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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


Festive & Healthy Nonalcoholic Drinks for Your Holiday Celebrations

Celebrating the New Year is a tradition that civilizations around the world have been practicing for at least four millennia. In America, New Year’s festivities begin on December 31st (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar. Traditions call for gathering with friends and family, attending parties, making New Year’s resolutions, watching fireworks and enjoying special New Year’s food and drink. It is common to have an alcoholic drink at holiday get-togethers, and New Year’s Eve is one of the top 5 holidays for alcohol consumption.  

While having an occasional drink does not mean you will get cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) does recommend avoiding drinking alcohol to reduce your risk of certain cancers. The AICR states that regularly drinking alcohol increases the risk of certain cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, breast, colorectal, stomach and liver. Even one beverage a day may increase the breast cancer risk, for example. Recent evidence also suggests that alcohol can delay or negatively impact cancer treatment. Alcohol consumption is linked to DNA damage, reduction of folate absorption, and helping potential carcinogens enter cells.

This holiday season, I encourage you to try new traditions and incorporate healthy alcohol-free beverages into your holiday celebrations. These beverages might in fact provide your body with extra help to fight or reduce your cancer risk. Most of the recipes listed below come from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society:

Warm Beverages

Chai Hot Chocolate
4 cardamom pods, cracked
1 (4-inch) piece cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1/4 tsp. anise seed
2 - 4 (1/4-inch) slices fresh ginger, peeled*
2 cups water
2 black tea bags
2 Tbsp. unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups unsweetened almond or soymilk
3 Tbsp. agave syrup or honey, or to taste

Place cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, anise seed and ginger in medium saucepan, add 2 cups water, and place over medium-high heat. When the water simmers, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags, cover and steep for 4 minutes. Remove tea bags, cover, and steep brewed tea with spices for 20 minutes. Strain to remove the spices, and return spiced tea to the saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa with 1/4 cup of hot tea until dissolved, then add to tea. Mix in vanilla and almond or soymilk. Heat chai over medium-high heat until steaming. Sweeten to taste and pour into mugs, or divide chai among 4 mugs and sweeten to taste individually.
*Note: Ginger root varies in thickness. If you have a large piece, 2 slices may be enough.
*Nutrition note: Compounds in tea and chocolate may have health protective effects, like reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure.


Ginger and Turmeric Hot Cider
1 cup fresh sweet apple cider
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. grated fresh turmeric
1½-inch by 1/2-inch strip lemon peel, white part included

In a small saucepan, combine cider, ginger, turmeric and lemon peel. Over medium-high heat, heat until ring of bubbles appears around edge of pan (about 3 minutes). 
Cover pan and set aside to steep for 5 minutes.
Pour hot spiced cider through a fine tea strainer into mug. Serve immediately.
*Nutrition note: Ginger and turmeric contain cancer-fighting compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Spiced Hot Cider
4 cups pasteurized apple cider
6 cloves
5 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 to 2 tbsp honey

In a saucepan over low heat, combine the cider, cloves, allspice, cinnamon stick, ginger and orange slices, and 1 tbsp of honey. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.
Strain into mugs. Taste and add the remaining honey if necessary.

Chai Latte
2/3 cup low-fat milk or milk substitute (cashew milk, almond milk, etc.)
6 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick (about 1 ½ inches long)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tea bag
1 cup boiling water
2 to 3 tbsp granulated sugar (or maple syrup)

In saucepan over low heat, combine the milk, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and vanilla. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mug, combine the tea bag and boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes.
Remove the milk from the heat and stir in 2 tbsp of the sugar or maple syrup until dissolved. Remove the tea bag and fill mug with strained hot milk mixture. Taste and add the remaining sugar or maple syrup if needed.

Cold Beverages

Green Tea Cooler with Fresh Mint
8 (6-inch) mint sprigs
4 green tea bags
1 1/3 cups apple cider, refrigerated
4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
4 mint sprigs, for garnish
4 lime wedges, for garnish

In heatproof pitcher or container, combine mint and tea bags.
In medium saucepan, heat 4 cups water until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pot. If possible, use an instant-read thermometer to tell when water is 180 degrees F.
Pour hot water over mint and tea in a pitcher. Steep for 6 minutes. Discard the tea bags, leaving the mint in the pitcher. Cool tea to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate tea with mint for 4 to 24 hours.
Just before serving, add cider and lime juice to chilled tea.

Mock-tail # 1
2 oz orange juice
2 oz pineapple juice
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 oz lemon juice
4 oz mineralized water
Ice as needed

Mock-tail # 2
4 oz orange juice
4 oz cranberry juice
Ice as needed

Mock-tail # 3
Coconut water
4 oz mango juice
2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 tsp. grated fresh turmeric
Ice as needed

Mock-tail # 4
4 oz ginger ale
3 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice
Ice as needed

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