Great news, coffee drinkers: According to a body of scientific research, your favorite beverage is healthy. Coffee drinkers of all ages have a lower risk of mortality from stroke, diabetes, cancer, respiratory disease, and kidney disease.
It’s unclear whether the effect is due to the beverage itself or other lifestyle factors, but coffee does boast some nutritional benefits. It’s naturally bitter, which benefits the liver and gall bladder, and it’s rich in antioxidants, which are chemicals that protect cells from damage. Coffee also contains caffeine, a stimulant that gives most people a temporary mental boost. And a moderate intake of caffeine, up to 400 mg a day, appears to be safe for adults, according to a 2017 systematic review of studies. (However, it’s linked to headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia, so consider cutting back if you experience those effects.)
Coffee mostly gets a green light from health experts, but that’s without double dipping into the sugar bowl. Diets high in refined sugar are linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, acne, liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. Your favorite sweet espresso drink may have far more sugar than you think. Action on Sugar, a British advocacy group, warns that 35 percent of the drinks sold in coffee shops contain as much sugar as a can of Coca Cola. Unfortunately, artificial sugar substitutes aren’t healthy either; they’re linked to obesity and other health risks.
Fortunately, you don’t need to switch to black coffee to enjoy the benefits of drinking coffee. Try these tasty and healthy additives.
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Listen up, mocha lovers: There may be health benefits to mixing cocoa with coffee. In one study, people who added cocoa to their coffee were less anxious than those who drank coffee alone, and they performed better on cognitive tasks than those who drank cocoa alone. It’s worth noting that the study was funded by the chocolate maker Hershey. However, scientists have uncovered reasons why a coffee and cocoa combo may provide health benefits. Cocoa contains flavanols, which relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure, and coffee contains compounds called methylxanthines, which improve the body’s ability to absorb and use flavanols. Plus, cocoa also comes with the benefit of its delicious chocolate taste. One caution: Check the ingredients and be sure to buy unsweetened cocoa. Many cocoa mixes are sweetened with refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.
A pinch of spice makes coffee nice. Cinnamon isn’t just a classic cappuccino topper; it’s also a traditional medicine used all over the world. Studies suggest it may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Moreover, lab research indicates cinnamon and coffee may work synergistically to provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in the body. Human studies are needed, but in the meantime, enjoy your coffee with a teaspoon of cinnamon for its warm, spicy taste and smell.
Just catching a whiff of vanilla makes people feel happy and relaxed. Like coffee, pure vanilla extract is rich in antioxidants, and lab studies suggest it may also have anti-inflammatory properties. Add a few drops to your mug or a teaspoon to your grounds before you brew them to make your own flavored java.
It may sound strange, but some people are singing the praises of joffee. (For the uninitiated that’s juice plus coffee.) Think of joffee as coffee with citrus notes. Orange juice layered with iced espresso is popular in Phoenix, Arizona, where coffee shops sell it under names such as OJ Express and Sunrise. Orange juice is rich in vitamin C, but it’s probably better to skip highly processed varieties and opt for fresh-squeezed. Not everyone loves the complex flavor, but you won’t know until you try.
Want to transform your coffee into a nourishing breakfast broth? Jump on this Paleo craze and add a tablespoon of grass-fed butter to your morning cup of joe. Grass-fed butter not only tastes delicious; it contains more than 400 different fatty acids and is high in vitamin K2. Although nutritionists decried saturated fat for decades, the latest research suggests people who eat full-fat dairy products are less likely to be overweight, have a lower risk of diabetes, and have a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke than people who eat the least fat.
Now that saturated fats are back in favor, health-conscious consumers are embracing coconut oil. The flavorful fat has long been revered by tropical cultures for its culinary uses and health benefits. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid, which the body readily converts into energy for the brain and heart instead of storing it as fat. The best part? Coconut oil tastes decadent and delicious. To prevent forming an oil slick on top of your coffee, let your coffee cool slightly, add a tablespoon of coconut oil, and blend it in a blender.
Ground coconut flakes
If you enjoy the flavor and aroma of coconut but not the fat, add a tablespoon of ground coconut flakes to your coffee grounds before you brew your coffee. Shredded coconut is high in iron, zinc, and other nutrients. It has been added to green, oolong, and black teas because of its flavor and health benefits. Many people also love the combo of coffee with coconut’s distinctive taste.
If you can’t imagine drinking coffee without some sweetness, dates may be your new favorite ingredient. Dates taste like candy, but they’re high in fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients. Make dates into a paste to use as a sweetener for coffee (and smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and more). Cover two cups of pitted dates with water. Soak them for an hour, then drain and reserve the liquid. Puree the dates in a blender, and add in a tablespoon of soaking liquid at a time to make a smooth, creamy paste.
Your daily habits have the potential to make or break your health. Coffee may be healthy, but the sugar and sweeteners added to it are not. Say goodbye to sugar and artificial ingredients, and dress up your coffee with all-natural and healthy additives.