Home News 9 Best Coffee Alternatives – Healthy Coffee Substitutes Approved by Nutritionists

9 Best Coffee Alternatives – Healthy Coffee Substitutes Approved by Nutritionists

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Coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in the world — in fact, according to a 2020 report released by the National Coffee Association, upwards of 60% of Americans choose to drink coffee daily. But there is, of course, such a thing as too much coffee, despite some of its noted health benefits. The FDA recommends 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults, which is equivalent to about four or five cups of coffee in total. “On average there’s about 100 mg of caffeine in 8 ounces of coffee and 60 mg of caffeine in one ounce of espresso,” says Alyssa Pike, R.D., Senior Manager, Nutrition Communications, International Food Information Council (IFIC). “It adds up quicker than you’d think!”

Coffee isn’t always a great idea, though, for those who can’t handle a large dose of caffeine. If you’re experiencing symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, nausea or headaches long before consuming that upwards limit of 400 milligrams, Pike says that it often would lessen symptoms if you chose to reduce your coffee intake. “While most people are fine consuming 300-400 mg of caffeine per day, others may find they feel more sensitive to caffeine and desire to cut back sooner,” she explains.

You might also want to cut back on your coffee for other reasons — maybe you want to avoid jitters and a crash, or can’t stomach the gastrointestinal side effects. Perhaps you’re just bored with your usual cup of joe and want to shake up your morning routine! Whatever the case, there are plenty of healthy coffee alternatives that can still give you that boost of energy and focus, without the dreaded afternoon crash. From healthy teas and mushroom coffee to completely caffeine-free drinks, try these delicious coffee substitutes the next time you’re craving some java.

Our top picks:

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Not only does matcha generally have less caffeine than coffee, it also has great health benefits that include a high-antioxidant count. “The L-theanine in matcha can help slow down caffeine absorption and avoid that energy crash you may experience after drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages,” says Stefani Sassos, M.S., RDN, CSO, CDN, NASM-CPT, the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab’s deputy director.

Caffeine content: 30-40 mg per serving

Love the taste of coffee but don’t want the caffeine jitters? Chicory root coffee — which is made from roasting and brewing the root of the chicory plant — is a good alternative, according to Sassos, as it’s completely caffeine-free but still has a similar taste and mouthfeel to coffee. While brewing chicory root can lead to a loss or dulling of some nutrients, there is plenty of research that shows this coffee alt is promising; namely, its high amount of inulin fiber, which can help regulate your digestive tract and improve your satiety throughout the day. Discussing chicory root with your doctor is a must if you have ragweed or pollen allergies, as it is derived from the dandelion family.

Caffeine content: Caffeine-free

Learn More: Is Chicory Root Coffee Good for You?

With 1/7th the caffeine as a cup of joe, this coffee alternative contains antioxidants from black tea, cacao and cinnamon as well as anti-inflammatory benefits from turmeric, explains Amy Fischer, M.S., R.D., CDN, a registered dietitian in the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Additionally, it contains a mix of adaptogenic mushrooms which may contain many health benefits including having antioxidant properties,” she adds.

Caffeine content: About 1/7th of the caffeine of a cup of coffee

Made from the leaves and twigs of the Yerba Mate plant, this caffeinated herbal tea contains a variety of polyphenols with antioxidant properties, Sassos says. In fact, some research even links yerba mate to potentially helping to manage elevated cholesterol and blood sugar levels over time and through regular consumption. Sassos recommends this pick from Clean Cause as it has 0g of sugar.

Caffeine content: 160 mg per serving

Learn More: 8 Best Energy Drinks of 2022, According to Registered Dietitians

Designed to be a healthier alternative to sugary coffee shop drinks, these Clevr Blends SuperLattes — loaded with adaptogens, powdered mushrooms and probiotics — have even been backed by Meghan Markle and Oprah Winfrey. This pick meets the craving for a latte, explains Fischer, while also providing anti-inflammatory benefits through its essential nutrients makeup. This is especially effective when paired with black pepper which enhances the absorption of turmeric within this blended product. Want just a tiny bit of caffeine? Try the other delicious flavors, like matcha and chai or even coffee (40-55 mg caffeine).

Caffeine content: Caffeine-free

Made from dandelion root and chicory root, along with barley and rye, this healthy tea contains a full suite of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can help add to a balanced diet. It also tastes similar to coffee — which means it’s great for drinking at night when you’re craving coffee but don’t want the caffeine, says Fischer.

Caffeine content: Caffeine-free

Learn More: 6 Sleep Teas People Swear by for Total Relaxation

Want a lower-caffeine alternative to iced coffee? Try a cold kombucha. “This fermented tea drink provides a potent source of probiotics which can benefit digestion and contribute to a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut,” Sassos explains. She recommends looking for ones that aren’t heavily sweetened with added sugar, such as this one from GT which uses real juice to sweeten.

Caffeine content: 8-14 mg per serving

8

Green Tea Super Antioxidant (4 Pack)

Green teas typically have less caffeine than a cup of joe — but are still packed with antioxidants like coffee. Additionally, consumption of teas such as green tea has been associated with lower risks of certain chronic diseases, as Sassos points out has been documented in research previously. This variety from Yogi adds grapeseed extract for an extra punch of antioxidants.

Caffeine content: 10 mg per serving

If you’re looking for a healthy way to start hydrating yourself earlier in the day, why not try milk all on its own? “In general, milk provides a slew of nutrients such as calcium and protein for a balanced beverage, whereas coffee provides no protein at all,” Sassos explains. This pick is infused with a blend of herbs and spices that add both flavor and nutritional benefits — and it comes in two other different flavors, too.

Caffeine content: Caffeine-free

How we chose the best coffee alternatives:

Each product we’ve highlighted in this guide has been personally reviewed or had its nutritional information vetted by nutrition experts within the Good Housekeeping Institute‘s Nutrition Lab. Our evaluations are based on the nutritional value provided by each beverage; how much caffeine each product provides through consumption; the amount of ease or effort required to brew or prepare each beverage; and consumer availability to source these products in most markets and via online shopping.

A selection of products featured here was also weighed against real-world feedback generated through consumer testing organized by GH Institute Pros. Whether you’re a longtime coffee aficionado or are looking to find a caffeinated drink outside of the coffee family, these healthy beverages all provide a source of energy and can easily fit into an otherwise balanced diet.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

This guide was created using clinical input from two registered dietitians working within the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Stefani Sassos, M.S., RDN, CSO, CDN, NASM-CPT, is the deputy director of the GH Institute’s Nutrition Lab. Stefani is dedicated to evidence-based diet and nutrition reporting. Stefani has extensive knowledge of food labeling and nutrition requirements on food products, rigorously evaluating hundreds of claims for products that apply for the Good Housekeeping Seal. Growing up with a family in the restaurant business, Stefani was able to combine her nutrition expertise with culinary skills taught to her by her mother and grandmother. She is an avid home cook and a meal prep expert, and she is passionate about incorporating unique flavors from different cuisines into her dishes.

Amy Fischer, M.S., R.D., CDN, is a registered dietitian working with the GH Institute’s Nutrition Lab, practicing for more than 10 years. She approaches food and health from an evidence-based orientation. As a practicing dietitian in New York City hospitals, she specialized in dietary issues with oncology, GI and cardiac patients. She has also worked as a recipe developer for several food brands and also has extensive experience in the commercial side of the food business.

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