If you think of your morning coffee ritual as a bad habit, I have some good news for you: There are legit health benefits associated with having a cup of it. “For almost a decade, studies have consistently shown the benefits of coffee consumption, including increased mortality, improved liver health and reduced risk of brain-related conditions,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.
With so many artificially flavoured creamers and funky sugars masquerading as health foods out there, our morning Joe can quickly transform from a much-needed energy boost to an empty-calorie bomb. Not all of us are coffee purists, though and that’s okay! To make your coffee break as healthy and soul-soothing as possible, try one or more of these java upgrades.
ADD MCT OIL: If you’re both craving a coffee and have a couple of hours before your lunch break, try adding some fat like MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil to your java to tide you over. A European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that adding MCT oil to coffee boosted levels of the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin in people who sipped on the fat-filled coffee. “I recommend this often, since adding MCT oil can make your coffee more of meal and keep you full for hours,” says Kirkpatrick, who says MCT-boosted brews can help you keep your blood sugar stable. “I’m a huge fan of the Quest MCT Oil Powder for its superb ingredients and mixability into coffee and smoothies.”
ADD NATURAL FLAVOURS: For a calorie-free boost of flavour, try adding a drizzle of pure vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon to your morning mug of coffee. That cinnamon, in particular, also boasts some pretty impressive health benefits. “Cinnamon has been shown to keep blood sugar levels stable,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table. Plus, according to one study published in Diabetes Care, cinnamon may help reduce your risk of heart disease by supporting healthy cholesterol.
CLEAN UP YOUR SWEETENER: Those pale pink, yellow, and blue packets of calorie-free sweetener may look pretty, but they might not be any better for you than actual sugar. Sugar alcohols, which typically end in “-ol” (such as erythritol), in particular, often come with a side of gas, bloat, and gastrointestinal discomfort, Taub-Dix says. If you need a little something sweet in your coffee, try stevia, which, while still processed, is derived from a leaf, she recommends.
PAIR IT WITH FOOD: If coffee tends to upset your stomach or go right through you, try having your morning mug alongside some grub. “For some people, drinking coffee on an empty stomach is too harsh and acidic,” says Taub-Dix. While it’s ideal to line your stomach with food to help offset some of coffee’s acidity, adding milk or non-dairy milk to your mug can also ease the impact on your stomach, she says. You can also opt for a less acidic brand of coffee.
ADD FORTIFIED MILK OR NUT MILK: If you’re going to add milk or nut milk to your coffee (whether to coat your stomach or add flavour), take the opportunity give your beverage a nutritional boost! “I enjoy pairing coffee with something that will make it more valuable, like Almond Breeze Almondmilk, so that I know I’m getting calcium and other valuable nutrients in there,” says Taub-Dix.
OPT FOR DECAF IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO CAFFEINE: Even smelling coffee is sometimes enough to pull us out of zombie mode—and for those of us who are particularly sensitive to caffeine, that might be enough. If regular coffee makes you feel jittery or keeps you up at night, opt for decaf, says Taub-Dix. “Just be aware that decaf coffee may contain a small amount of caffeine,” she says. Typically, a 10-ounce cup of decaf contains about six milligrams of caffeine, compared to the usual 260 milligrams of a regular brew.
USE IT AS A PRE-WORKOUT DRINK: As much as you might love sitting in our favorite coffee shop with a steamy mug and a good book, coffee is also a fab way to get revved up to get moving, too. “Have a cup of coffee to give you a bit of a boost and go and work out or take a walk,” suggests Taub-Dix. The java-workout combo helps boost your metabolism, too, she says. For an endurance-fueling drink, make a smoothie with a cup of coffee, half a banana, ice, spinach, and cocoa powder.
SIP IT HOT: Cold brew is certainly having a moment, but according to Taub-Dix, hot coffee might actually release more antioxidants.
ADD COLLAGEN POWDER: Really, though, this animal-derived protein might actually be worth incorporating into your diet. According to Kirkpatrick, collagen may help with joint health and promote bone health. Simply mix a tablespoon into hot coffee and watch it dissolve—you shouldn’t taste a thing.
STEEP IT IN A FRENCH PRESS: If you’re looking to save time in the morning and potentially protect your health, steep your ground coffee in a French press, says Kirkpatrick. While more large-scale research is necessary to confirm these findings, research published in Cancer Causes & Control linked consuming boiled (a.k.a. French press) coffee with a reduced risk of breast cancer.