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What's in your cup?
9 Healthy (and Delicious) Coffee Alternatives
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Leah Thomas,
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Most major workplaces basically run on coffee, often serving it for free in the break room along with powdered creamer and various types of artificial sweeteners. But while coffee may be a crucial part of our lives, it does have its downsides. Like lack of sleep (coffee stays in your system for up to SIX hours!), mineral deficiency, even weight gain. Coffee can also cause you to crash, after it wears off and your body’s adrenal system no longer feels its effects. This can leave you even more tired than you were before your first cup of the day. 

These negative side effects of coffee may be scary, but a life without this energy boost can be even scarier (we get it). So we’ve done the research for you to find healthy, non-coffee drinks that will bring you energy all day long, and benefit your body in more ways than one. We’ve also listed a few non-beverage energy boosters as well!

1. Matcha tea

One alternative to coffee is matcha tea. (You may recognize this beautiful green drink from the many Instagrams it’s been featured in over the years!) Matcha is a green tea that is made from the Camellia sinensis plant — it’s ground to a powder and turned into matcha lattes, iced beverages and more. Matcha has many benefits that come from its antioxidants like epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), like reducing your risk of high blood pressure. Those who drink green tea have also been found to reduce their body fat, their overall weight and their chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes, according to this study on PubMed. Plus, matcha can be found in local grocery stores and is easy to prepare at home! Also, the amount of caffeine in matcha is comparable, if not higher, than that in regular brewed coffee. 

2. Lemon water

Another great alternative is the classic lemon water! Adding fruits and vegetables (strawberries, cucumbers, oranges) to your morning water has been a trend as of late, and lemon is a nice calorie and caffeine-free coffee substitution. Research says lemon offers vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system while also protecting you and your skin from sun damage. Vitamin C will give you additional antioxidants that help your body create collagen to benefit skin, tendons and ligaments.

3. Kombucha tea

Another tea alternative for coffee is kombucha. Kombucha is a recently popularized black tea drink sold almost everywhere in a variety of flavors and brands. Kombucha is actually a yeast (which is why most brands specify that it’s a tea on the bottles!), and when fermented with tea, sugar and more, it creates its own Kombucha tea. The claimed benefits are numerable and are further explained in this WebMD article. It’s said to help digestion, rid the body of toxins, boost energy, help with weight loss and more. Studies conducted with it on animals have even found it to lower cholesterol and blood sugar, too. Kombucha is caffeinated and packed with B vitamins and probiotics, which work in your body’s favor!

4. Yerba mate

Yerba mate is another great coffee substitute. Healthline states that one cup has approximately 78 mg of caffeine, similar to that of your average cup of morning coffee. Yerba mate is an herbal tea made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the South American holly tree. It offers antioxidants (more than what is found in green tea), as well as other vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin E! But yerba mate is said to have a more specific taste than coffee, as it’s slightly smokey. 

5. Apple cider vinegar

You’ve probably already had a friend advise you to take a shot of apple cider vinegar each morning, but if not, we’re here to be that friend! Apple cider vinegar is, simply put, crushed apples that are fermented with yeast/bacteria, and the acid produced has many benefits. Benefits include healthy blood sugar levels, especially for those with insulin resistance. Others who swear by apple cider vinegar also claim it curbs their hunger after meals, which helps with weight loss. But be sure to dilute your ACV before consuming it. A common mixture is 1-2 tablespoons of ACV and a cup of water.

6. Smoothie made with protein

A morning smoothie is a healthy, filling and energizing replacement for that cup of coffee, especially when you include protein powder or other protein rich foods like nuts. You can substitute regular milk for almond milk or another nut-based dairy substitute. Adding a nut butter will help as well, like peanut or cashew butter. And protein powder, which is a muscle-friendly favorite, can help keep you full until lunch time. Nut-based foods like this are high in both protein and fiber. 

7. Wheatgrass juice

According to Healthline, taking a liquid shot of wheatgrass juice each morning can help reduce your cholesterol, regulate your blood sugar, reduce your body’s inflammation and more. The drink, which can also be found in a powder or a capsule form, may help promote weight loss or help you maintain a desired weight. Plus, wheatgrass is filled with vitamins A, C and E, iron, calcium, chlorophyll and 17 different amino acids! 

8. Chai

Chai is delicious tea option served both hot or iced. Although it on has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, it’s packed with the benefits of black tea, including a lower chance of heart disease. It’s also associated with promoting alertness, meaning it could be the perfect coffee substitute for you. (If you're ever so inclined to cheat on your coffee-binge, you can grab a dirty chai which includes a shot of espresso.)

9. Golden milk

One of the lesser known coffee substitutes on this list — golden milk is caffeine-free but could give you that coffee taste you’re looking for. The drink, which is usually served hot, features ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper. Add vanilla or a sugar substitute of your choice if you prefer your drink on the sweeter side. It's also worth mentioning that this turmeric tea comes with the benefits of aforementioned spices, like anti-inflammatory properties.

Other caffeine alternatives

If you’re looking to eliminate caffeinated liquids from your life, there are many other caffeine substitutes that will bring you energy without having to force a mug of coffee down. As we mentioned before, foods high in protein, like almonds or hazelnuts, are good energy boosters, as is exercise — even a low impact exercise like a morning walk through your neighborhood can be beneficial. Other energizers include a power nap (anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes), drinking a lot of water, eliminating sugar and being outside!

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