Are you searching for natural and healthful alternatives to coffee that also boost energy? If so, I have two delicious suggestions, both of which travel well. I mention the travel part only because we are currently in Whistler, Canada on a family ski trip. I took the photos featured in this blog post right from our hotel bedroom—after, I should add, taking a much needed “technology fast” for the first part of the trip (more to come on the “technology fast” when I get back home…)
One thing is for sure though, one can never have too much energy on a ski trip!
Before sharing my two suggestions for alternatives to coffee, I just want to clarify that I have not given up my cuppa joe—and I can’t imagine I ever will. Many people interested in clean eating are under the impression coffee is a beverage they should eliminate from their diets, but if you take a close look at the research on the health benefits of coffee, you may be rather surprised at what you learn.
It may be hard to believe, but research shows java drinkers have a reduced risk of dying from all causes (1). Coffee drinkers also have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (2), type 2 diabetes (3, 4), kidney stones (5), gallstones (6), and a various other health problems.
Some of the most exciting new research shows coffee acts directly upon the Nrf2 pathway, which has been referred to as the “master regulator of antioxidant, detoxification and cell defense gene expression…” World-renowned neurologist and NY Times best-selling author, David Perlmutter, M.D., (who, by the way, was my personal neurologist and also wrote the foreword to our first book), writes and frequently talks about how the Nrf2 pathway plays a critical role in various brain degenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, depression, dementia, multiple sclerosis (my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis in 1998 at the age of 22 is the reason I became interested in clean eating in the first place), and many others. In addition to coffee, other natural substances that also directly activate the Nrf2 pathway include sulforaphane (an extract of broccoli), turmeric and green tea extract.
So then, considering all the benefits a cup of joe provide, you may be wondering why on earth I am even talking about alternatives to coffee….
Alternatives to Coffee: Why Even Bother?
The simplest answer is that as with most everything, too much of a good thing is not good. For example, in all of our books we have always presented research showing that those who enjoy a daily glass of wine are most likely going to be healthier than teetotalers. However, having a daily bottle of wine is not only going to not be healthful, it is in all likelihood going to be very harmful.
If you are a coffee drinker, you need to be mindful not to drink an excessive amount. For one thing, too much coffee can increase blood pressure. So whether you are drinking coffee for energy or just for the taste, you probably should not have more than about 3 or 4 cups a day. If your java consumption exceeds 5 cups a day, there are definitely reasons to cut back on coffee.
If you are trying to reduce your consumption of coffee or you just don’t drink it at all, I thought I would share two alternatives to coffee that are not only tasty, but also offer health perks too.
My Two Favorite Alternatives to Coffee…
1. Coffee Alternative #1: Dandy Blend Instant Herbal Beverage
Dandy Blend “coffee” (see photo above) is now my favorite coffee alternative, mostly because it tastes just like coffee! I only recently learned about Dandy Blend in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, but apparently it has been the hot new “it” drink in L.A. for the last few months. And you don’t need to just drink it hot by the way. Dandy Blend is an instant herbal beverage and dissolves beautifully in both hot and cold liquid, which makes it great for traveling.
So what exactly is Dandy Blend? It is a roasted powder made of water-soluble extracts of roasted roots of dandelion, chicory and beets, and the grains of barley and rye. Nothing else is added. Even though it has extracts of barley and rye as two of its five ingredients, Dandy Blend is also gluten free. That’s because gluten, which is comprised of proteins that are not water-soluble, is left behind in the grounds to be composted during the extracting process.
Most surprisingly, Dandy Blend genuinely tastes like coffee! When I ordered my first bag from Amazon, I was highly skeptical that extracts of dandelion, chicory, beets, barley and rye would taste anything remotely like my beloved cup of coffee. Two days after I placed my order, my shipment arrived around 5 pm, which is much later than I would ever consider having a cup of coffee. But since Dandy Blend is caffeine-free, I decided to make a cup. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. Not only did it taste like coffee, it actually tasted like GOOD coffee! It is not at all bitter and has a delicious smoothness and soft mellow acidity. It actually reminds me a lot of Starbuck’s Blonde Roast coffees. Even more surprising, my cuppa Dandy Blend actually gave me energy!
At first I thought the Dandy Blend energy boost might have all been in my head. But after drinking it for a few days in a row, I was convinced the energy boost was for real. Turns out, Dandy Blend is a natural source of energizing B-vitamins and also contains over 50 metabolism-supporting trace minerals per cup. For me, Dandy Blend makes the perfect pick-me-up for anytime after about 2 pm, which is about my coffee cut-off time.
And if you absolutely have to give up coffee for any number of reasons, when it comes to coffee alternatives, I think Dandy Blend is probably your best bet. Although I have not experienced it personally (because I haven’t stopped drinking coffee!), apparently for those who do need to give up coffee, Dandy Blend offers a withdrawal-free way to do it. I have not had the time to research how this is possible while on our ski trip, but supposedly if you need to give up coffee you can simply switch to Dandy Blend and you will bypass the headaches and other miserable coffee withdrawal symptoms. It is supposed to be just like switching from one brand of coffee to another, which I find to be pretty amazing considering Dandy Blend is 100% caffeine-free.
Unlike many other trendy health foods, Dandy Blend is incredibly budget-friendly too! At less than 10 cents per cup, it is very affordable. I have not yet been able to find it in the stores yet, but you can order Dandy Blend from Amazon HERE.
2. Coffee Alternative #2: Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea is my second favorite alternative to coffee. The reason matcha isn’t number one is strictly related to taste. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the taste of matcha, it’s just that matcha doesn’t taste one bit like coffee.
On the flip side, the health benefits of Matcha Green Tea undoubtedly trump those of Dandy Blend. A long standing tradition of Japanese culture, matcha green tea is the highest quality powdered green tea available. If you have our Clean Cuisine book, you know green tea is an important part of our anti-inflammatory nutrition program and so I actually drink both coffee and matcha green tea daily.
For me, matcha isn’t really an alternative to coffee, it’s just another beverage I consume. However, if you cannot tolerate coffee or you are simply looking to decrease your intake but still want a natural beverage that is super healthy and also energy-boosting, then drinking matcha green tea would be a great way to go. Just don’t expect it to taste like coffee (wink).
And finally, although it has nothing at all to do with coffee alternatives, I thought I would share a quick photo from our ski trip below. I cannot even tell you how grateful I am to be skiing again after my two hip surgeries. Now is as good a time as ever to give a great big shout out to my amazing surgeon, Dr. Robert Buly from the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC. He did the impossible and I will forever be grateful to him.
- Iwai N, et al. “Relationship between coffee and green tea consumption and all-cause mortality in a cohort of a rural Japanese population.” J Epidemiology. 2002 May; 12(3): 191-8.
- Ross GW, et al. “Association of coffee and caffeine intake with the risk of Parkinson’s disease.” JAMA. 2000 May 24-31;283(20):2674-9.
- Salazar-Martinez E, et al. “Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Ann Intern Med. 2004 Jan 6; 140(1):1-8
- Tuomilehto J, et al. “Coffee consumption and risk of type II diabetes mellitus among middle-aged Finnish men and women.” JAMA. 2004 Mar 10;291)10): 1213-9.
- Curhan GC, et al. “Beverage use and risk for kidney stones in women.” Ann Intern Med. 1998 Apr 1; 128(7);534-40.
- Leitzmann MF, et al. “Prospective study of coffee consumption and the risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in men” JAMA. 1999 Jun 9; 281(22):2106-12.