Ah, coffee. That magical bean water which makes it possible to handle things like 8 a.m. budget meetings without losing your mind (or falling asleep and drooling all over your designer suit). Coffee contains zero calories, at least until you add cream and sugar. So, it must qualify as healthy, right?
Ways to Make Your Cup of Coffee Healthier
Yes and no. Coffee does offer some health benefits, but when it’s laden with creamers containing artificial sweeteners and other additives, not so much. However, there are things you can do to make your morning Joe friendlier to your health. Here are eight ways to do so!
1. Brew It with a Paper Filter
Some coffee aficionados swear by metal filters for a bolder flavor, but for the healthiest cuppa, use a paper filter when you brew. Why? Because coffee beans contain cafestol, a terpene shown to raise cholesterol levels. Paper filtration proves superior for removing the substance. You also can minimize cafestol exposure by selecting beans roasted for a longer time period.
2. Buy Single-Sourced Organic Beans
Geography plays a huge role in the taste of coffee and can determine your exposure to pathogens as well. Opt for single-source beans, meaning coffee beans grown on a single farm or geographic region. This not only concentrates the flavor of the unique variety of bean along with the nutrient content of the soil, but it also minimizes the chances of exposure to toxins.
Buy organic to minimize pesticide exposure. While buying organic doesn’t guarantee freedom from pesticide exposure, it does decrease the amount consumed significantly.
3. Enjoy It With a Healthy Fat
Do you get the jitters after a cup of Joe on an empty tummy? Coffee can irritate the lining of the stomach by increasing acid levels. Try pairing your coffee with a healthy fat, such as the traditional breakfast egg, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Following a vegan diet? Include nuts, seeds or avocado with your morning meal to help neutralize the acidic effects of coffee.
4. Snack Healthy Afterward, Too
Experts advise waiting 30 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing your teeth, but the lingering taste of coffee can feel unpleasant. Snack on dairy, celery or nuts after drinking your cup to help clean your teeth and prevent discoloration from your brew. Other cruciferous vegetables also act as “toothbrushes,” so nosh on carrots, cauliflower or radishes if they suit your yen better.
5. Add Cocoa
Cocoa is rich in polyphenols, which are substances that lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But the cafe mocha you enjoy from your favorite coffee shop most likely contains a ton of added sugar. Instead, make your own at home by adding a teaspoon of cocoa powder to your morning cup. You can even add it right in with the grounds when brewing at home for a milder chocolate flavor.
6. Try Vanilla and Cinnamon
Vanilla acts as a powerful antioxidant by eradicating free radicals from the body, where they can damage cells and potentially lead to cancer. Vanilla also contains strong antibacterial properties and may help clear up acne in some. It tastes delicious, so why not add a vanilla bean to your brew?
If that’s not to your liking, get spicy by adding some cinnamon. Cinnamon reduces inflammation and may reduce menstrual pain in females. Cinnamon also plays a starring role in chai tea, a tasty and healthy alternative to coffee if you feel the urge to sip on after your eyes are open.
7. Opt for Natural Sweeteners
If you don’t like your coffee black, no doubt the exciting array of frappes and other blended delights at many shops sing their siren song just for you. However, sugar adds a ton of calories and feeds the bacteria on your teeth, increasing your risk of developing cavities.
Instead, opt for stevia, coconut sugar or yacon sugar. Stevia comes from a plant and ranks as thousands of times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. Coconut sugar contains vitamins and minerals as well as sweetness. And yacon syrup recently stormed the weight loss stage. This substance from the plant of the same name sates the appetite and contains fewer calories than honey.
8. Select Whole Creamers
Read the ingredient labels of many commercial creamers and compare them to traditional half-and-half. Both contain roughly the same number of calories, but the commercial versions contain artificial colors and flavors. While half-and-half has more fat, whole foods beat their synthetic cousins every time, so opt for half-and-half. If you don’t need the creaminess factor, 1% milk or even skim milk can dull the tang of black coffee for hardly any calories. Vegan? Opt for almond or hazelnut milk to give your brew a slightly nutty (and healthy) flavor.
Making Your Cuppa Better for You
Who can wake up in the morning without a nice cup of Joe? Your morning brew need not hurt your body. Simply follow the tips above to make your wake-me-up even more magical — and healthful!