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Wake Up and Smell These Delicious -and Nutritious – Alternatives to Coffee

Do you love coffee, but hate the jitters and acid reflux? Try one of these other delicious drinks in your morning routine.

hands holding a mug steaming hot drink coffee alternatives
Credit: Shutterstock/Butsaya

For nearly half of all Americans, coffee is a necessity. Sipping on a cup of Joe is a popular way to start the day. Espresso shots can be lifesavers for sleep-deprived college students (Yes, I’m looking at you!).

A moderate amount of coffee — about 2-3 cups per day — improves your health in some areas. However, as Melbourne-based healthcare professional Jabe Brown explains, there’s a fine line between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of coffee consumption. For some people, it can be hard to stop at one, let alone three, cups of coffee. Caffeine can be addicting. After a long time of drinking coffee, your brain may start to depend on it to function. Eventually, the daily recommended 400mg of caffeine has little to no effect.

There are several blog posts on the Internet from people who want to share their experience with “quitting coffee.” Many users have found that they’ve changed for the better, while others chose to go back to black (coffee). Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you drink coffee, but it’s worth exploring the upsides and downsides of the beloved beverage. Additionally, there are alternatives for those who need a boost, many of which have even more health benefits than coffee.

multicolored hands holding different coffee cups in the air
With so many ways to enjoy coffee, it’s hard not to love the popular beverage. But what does the drink do for your health? Credit: Shutterstock/Zarya Maxim Alexandrovich

Pros and Cons of Coffee

As I mentioned, coffee does have some health benefits when consumed in moderation. According to Dr. Giuseppe Aragona from the UK, there are chemical compounds in coffee that “exhibit antioxidant properties, which may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.” The compounds have also been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. In regards to mental health, Aragona says that caffeine stimulates our central nervous systems and can improve our alertness, concentration, and cognitive function. Caffeine also releases “happy chemicals” like dopamine and serotonin in our brains. Both chemicals play a role in mood regulation.

On the other hand, drinking excessive amounts of coffee, and even the build-up of coffee in our systems after years of consuming it, can negatively impact our health. One of the most significant effects is sleep disturbance. While caffeine does stimulate our nervous systems in some positive ways, the stimulation can make it difficult to wind down at the end of the day, according to Catherine Gervacio, a registered dietician and nutrition writer for Living.Fit. Combine the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine with a daily overload of screen time, and it’s virtually impossible to get a good night’s sleep. “Excess consumption can also elevate heart rate and blood pressure, particularly in individuals sensitive to caffeine,” says Gervacio. “When this elevation is prolonged, it may increase the risk of cardiovascular issues over time.”

Sophie Cress, a licensed therapist and mental health expert, weighs in on other physical effects of caffeine: “Overconsumption of caffeine can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including stomach pain and acid reflux […] Besides, caffeine is a known diuretic that can lead to dehydration if not balanced with adequate water intake.”

cup of coffee art fuel on empty
It may be hard to imagine mornings without coffee, but the health benefits of these alternatives are too good to pass up. Credit: Shutterstock/goir

You may be thinking, “How can I have energy if I don’t have coffee?” Or, “I can’t live without my iced caramel macchiatos!” Here are five alternatives to coffee you can try today that taste good and keep you healthy.

Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is a South American drink used as a remedy for depression, fatigue, weight management, and chronic headaches for centuries. It can be enjoyed hot or over ice.

Gervacio recommends the South American drink yerba mate as an alternative to coffee because it is “rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.” Gervacio writes that while yerba mate does contain the stimulating effects of caffeine, it also has benefits. These include sharpened focus and enhanced mood, so it’s a good option for drinkers who want a productive start to their day.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that originated in Asia. Made from green tea, Kombucha contains antioxidants that fight cancer, reduce belly fat, maintain liver health, and manage blood sugar levels. “Kombucha has mild caffeine content from the tea base,” says Gervacio, “so it has a gentle energy lift without the jitters associated with coffee.”

Experts recommend buying bottled kombucha rather than preparing it yourself, as excess consumption can lead to bloating from carbonation and other digestive issues. Like coffee, it should be consumed in moderation.

grocery store coffee alternatives yerba mate and kombucha
Yerba mate and kombucha can be made at home or bought in stores. Credit: Shutterstock/The Image Party

Matcha

Matcha is similar to green tea, but the plant grows differently, giving the drink a unique flavor and nutrient profile. You can find matcha in almost every coffee shop these days. It can be served as teas, lattes, shots, or even used in desserts.

“[Similar to Kombucha],” writes Cress, “matcha tea offers a concentrated source of antioxidants and L-theanine, promoting calm alertness without the jitters often associated with coffee. Its ceremonial preparation process also encourages mindfulness, which can have a positive impact on mental well-being.”

It’s important to note that matcha does contain caffeine, more so than green tea. PubMed Central suggests moderate consumption, which is two level teaspoons of the powder a day, to reap the most benefits.

coffee alternative matcha tea and powder
Matcha tea is a popular alternative to coffee that’s rich in antioxidants. Credit: Shutterstock/masa44

Golden Milk

You won’t find this gold at the end of a rainbow — or, maybe you will…it’s that good. Golden milk is made by warming milk, whether cow or plant-based, with spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. These main ingredients contain lots of antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and decrease joint pain.

Not only is golden milk beneficial for you physically, but it can improve your mental state, as well. Curcumin, an important compound in golden milk, can improve memory and mood, while cinnamon lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Honey or syrup is often added to golden milk to enhance its sweet taste. However, this should be avoided as a regular practice due to the high sugar content of those ingredients. Instead, use milk that contains calcium and vitamin D so that you don’t have to add too much sugar.

coffee alternative golden milk in two glasses with cinnamon and turmeric cloves
Golden milk is a yummy and healthy alternative to coffee. Credit: Shutterstock/FotosDo

Water

There’s never a wrong time to hydrate yourself, and a glass of good ol’ H2O can be a great way to start the day. For me, drinking ice-cold water first thing in the morning wakes me up and gets me ready for the day ahead.

If you’re not a fan of plain water, don’t fret! There are expert-recommended additives that give you energy and maintain good health. Susan Gentile, a nurse practitioner at ChoicePoint, likes to drink cumin water on days that she doesn’t feel like having caffeine. She says, “I [add] 1 clove to [water] and I just love the smell and its effect on my mood. I started taking cumin water because I saw a colleague drink it for weight loss. However, after taking it once or twice I felt it did the same to my brain as coffee!” Cumin contains plant compounds that promote digestion, improve cholesterol, and even aid in narcotic recovery.

Lemon water is also beneficial for your health. Lemons provide vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps your immune system function. Vitamin C also protects your skin from sun damage. It helps create collagen which is a protein that gives your skin, tendons, and ligaments structure.

lemon water cumin water lemons and cumin cloves health coffee alternative
Cumin cloves or lemon juice can be added to water for flavor and extra nutrients. Credit: Shutterstock/Geo-grafika

At the end of the day, you decide what goes in your body, so why not choose things that keep it happy and healthy? A moderate amount of caffeine from coffee isn’t bad on its own, but with these alternatives, you can give yourself a boost of energy while helping you maintain good health.

Written By

English major and Trill Mag Lifestyle writer who's great at giving advice. Lover of romance novels, coloring books, and coffee.

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