Diet & Weight Loss
11 Ways to Make Your Coffee Habit Healthier
While coffee has proven health benefits, how you make it and how you take it matter too.
Don’t have coffee—and only coffee—for breakfast
So, you’re running late for work and you manage to guzzle down a cuppa before heading into your first a.m. meeting. Fast forward to mid-day and your stomach is growling and you realize that—whoops!—you completely forgot to eat breakfast and now it’s past lunchtime. Though drinking coffee is healthy, Adina Pearson, RD, says that because coffee can suppress your appetite and is a stimulant, some people use it as a meal replacement. “Coffee’s stimulant properties may mask the fact you’re undereating, but it’s only temporary. Good self-care means eating enough—not just being buzzed. You can’t run on caffeine you need food—carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and fiber—for overall health.” Here are seven signs you’re drinking too much caffeine.
Try sparkling coffee for hydration
Looking for a replacement for your diet soda? Try sparkling coffee. Called Aqua Java, it contains organic coffee, a bit of cane sugar, and a sugar alcohol called erythritol, and clocks in at just 20 calories. But why is it better than your traditional cup? “It comes in a glass bottle, so no pesky chemicals from plastic are leaking in,” says Bridget Swinney, MS, RD. Also, it contains less caffeine than coffee, so it’s a way to dial down your caffeine intake in a cool, refreshing way,” she explains.
Give bulletproof a shot
Bulletproof coffee is considered a “healthier” version of coffee because it has butter and coconut oil, which contains medium-chain fats that have been shown in studies to have a beneficial effect on blood lipids—lowering triglycerides and raising HDLs. As president and chief culinary officer at Culinary Health Solutions, Ken Immer, CCHE explains, “The fats from the butter and coconut milk are a great combination to ‘prime the energy pump’ in the morning. You’ll give your coffee some ‘bite’ that keeps you going until lunchtime, plus you’ll get all of the additional nutrients, especially when we choose grass-fed butter.” You can either buy Bulletproof or make it yourself at home.
Figure out if you really like coffee
Do you remember the first time you had a cup of coffee? More likely than not, you were in college and cramming for a final and your roommate suggested brewing up a batch. It might have been love at first sip, or you could have stomached your way through it, hoping it’d help you ace your test. Either way, now that you’re older (and hopefully, wiser), Pearson says to make sure you actually like coffee or if you’re using it as a band-aid to your poor sleep habits. “Coffee is a pick-me-up, but working toward a normal sleep pattern will make life much better than caffeine. If you’re using coffee to survive on inadequate sleep, your body and mind are still tired and you’ll still not be at your best physically and mentally,” she explains. “Chronic inadequate sleep raises stress hormones and contributes to a lot of health problems.”
Top it off with cinnamon
If Starbucks is your favorite coffee house, then you’ve likely seen the cinnamon on the milk counter when you go to top off your brew. Next time, take advantage and give your health a boost. Swinney says that cinnamon can make your beverage even better for you, thanks to its antioxidant properties, not to mention a slew of other benefits. “Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar in many clinical studies. Adding spices add antioxidants and sweetness without calories, helping to cut back on the sugar you might add to coffee. Cloves have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties,” she explains.
Use filtered water only
You might think that since we boil water to brew coffee, you don’t have to worry whether it’s filtered. But Swinney says filtered water is a smart choice, if not for taste, but for health. “Filtered water ensures there are not any unwanted heavy metals like lead or copper, that might be found in old pipes. Tap water also contain many chlorine disinfection byproducts which can be harmful long term,” she says. “You should also avoid using well water unless it’s been tested for contaminants.”
Make lattes at home, not at Starbucks
When you’ve ordered a latte or a cappuccino at Starbucks, you’ve probably watched as the barista wipes down the steamer before whipping up a new cup. This is meant to fight bacteria, but you may be getting something extra in your drink that you probably don’t want. “What you don’t realize is that sanitizing solution ends up in your frothed milk! It’s not a ton, but it is there—a small amount on that wand for every frothed carafe! So avoiding lattes is a good choice if that concerns you,” Immer says. Or just prepare yours at home to make sure you’re not getting more than you bargained for.
Throw out your Keurig
In addition to being pretty terrible for the environment, Immer says Keurig Coffee Makers also pose some potential health dangers. Not only do you expose yourself to plastic that’s been heated, but Keurigs tend to get dirty, fast. “The water tanks in a Keurig can never truly be flushed and cleaned. We are concerned about mold and bacteria growth in these tanks over time, much like commercial ice machines,” Immer says.
Always use paper filters.
According to Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, one of the easiest ways to make sure your coffee is brewed in a healthy way is to consider how you’re filtering it. Those reusable filters might be tempting (and sure, provide less waste), but using recyclable paper filters has an added bonus for your nutrition. “Filtering coffee with paper removes two compounds, cafestol and kahweol, that raise both total and LDL cholesterol levels,” she explains.
Consider your conscience
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If you consider the “health” of your coffee as more than just what you’re putting in your body, but also how your coffee beans are grown, picked, and get to you, Swinney suggests you’re taking your coffee habit to a more beneficial level—not only for yourself, but for the world. “Drink clean and with a conscience. Choose fair trade or coffee with other certifications that help third-world farmers improve their living conditions. Give some thought to the packaging involved in single-serve coffee—it requires much more packaging and contains a larger carbon footprint for getting to the store.”
Skip syrups and go organic
You might think that nonfat, sugar-free vanilla syrup is a healthy choice, but low-calorie doesn’t always translate to health benefits. Swinney suggests weaning yourself off sweeteners completely if you can, but if you can’t, be super picky about the additives you’re putting into your brew. “Pick organic cream to whiten your coffee or make your own packaging-free alternative milk from oats or nuts. Creamers often have artificial flavors, sweeteners, and other additives, so you’re better off using organic milk or cream plus organic brown sugar,” she says.