I can’t give up sodas. I’ve been downing them daily since childhood, but I know they’re bad for me. Can you suggest a healthier drink that’s still sweet but has fewer calories? --R.L., Plantation, Florida
Answer: I posted recipes for natural healthy soda at my website, so today I’m going to tell you to try chai! In China, Russia and India, the word “chai” simply means “tea.” In America, not too long ago, some clever marketing folks decided to use the word for a special blend containing aromatic spices native to India, and now you can find chai drinks everywhere. Yay.
Even when you order “Masala” chai in cafes or Indian restaurants, you’re getting way less sugar than what you’d get in a soda, a couple of teaspoons versus nine or ten, which is typical for non-diet soda pop. If you learn to make your own chai at home, you can substitute stevia, agave or honey as your sweetener, and it’s still going to offer grand health benefits.
I’m a huge tea fanatic myself, and chai is one of my favorites along with matcha, tulsi and rooibos. Chai starts with black tea, a powerful antioxidant which has anti-cancer compounds in and of itself. The individual spices that make up chai are also medicinally active:
Cinnamon: Several recent studies confirm cinnamon’s ability to control blood sugar. It’s sold in oral supplement form just for that purpose. Cinnamon is warming and eases digestive upset as well as flatulence.
Ginger: Good for digestion, and especially helpful with nausea and morning sickness. Ginger, being a strong anti-inflammatory may help with arthritis, reduce cholesterol, protect against colds and lower blood pressure. Is chai sounding good to you yet?
Cloves: A great digestive aid, this spice also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial action. In mice, it proved to be an aphrodisiac, woo hoo! And when clove oil is applied topically, it almost instantly relieves toothache pain.
Cardamom: This antioxidant spice contains anti-cancer compounds, and it has well-known aphrodisiac power. Good for urinary infections, clarity of mind, heartburn, bloating and bad breath.
There are thousands of chai recipes. Some include fennel which is good for menopausal problems and breaking fevers. Saffron, one of my favorite spices ever, is a powerful immune and mood booster. Anise helps with coughs and is a digestive aid, no surprise there. See the pattern? Chai contains healthy spices that help you digest meals, that’s why you should replace your after-dinner Frangelico with chai. Sam buys Bhakti Chai, and mixes this with frothed vanilla almond milk for a delicious chai latte that I crave when it’s snowing or right after a big dinner. And don’t think chai is just for the winter months. If you’ve never tried iced chai, or chai smoothies you’re in for a treat. No matter how you drink it, chai is still better for you than soda because it offers impressive health benefits, and being low in sugar, it’s easy on your waistline.