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Is Horchata Healthy? Benefits, Nutrition, Recipe
Nutrition

Is Horchata Healthy? Benefits, Nutrition, Recipe

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 September 5
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8 min

Horchata has a long history of purported health benefits, but is this refreshing rice milk drink a healthy choice? We take a look at the ingredients and nutrition facts to bring you the answer. Plus, you can find a healthy horchata recipe to try at home.

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Horchata is a delicious drink with a rich history.

It is a staple beverage in Spain and Latin American countries and popular among Mexican restaurants in the United States. It makes for a refreshing drink on a hot day and pairs perfectly with spicy foods as it helps cool the palette.

Although full of natural ingredients, like rice and cinnamon, horchata is a very sweet drink. This begs the question of how healthful it is to drink horchata regularly.

In this article, you will discover if horchata is a healthy drink or one to save for special occasions.

What Is Horchata?

Horchata, often called Mexican horchata, is a traditional rice-based drink. It is made with soaked rice, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and plant-based or dairy milk. The original Spanish horchata is made with tiger nuts, and some horchata recipes include almonds or other nuts, grains, and seeds. It is sweet, creamy, and typically served in a glass with ice.

Horchata has been around for a long time. The Mexican horchata gained popularity in the 16th century, but it is thought to have originated in ancient Roman times when it was a medicinal drink made with barley. In fact, “horchata” is the Spanish word for barley.

Today, it is primarily associated with Spain and Latin America.

Although a non-alcoholic beverage, horchata is often paired with rum, Kahlua, and other spirits for a boozy twist. It is a cool and refreshing drink in warm weather, but it can also be served hot in the chilly months when the seasons change and the temperature drops.

Is Horchata Healthy?

Yes, horchata is a healthy drink. At first glance, the creamy, milky, sweet beverage does not appear the most healthful, but it is loaded with natural ingredients. Horchata contains lots of vitamins and minerals that are great for your health, including calcium, iron, and potassium.

Although a nutritious beverage, horchata does contain a fair amount of sugar. One cup of horchata made with milk has 23.7g of sugar. Depending on the horchata recipe, some may contain more sugar than others. It is healthier when sweetened with vanilla and other spices.

Horchata is also high in calories, with 221 calories in one cup. Horchata recipes generally feature the key ingredients, but the nutritional and calorie content can vary. For example, some use almond milk while others use full-fat dairy milk, increasing the number of calories.

It’s best to limit drinking horchata in large quantities if you want to maintain a healthy weight, especially if you are trying to lose weight. In moderate amounts, this refreshing beverage makes a good addition to your diet. It tastes great and supports your general health.

5 Health Benefits of Horchata

The original horchata mixture has been consumed by humans for centuries and is touted for its many health benefits. It contains important macro and micronutrients to keep your body healthy while providing a delicious taste to those who enjoy a dessert-like liquid.

Below, you can discover 5 promising benefits of drinking horchata.

#1 It has antioxidants

Horchata has bioactive antioxidant compounds that support human health. Antioxidants protect your cells from free radical damage. An antioxidant-rich diet has anti-inflammatory effects. It can reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic diseases.

#2 It’s good for the digestive system

Drinking horchata can support your digestive health by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Horchata containing unprocessed tiger nuts has a fast and significant impact on the gut microbiota, likely due to the starch powder in horchata and the polyphenols in tiger nuts.

#3 It’s great for a workout

Horchata is a great pre or post-workout drink. It contains carbohydrates that make it an energizing beverage. It can boost your energy levels before your workout and restore your body with fuel after intensive exercise. The sugar content can also give you a natural energy boost.

Horchata contains calcium, too – a mineral that builds and maintains strong bones. It also has sodium and potassium – two important minerals for proper hydration and muscle contraction.

#4 It may support healthy skin

The rice water drink is extremely hydrating and may be beneficial for the skin. It contains vitamin A, which supports wound healing, promotes moisture, and reduces the appearance of aging skin. Another skin-aiding mineral is selenium, which protects skin from oxidative stress.

#5 It is good for the eyes

Horchata can help keep your eyes healthy as it contains small amounts of potent antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are key in reducing the risk of eye-related diseases like macular degeneration. They also protect your eyes from free radical damage.

Horchata Nutrition Facts

To review how healthy horchata is, the first place to begin is by looking at the nutritional value. You can then assess the nutrients and their quantities to determine their value for your overall health and wellness. A healthy drink is rich in plenty of nutrients.

Let’s see how horchata rates nutrition-wise.

Nutrition table (per 100g)

The table below shows the nutritional value of a 100g serving of the horchata beverage made with milk.

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount 
Calories (kcal)89
Calcium (mg)9
Net Carbs (g)19.3
Fiber (g)0.4
Sugar (g)9.56
Fats (Total)0.63
Protein (g)1.42
Cholesterol (mg)2

High in calories

Horchata is relatively low in calories per 100 grams. However, the delicious taste makes it extremely easy to overconsume. If you don’t monitor your intake, you can quickly take in a lot of calories without realizing it. Eating excess calories can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Calorie counting is important to those who are trying to lose weight. Whether you want to shed 3 pounds a week or 10 pounds a month, reducing your daily caloric intake is usually the first step. Feel free to enjoy horchata as it will support your health; just don’t go overboard.

High in carbohydrates

Horchata is fairly high in both net carbs and total carbs. There are 19.3 grams of net carbohydrates in a 100g serving. Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient and your body’s main source of energy. They provide you glucose that the body converts into fuel.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, carbohydrates should make up 45–65% of total daily calories. Drinking horchata shouldn’t be a problem if you are not monitoring your carb intake. However, if you’re following a low-carb diet to lose weight, you might want to skip horchata.

Low in proteins

Horchata is low in protein, with only 1.42 grams. Protein is another vital macronutrient that supplies you with energy, strengthens your bones, and helps build and repair your muscles. If drinking horchata, make sure you are getting adequate protein from the rest of your diet.

Adding nuts and seeds can increase the amount of protein when making homemade horchata. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein and give your horchata recipe a rich, nutty taste. Good examples include almonds, sesame seeds, and walnuts.

Many recipes include tiger nuts, which are not actually nuts. However, adding tiger nuts can increase the protein content while providing a mild nutty flavor.

High in vitamins and minerals

Horchata has lots of vitamins and minerals. Consuming plenty of these nutrients from food and drink sources in your diet is essential to support and strengthen your body. They have many vital functions, like boosting the immune system, fighting infection, strengthening the bones, and speeding up wound healing.

In a 100g serving of horchata, you can find:

  • 30mg of calcium
  • 0.57mg of iron
  • 6mg of magnesium
  • 31mg of phosphorus
  • 41mg of potassium

It also has small amounts of zinc, copper, selenium, and B vitamins.

Low in cholesterol

Horchata is very low in cholesterol, with only 2mg. Cholesterol is found in animal foods, including meat, shellfish, and dairy products. Low-cholesterol food and drinks can help keep your cholesterol levels in check.

While cholesterol is essential for many metabolic processes, too much cholesterol can cause a blockage in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular events.

Healthy Horchata Recipe

The recipe for horchata varies between countries and regions. It’s great because you can whip up this refreshing beverage in minutes and change or swap ingredients to alter its flavor. Remember that the recipe requires soaked rice, so you do need to prepare horchata a day early.

Below you can find a healthy Mexican horchata recipe to try. Many recipes use sweetened condensed milk, but it works great with a plant-based alternative.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2–3 tbsp of honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of raw almonds
  • Extra cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon to garnish

How to prepare:

  1. Add the rice, cinnamon stick, and 4 cups of warm water to a mixing bowl. Leave to soak at room temperature for approximately 2 hours before transferring the bowl to the refrigerator to soak overnight. The rice should soften, and the cinnamon stick should be easy to break.
  2. Transfer the soaked rice mixture to a blender and combine thoroughly.
  3. Add the last 2 cups of water (cold water this time), the almond milk, honey, vanilla, and almonds to the blender. Blend until no solid lumps are remaining.
  4. Strain the mixture and transfer it to another bowl or container, leaving behind any remaining solids.
  5. Refrigerate the mixture until chilled. You can then serve up your horchata in a tall glass with ice, garnish with the cinnamon sticks, or simply sprinkle some ground cinnamon on the top.

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FAQs

Is horchata good or bad for you?

Horchata is good for you because it contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support your general health. It contains many calories, so you should be mindful of how much you consume to remain within your daily calorie budget, especially if you want to lose weight.

Is horchata fattening?

Horchata is a high-calorie drink that can be fattening if you drink too much. While it is rich in important nutrients, drinking horchata excessively can lead to weight gain if you regularly consume more calories than your body needs. Be mindful of your horchata serving size, and you can continue to enjoy this delicious drink.

Is horchata safe to drink while pregnant?

Horchata can be safe to drink while pregnant, depending on the recipe. Many recipes and store-bought horchata drinks contain a lot of sugar. You should talk to your doctor if you are pregnant to discuss the safety of horchata and the best recipe to follow.

A Word From Our Nutritionist

Horchata is like delicious rice milk with a creamy vanilla flavor.

It is a famous drink in Spain and Latin America, made from a mixture of rice, water, milk, and cinnamon sticks. It is usually sweetened with sugar, vanilla, almonds, and spices. In Spain, the term horchata can refer to several sweet drinks containing grains, ground nuts, and spices.

In the US, you tend to come across horchata in your favorite Mexican restaurant. It works great with sweet treats – such as pastries – spicy food, or on its own as a post-dinner dessert.

Although typically a dairy-free beverage, some horchata recipes use dairy milk, such as sweetened condensed milk (evaporated milk). These ingredients contain more calories than dairy-free alternatives. You can create homemade horchata and opt for low-calorie options.

Try choosing the best milk for weight loss. For example, almond milk is good for weight loss because it contains far fewer calories than regular milk. It still contains important vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning at optimal levels.

For another nutritious addition, you can follow an authentic Spanish horchata recipe and add tiger nuts. The tiger nut is a rich source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phenolic compounds. It may improve gut health and help you lose weight.

Conclusion

Is horchata good for you?

You can reap the benefits of drinking horchata with a mindful horchata recipe. It is one of the best drinks to hydrate and refresh while satisfying your sweet tooth. You can even enjoy this cinnamon-flavored beverage warm in the winter when you need a little comfort.Just be cautious when shopping for horchata. These pre-made drinks often contain added sugar, more fat, and more calories. If following a low-calorie diet for weight loss or you simply want a healthful beverage to sip, try making your own glass of horchata at home.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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