN. et al. Association between dietary calcium and phosphorus intakes, dietary calcium/phosphorus ratio and bone mass in the Korean population. Nutr J13, 114 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-114