Well+Good

Does it matter, health-wise, if you run on hot or iced coffee in the winter?

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

As the temperatures start to dip, and we’re forced to spend more time inside, more than a few of us will reach for a warming beverage. Adaptogen-laced hot chocolate? Yes, please. Concentration-boosting peppermint tea? Sign me up! But, without fail, there will always be at least one person in the group (maybe it’s you) who’s apparently immune to the chill and still orders iced coffee—all chilly season long. It could look like the frozen tundra outside, and they’ll still skip along the sidewalk, iced drink in (all likeliness, ungloved) hand.

There has to be something unhealthy about this, right? Because gulping down an icy beverage when it’s snowing outside surely can’t be healthy. How could it be? It sounds like subscribing your digestive system to the polar-bear plunge every freaking day. (And those dips are, at best, controversial health-wise.) But, according to certified nutritionist Karin Adoni Ben-David, the preference—though curious to many—is perfectly safe.

“Drinking iced coffee during cold days won’t make you sick. And drinking a cup of hot tea or coffee won’t do much to raise your core body temperature in cold weather.” —certified nutritionist Karin Adoni Ben-David

“You can have your coffee hot or cold any day of the year,” she says. “Drinking iced coffee during cold days won’t make you sick and won’t contribute to a cold,” she says. “While hot beverages and foods, like tea or soup, are helpful in loosening congestion and soothing a sore throat, cold beverages will not, in turn, make your throat more sore.”

And don’t twist this intel to mean hot drinks are actually health-boosting miracle workers. “Drinking a cup of hot tea or coffee won’t do much to raise your core body temperature in cold weather,” Ben-David says. “It will briefly warm up your hands, mouth, and stomach, and give you a warm, pleasant feeling. But it won’t have much of an effect on the rest of your body or affect your health in any way.”

Still feel passionately opposed to cold-drink devotees? Well, sip on this Eastern intel: Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners agree that room-temperature and warm water is better for digestion, but there there’s not much by the way of supportive research, or Western MDs who support the idea. And, one study published in Scientific Reports did find that steaming brews contained higher antioxidant levels than their iced counterparts. (However, the researchers only compared light-roast coffees sourced from a handful of locations with three caffeoylquinic acid isomers (which are used to make cold brew), so the sample size was relatively small—but still.)

The most important thing to keep in mind beverage-wise, Ben-David says, has nothing to do with temperature, but rather what you’re imbibing. “As the temperature drops and your body reacts to the chill, you’re less likely to feel thirsty, even if you need water,” she says. “That’s why it can be very easy to get dehydrated in cold weather.” So, drink (or eat!) up.

The bottom line, though, is that you can run on whatever temperature liquid you please. So if that something is iced coffee, then sip on, friends. The only health issue you’ll have to contend with is a steely side-eye.

Originally published on October 25, 2018; updated on November 2, 2018 with additional reporting by Kells McPhillips.

Here’s the best coffee city in the country. And if you feel the need to cut back on your intake, check this out.