Coffee, the bitter nectar of life, the breakfast of champions, the fuel that sustains parents everywhere. It really is one of the best parts of life. There’s a specialty coffee beverage for every season, and there’s nothing like wrapping your hands around a hot mug, snuggled up in the middle of winter.
Coffee does more than warm the soul; there are many health benefits related to starting your day out with coffee, but the way we prepare our morning cup of joe may have us starting our day out on the wrong foot. The latest health crazes have us reassessing what exactly we put in our bodies.
Lately, sugar or more specifically, added sugars, have been in the hot seat in the health world. Now we need to monitor how much and what kind of sugars we’re allowing in our diet. Gulping down a drive through latte or adding mounds of sugar to your home brew is probably adding unnecessary sugars to your diet. Most of us love to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee, but there IS a better way.
Aside from being a worldwide popular beverage to help brighten you up in the morning, drinking coffee may be beneficial to your life. You read that right, you have a legitimate excuse to indulge.
Check it out:
1. Longevity – Great news! This is for decaf and caffeinated coffee drinkers alike. Research has shown that people 50-71 years of age, who drank at least one cup of coffee per day had a lowered risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. These coffee drinkers were followed for more than a decade and it was found that the lowered risks may be due to beneficial compounds found in coffee that may keep certain diseases away.
2. Lowered risk for Type 2 Diabetes – Keep in mind, adding too much cream or sugar may prevent you from reaping this benefit.
One study found that men and women who increased their caffeinated coffee intake by more than 8 ounces had an 11 percent difference in their likelihood of developing type two diabetes compared to those who maintained the same coffee intake.
Men and women who decreased their coffee intake were more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes by a whopping 17 percent!
3. Antioxidants – Coffee provides more antioxidants than any other food! Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and help keep you well by preventing cell damage.
4. Lowers Depression – One study found that adults who drink two to four cups of caffeinated coffee were 50 percent less likely to attempt taking their own lives when compared to non-drinkers and decaf drinkers.
Another study looked at 50,000 women over a period of 10 years. It found that those who drank four or more cups of coffee, caffeinated of course, lowered their risk of developing depression by 20 percent. Coffee really is a lifesaver!
5. Caffeine – You don’t need to worry about getting too much caffeine because generally, healthy adults can have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. That’s an average of 2-4 cups of coffee but of course each brewed cup can vary.
However, if you take certain medications, have an anxiety disorder or are pregnant you should limit your caffeine intake. If you have acid reflux the acidity in coffee may be something you want to skip completely.
What are added sugars and why are they in our food?
Sugar is in lots of foods. Veggies, Fruits, and dairy products all contain sugars naturally. “Added Sugars” are sugars that are added to foods that wouldn’t usually be there. You’re most likely to come across them in energy and sports drinks, and sodas or desserts.
Sugar is added to lots of food to make them tasty, to give foods texture, add bulk, balance acidity, helps in the fermentation process and to preserve jellies and jams. Unfortunately, all this sugar adds calories to our diet without adding any nutritional value.
It has been recommended that we reduce our sugar intake to just 10 percent of our daily calories. Added sugars can also lead to a number of health issues, many that can last into adulthood.
Here’s what those pesky sugars can do to you:
1. Increased Risk of Heart Disease – Consuming too much sugar can raise your triglyceride levels, a kind of fat in the fat tissue and blood stream. High triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease.
2. Poor Dental Health – The more often you consume sugars the more likely you are to promote tooth decay. Sugar helps bacteria to grow and when it grows in the mouth it can cause cavities. Especially if you don’t brush and floss often enough.
3. Poor Diet – You may feel inclined to over indulge on a sugary drink. This will leave you with little room to eat foods that are more nutrient dense, which could leave a void in your diet.
4. Weight Gain – Added sugar may be adding pounds to your figure. Adding sugar to foods adds extra calories which can turn to fat when too much is consumed.
Cutting back on sugars is a difficult feat for most. We’ve become so addicted to sugar that we get cravings that are hard to ignore. Luckily there are better options we can swap out to help curb our appetite for sugar.
Not all alternative sweeteners are created equal, some may have added benefits without added sugar. While others may still be considered added sugar, but still come from a natural source and when used in moderation; they’re are great alternatives.
Are you looking for healthy alternatives to artificial sweeteners and high fat creamers to add flavor to your magical bean brew? Don’t fret, we’ve compiled a go-to list of substitutes to compare that won’t leave you missing your store- bought calorie packed creamer.
Try these suggestions to sweeten your coffee:
1. Stevia – Stevia is a sugar substitute that comes from the stevia plant and has been used all over the world for ages. It’s extra sweet, reportedly 200-300 times as sweet as sugar so you won’t need very much. You can purchase it at your local grocery in granules or you can grind your own stevia leaves.
2. Coconut Sugar – Coconut sugar is low on the glycemic index and comes granulated so it’s a perfect sugar substitute. It’s made by extracting the nectar from a coconut palm blossom then it undergoes a heating and cooling process. Coconut sugar is more beneficial than regular brown sugar in that it contains 4 times as much magnesium, 2 times as much iron, and 10 times the amount of zinc. It’s also considered more sustainable because it produces more sugar per acre, about 50-70 percent!
3. Coconut/Almond Milk – Coconut and Almond milk are both healthy alternatives to the sugar filled liquid creamers in the refrigerated section. Coconuts are filled with calcium and iron and their milk is just as creamy as the artificial cream you’ve been putting in your coffee.
Almond milk adds a little nutty flavor to your cup. It contains a ton of B-12, 100% of your daily needs in just one cup to be exact. It’s also rich in vitamins A and D. Both alternative can be made at home as they only have 2 ingredients each.
If you prefer, check your local dairy isle but look for only water and coconut or almonds to be listed on the ingredients. Flavored options are available, but they add excess sugars that you’re already trying to avoid.
4. Cinnamon – You can add powdered cinnamon to your coffee to help with the bitterness. Another option is to store some cinnamon sticks with your coffee to infuse your brew. It has a great health benefit to reduce sensitivity to insulin. One study found that all it takes is ¼ teaspoon every day can produce this effect, which is the exact opposite of how your body reacts to sugar.
5. Nutmeg – A little is all you need to give your coffee a delicious autumn flavor. It’s a great addition to a spiced coffee recipe. Add it to your coffee grounds to help flavor the whole pot.
6. Cacao Powder – Can you say mocha? Look for unsweetened and 100 percent cacao powder and you’ll benefit from the chocolate flavonoids. These are antioxidants that improve blood flow to the heart and brain, and help limit damage to cells.
7. Vanilla Extract – This great 0 calorie 0 sugar flavor will meet palates needs for a vanilla latte. A little is all you need to get the vanilla flavor so start our small and work your way up to taste. Remember there is no sugar, so this option does not satisfy a need for sweetness in your coffee.
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8. Raw Organic Honey – Honey still counts as an added sugar but at least it’s not artificial. It’s low on the glycemic index so is a great option when you need a little something sweet added to your coffee.
Honey is an antifungal, antimicrobial and an antibacterial and it’s a great dairy free option. Check out organic or raw options and always look for local purchases.
9. Maple syrup – Maple syrup has fewer calories than honey and has more minerals, but is also an added sugar. It’s an antioxidant rich option that tastes great and adds its own flavor to your cup.
It’s derived from the sap of a maple tree and contains minerals like copper, potassium, sodium and calcium. Even though the sap must be heated to reduce into syrup, it’s still considered unrefined.
10. Salt – Sounds crazy right? In fact, salt can bring out a foods natural sweetness. In coffee it can help to counteract the bitterness of the beans. Add a little to the coffee grounds and brew the coffee like usual.
When you can’t make your own…improvise!
A coffee from your local shop can have upwards of 25 grams of sugar. It’s super easy to gulp down your daily helping when you’re drinking it in a hot beverage. If you must grab a coffee while you’re out and about. Make a few changes to your order to minimize the added sugars and fats in your drink.
- Whipped Cream – It’s basically all fat and sugar.
- Flavored syrups – These extra flavors are always sweetened with sugars.
- Venti – Go for the Tall size or better yet, see if they have a short version.
- Ask for your drink “plain” ensuring they don’t add any extra syrups or flavorings. You can always ask for 1 pump instead of whatever they usually add.
- Drink it black. It’s an acquired taste but many love the flavor of black coffee.
- Bring your own sweetener. Stevia comes in packets, a small bottle of your favorite extract fits right in your purse or pocket.
- Ask for the coconut milk options
What’s all the buzz about coconut oil and butter in your coffee?
You’ve probably seen the newest craze about adding butter or coconut oil to your cup of coffee. At first it seems strange but according to those who have tried it, it’s the creamiest cup of coffee every and many won’t go back. The trick is to blend them into your coffee to get the creamy texture.
In addition to creating a delicious, creamy cup of coffee, there’s a science behind adding coconut oil and butter to your coffee. The combination of the three gives you benefits including antioxidants from the coffee, fatty acids and other nutrients from the butter, and fat burning, brain fueling properties from the coconut oil.
Make sure you’re sourcing your ingredients for your coffee. Choose a high-quality coffee that’s environmentally friendly and fair trade. Choosing grass fed butter makes all the difference. The grass-fed cows are what makes the combo nutrient dense.
Maybe you’re looking for a way to avoid added sugars to minimize the risks, or looking to use some of the natural alternatives to sweeten your coffee that you already have on the homestead. Maybe you’re just trying to save money by avoiding that pumpkin spice latte from your local barista. Try out some of these options to see what works for you.
Paige is a writer with a background beginner homesteading, small scale self-sufficiency, and animal topics. Paige and her husband spend time away from work playing with their daughter, keeping their chickens from destroying the vegetable garden, and snuggling their 3 dogs and 2 cats.