Why Avoid Coffee + Healthy Coffee Alternatives

Since falling pregnant a little almost 8 months ago I have dramatically reduced the amount of coffee I drink… in fact, I didn’t have any up until just a few weeks ago. At first this was due to the fact that I simply didn’t want it and felt nauseated by the mere thought, but over the months I am now more determined than ever to kick the habit for good – or rather replace it with healthier alternatives and make coffee a once-in-a-while thing instead. Though I do love the taste of coffee, the benefit of not having it every day far outweighs the temporary boost in energy it gives. Coffee has quite a mixed reputation. It’s the world’s most popular psychoactive drug and one of the most studied food compounds around. There is so much information on whether or not it is good for us… some sources point out its antioxidant benefits while others highlight the fact that it is toxic and bad for our liver? So here are my thoughts as well as a few reasons explaining why I believe it is better to cut out or at least decrease the amount of coffee we consume…

Coffee & Overall Health

  • Like sugar, caffeine is a stimulant of the neurotransmitter serotonin – the hormone that controls our appetite, mood and sleep. When our body becomes too dependant on caffeine to control serotonin production and energy, our body’s natural ability to regulate healthy serotonin production can get compromised. As result, caffeine consumption can disrupt sleeping and promote anxiety and depression… and this too explains the highs and lows you may experience after a coffee.
  • The caffeine in coffee increases our stress hormones. This stress response triggers the release of cortisol and raises our insulin levels (the sugar-response hormone that is also associated with weight gain!). In turn, insulin increases inflammation, promotes weight gain and makes you feel lousy in general.
  • Coffee is highly acidic and as result interferes with our body pH, making our body more acidic and prone to health complications. Excess acidity in the body is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heart burn, GERD & dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut flora), which in itself compromises our overall health and immune function.
  • Coffee can interfere with nutrient absorption and the liver’s ability to detoxify. Since our liver is the main detoxification centre in our body it is an important organ to keep healthy. Too much caffeine impairs our liver’s ability to detoxify at its most efficient rate, which can affect our overall wellbeing as well as the health of our skin. Coffee also speeds up digestive transit, resulting in less effective absorption of nutrients when consumed with or after a meal. Therefore if you must have coffee, have in on an empty stomach.

Coffee & Body Weight

Coffee in itself does not contain any calories – but the caffeine in coffee is what causes our bodies to respond in a way that may result in weight gain in the long term. Caffeine causes a temporary increases in metabolism and does so by triggering a release adrenaline, which causes a quick release of energy (some of which is from broken down fat cells). The release of energy is in turn followed by a surge in the hormone insulin, which in itself counteracts fat burning by promoting fat cell storage. Once the short lived energy rush is over and the energy is neatly packed away into storage, we experience what is often referred to as a coffee low, leaving us feeling sluggish and hungry as our body is trying to get another energy fix. For some, this means an increased food intake, especially high carb foods, which aren’t benefitting anyones weight. That said, the effects of caffeine are different for everyone and are largely dependant on our tolerance for caffeine as well as our level of physical activity. If we use the rapid surge of energy we gain from a shot of caffeine in a physical sense by exercising, our bodies will use the energy released instead of storing it. But if we, on the other hand, are sitting down all day (a usual day in the office) and doing nothing physical to utilise any of the energy released, it is simply going back into storage while we’re left with a dive in blood sugar that signals that we should eat something to feel better again. This combination can quickly become a vicious cycle that leaves us with irregular blood sugar levels and an increased calorie intake without we even notice… and hence why coffee drinking can easily become a pit for gaining a few lbs. For this same reason, it is also better to have your coffee before you work out since the insulin surge release in response to caffeine will counteract and hinder your body’s fat burning mode following a work out. As mentioned before, I believe every body responds differently to caffeine. For me, I have noticed time and time again that when I get into the habit of consuming coffee everyday without much physical activity, I get a nasty caffeine low, which usually leaves me snacking more to get rid of the hunger pangs that follow a dive in energy 30 mins after the effects of the caffeine wear off. Oppositely, sticking to herbal teas and other caffeine free drinks, evens out my appetite and keep my blood sugar levels stabile to the point where it is easier to eat healthier without snacking.

How To Stop/Limit

That said, quitting coffee is easier said than done. Having good alternatives to help us create new enjoyable habits – without all the caffeine  is therefore key. If you really struggle with the idea of completely quitting coffee, cutting down and sticking to 1 a day is always going to be better than making no change at all. In my opinion, decaf isn’t a great alternative as it is just a more processed version of regular coffee, and often loaded with chemicals. Also, choosing a high quality coffee bean is always worth the extra cost and are more beneficial from an antioxidant and toxicity point of view. Remember, as close to the natural coffee bean is where you’ll reap the most benefits and avoid the most chemicals and toxins. Here are four favourite caffeine free coffee alternatives…

healthy coffee alternatives

 1. Healthy hot chocolate

  • 1 cup hot coconut milk, almond milk, or other milk substitute
  • 1 tbsp raw unsweetened cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp natural sweetener such as coconut sugar, xylitol or stevia
  • pinch cinnamon (optional)

Raw, powdered cacao is full of flavonoids, which act as natural antioxidants that protect our body cells from ageing and disease. Scientists from Cornell University in the US recently discovered that raw cacao contains nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidant content of green tea – classifying it as one of the top natural food sources of antioxidants! However, it is important to buy the right type of cocoa powder as there is a big difference between processed and raw varieties of the cacao bean… It is a bit like comparing canned pineapple with a shelf life of 3 years to a fresh pineapple full of fresh and readily available nutrients. Aside from antioxidants, raw cacao is also a great source of magnesium, an energy mineral and electrolyte, as well as sulfur, which is associated with strong nails, shiny hair and a healthy liver. The reason I like to use coconut or almond milk, my two favourite dairy milk substitutes, is that some research has found that mixing cacao with dairy tend to inhibit the absorption of the beneficial nutrients found in cacao. 
As with anything, moderation is key. While cacao is a health food it is also potent and can, when consumed in excess, be harsh on the central nervous system and interfere with calcium retention. To be safe, stick to a maximum of 4-6 tbsp of raw cacao per day. 2.Dandelion coffee

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1-2 tbsp roasted chicory or dandelion root (or a mix of the two)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup warm coconut or almond milk
  • 1-2 tsp natural sweetener such as coconut sugar, xylitol or stevia (optional)

Dandelion root is a herb that’s often used to treat upset stomachs and digestive problems. Contrary to coffee, which tends to burden our liver, dandelion root support our liver and its functioning and is for that very reason often used as part of a detox program since the liver is our key organ for internal cleansing. Dandelion root can also be made into a surprisingly tasty coffee-style drink, which can help kick the coffee habit while supporting your overall health… what a win! Brew your own using roasted dandelion root, which can be found in most health food stores, or if you live in Australia try the dandelion blends from Bonvit, which taste amazing and come granule form for french press or in tea bags, which are simple and great for travel. I always stock up on the tea bags when I’m back in Australia and love a good dande blend  with cinnamon first thing in the morning. 3. Hot vanilla nut milk

  • 1 cup warm almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp natural sweetener such as coconut sugar, xylitol or stevia (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Homemade almond milk is super easy to make at home and tastes far better than store bought varieties. Natural almond milk is a great alternative to regular dairy milks – with more nutrients and less impact on your blood sugar (obviously depending on how much sweetener you add if you make it yourself or if you buy a sweetened variety or not!). Almonds are naturally rich in vitamin E (one of the best beauty nutrients), calcium, magnesium, potassium, healthy fats and fibre. Read this to find out just how simple it is to make your own. 4. Liquorice peppermint tea

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 -2 tsp tea

Liquorice peppermint herbal tea is a personal favourite of mine. The liquorice root adds a great natural sweetness, is completely caffeine-free and supports overburdened adrenal glands, which are the organs that respond to stress. Aside from supporting adrenal health, liquorice also has a well-documented reputation for healing ulcers, lowering stomach acid levels and relieving heartburn and indigestion. Let the tea bag steep in hot water for 4-5 minutes while covered for optimal health benefits. I love the variety from teapigs and Pukka tea.

 

I would love to hear from you. What is your favourite caffeine free hot drink?

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5 Responses to Why Avoid Coffee + Healthy Coffee Alternatives

  1. Penelope says:

    This is great info and makes so much sense in terms of the impact caffeine, and its highs and lows, have on our body. I have definitely noticed that in myself and am definitely going to try your dandelion coffee alternative!

  2. Sheila G says:

    My favorite caffeine free hot drink is Roma roasted grain beverage

  3. Susanka says:

    Hi there, your blog is AWESOME!!! I am reading for hours now 🙂 Anyway I wanted to ask, maybe a stupid question, well I can go without coffee, but I loooooooove tea, black tea, like Earl Grey and other. I guess since black tea in particular contains caffeine, this whole thing applies to it too, right? Or how is it with teas. Thank you so much

    • Regina says:

      So glad you enjoy the blog! Black teas do have caffeine too, but often slightly less than coffee. I’d recommend cutting down to 1 cup a day and then enjoy it to the full. And have it clean – as in no sweetener or dairy (do nut milk etc. instead) x

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