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11 coffee alternatives to try for natural energy and better health

Drinking coffee is a sacred event to me. I am not one to take a sip and leave it on the counter to get cold. I only prepare my coffee when I am ready to sit down and savour it as part of my daily ritual. 

This is especially truer now in my life that I have chosen to reduce my coffee habit down to only one or 1.5 per day. It makes that sacred coffee even more sacred! 

I used to drink four cups a day, all before 9 am. For real. It was when my kids were little, I was exhausted all the time, and I was under extreme stress and pressure with the business I had at the time. 

I literally ate every meal in the car while driving, strung out on so much caffeine, always running from one thing to the next. Perpetually late of course because I never gave myself enough time to get anywhere. 

Thinking back I see now how harmful this was to my health always living life on the hamster wheel. I took on too much and my body paid the price.  

Fast forward to my life now, as a perimenopausal woman at age 51, the effects of caffeine (and just about everything) on my body are still significant but in different ways thanks to my declining estrogen and testosterone. Oh hello Peri! 

Does this sound familiar? 

While we can't tackle all of the things today, we will tackle the topic of coffee and why cutting back is a great idea for your health. Of course, I will share with you some ideas of what to drink instead too and my favourite new recipe for a coffee alternative! 

Let's first evaluate what effects coffee has on and in your body. 

What does coffee do to your body?

Hormones - let's start here. As a perimenopausal woman, I care a lot of the hormonal impacts of my lifestyle. Our hormones are constantly changing throughout our life. As a woman who has gone through tumultuous pubescent changes thanks to suffering with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and infertility, fibroids  and menorrhagia (extremely heavy periods) and now in my (peri)menopausal years I can say that I do whatever I can do keep my hormones happy.

Caffeine increases our stress hormone, cortisol, by causing a stress reaction in the body that sends our sympathetic nervous system into a "fight or flight" response. Cortisol is meant to control stress in the short-term, but if you are always living in this fight or flight mode, your body feels like it is under constant attack of threat from danger (think about our ancestors fighting off a bear attack). 

Secondly, caffeine increases estrogen levels in women while also decreasing testosterone. All foreign chemicals have to go through our liver to be detoxed from our body, including caffeine. If your liver is working extra hard to detox caffeine it isn't able to eliminate the estrogen that dominates fast enough. This can result in PMS, cramping, acne, fibrocystic breasts and other painful menstrual symptoms.

As a side note, I suffered badly from all of these things as a teen right into my forties. All the coffee I was drinking was doing me no favours! When going through fertility treatment due to my PCOS I did stop drinking coffee for two years each time and felt great. I do believe it helped me tremendously, along with other natural and alternative remedies that I undertook, to help me conceive my singleton and twins. 

If low libido is a concern for you as a (peri)menopausal woman, then coffee consumption may be one area to explore with your doctor or practitioner.  

"I can drink coffee right before bed and sleep no problem!". Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. 

Anxiety - If you suffer from an anxiety disorder or just feel frequent bouts of anxiety throughout your day you will want to pay attention to how coffee makes you feel. Some of the exaggerated symptoms include jitters, short temperedness, inability to focus.  I personally feel this heightened sense of anxiety when I have drank too much coffee and I hate the way it makes me feel! 

ADHD - There is mixed research on the effects of caffeine in people with ADHD. Some say that caffeine improves the ability to focus and concentrate, while other research shows that it may make symptoms worse.  It is important to consult with your physician about using caffeine while on ADHD medications and to pay attention to the effects it has in your own body. 

Menopause - Experts suggest that coffee exacerbates menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats that occur due to the vasoconstriction and vasodilation effect that coffee has on your blood vessels. Pay attention to these symptoms in your own body and make changes to your coffee consumption if you notice it makes symptoms worse. You can still get the joy of coffee from decaf! 

Skin Dehydration - As a holistic nutritionist and a skincare formulator, I spend a lot of time studying the skin ~ our largest organ. While coffee does contain water as it's base, the caffeine in it does have a diuretic effect on our body. Thus drinking a lot of caffeine does reduce the total amount of water in our body and can leave our skin looking and feeling dehydrated. If you have skin goals to have healthy, glowing skin then high amounts of caffeine should not be part of your daily plans.  Check out some of the yummy alternatives I have listed below instead that are great for your skin. 

Tummy troubles - Caffeine is well used for people who have trouble eliminating each day because caffeine stimulates the bowels. This happens because caffeine activates the colon and intestinal muscles to contract, while relaxing the anal sphincter. If you have any sort of Gastrointestinal issue that causes loose stools, you would want to avoid caffeine and these impacts on your GI system. Coffee is highly acidic too so beware that too much acid can cause heartburn, acid reflux and a feeling of a "sour" stomach. 

Sleep disruption - It is no surprise that caffeine ruins sleep by disrupting your circadian rhythm! The half life of caffeine in your body is four to six hours. That means the amount of time it takes from consumption until it leaves your body. Remember that caffeine is in many things, not just coffee. If you drink green tea, soda pop, or eat chocolate at night these things could also affect your sleep. 

"Caffeine in dietary doses increases both adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol secretion in humans (15). Caffeine's effect on glucocorticoid regulation therefore has the potential to alter circadian rhythms and to interact with stress reactions." (Source: PubMed)

Hinders absorption of some minerals and vitamins - Since coffee is a diuretic it makes you pee more often and with that out goes any of your water soluble vitamins such as the B vitamins and Vitamin C. It may also hinder the absorption of Vitamin D too. Since Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production for great skin (and a healthy immune system), you certainly don't want to miss out on this necessary vitamin in your body. 

Empty calories - It is no surprise that many delicious coffee beverages at Starbucks can pack calories in excess of 520 calories in just one drink!  But it doesn't mean you shouldn't have it. Just know what you are putting in your body and make a conscious decision to have it. 

As a Nutritionist, I would rather see you eat or drink something that has dense calories vs. empty calories so that they fuel your body longer and keep your blood sugar stable. This is especially important to help you balance those hormones too. 

This is not to say don't ever have these yummy drinks. If they bring you joy, then like anything in life, go for it. Eliminating anything is not something I ever recommend because that is diet mentality.  I also don't ever count calories or advise my clients to count them. But I do ask clients to pay attention to how things feel in their body. That is Intuitive Eating. 

Sugar - This addictive substance is in everything and impossible to avoid. Nor should you avoid it because finding pleasure in food is part of the joy of life! Sugar brings us joy (chocolate peanut butter ice cream lovers rejoice!) which is why it is so addictive as it activates the serotonin receptors in our brain.

However excess amounts of sugar causes premature aging in the body through the production of Advanced Glycation End Products or appropriately named AGEs for short. AGEs are harmful compounds that occur when proteins and fat combine with sugar in the body to create glycation. Basically AGEs cause your body and skin to suffer from inflammation, or "inflammaging".  

"In fact, high levels (of AGEs) have been linked to the development of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, and Alzheimer’s, as well as premature aging." (Source: Healthline)

Again, the point here is to make a conscious choice. If you know that you are predisposed to diabetes or heart disease then find moderation and balance to choose consciously and balance the ice cream with other diabetic friendly or heart healthy foods. 

Cost - Let's talk about the cost of buying your daily Starbucks too shall we? The cost alone can add up to $2555 per year for your daily grande latte habit. Over 50 years that amounts to $127,750 per day at current latte prices! 

Okay, I get it. You still love your coffee and the way it makes your body feel (most of the time). So the question becomes how to cut back and what to consume instead? 

Changing habits is hard work especially if your daily wake-up ritual starts with a coffee as mine does. I am not saying to cut it out entirely, but surely moderation is key. Try to stick to no more than one-two cups a day. 

As a Skin Health Nutrition Coach and a student of Holistic Nutrition, I can tell you that there a lot more healthier options out there that don't come with the side effects listed above AND can still bring you joy, pleasure and satisfaction. 

What to drink instead of coffee that's more healthful?

Elixirs: I have been experimenting with a number of new products to create an afternoon elixir to "go to" instead of my usual 3pm java habit. A brand that I am really enjoying is @blume. I am trying all kinds of their powders including their lavender mylk, turmeric mylk and "glow up" and turning them into an elixir with some nut milk, cinnamon, honey and whipping them into a delicious latte.  You can also totally make up your own! 

Here's a new fave I have been trying out too. I call it "Jodie's mochaccino"

Here's the recipe for Jodie's Mochaccino, a caffeine free, herbal afternoon pick me up that has huge health benefits! 

  • 1 tbsp Dandy Tea (made from dandelion which is great for liver detox and full of essential nutrients ~ great for skin and the whole body)
  • 1 packet Four Sigmatic Cacao with Reishi mushrooms (cacao has antioxidants and reishi enhances immune function, reduces stress, helps with sleep and more)
  • 1/4 cup oat milk steamed
  • dash of cinnamon (helps to balance blood sugar)
  • stevia or honey to taste if you wish

And finally here are 9 other herbal and/or caffeine-free alternatives to coffee that you can try.  Remember too to aim for upwards of 2L of fluids each day.

  • any herbal tea, especially hibiscus tea (great for healthy skin!)
  • green tea or matcha tea latte (does contain caffeine but has beneficial catechins and antioxidants)
  • plain filtered water
  • fresh lemon, cucumber or mint filtered water
  • sparkling water
  • greens powders
  • smoothies
  • swiss water decaf

The bottom line is this. The positive benefits of caffeine includes the ritual and comfort it provides you, the wake up feeling you get, the joy it brings to your heart and of course the antioxidants that you get to fight off free radicals. However, the benefits can be experienced by having one or two max cups per day (and then switching to decaf or an alternative as listed above). Any more than that and the risks outweigh the benefits significantly.

Try switching to some of these herbal and/or caffeine-free options listed above and let me know how you did with the transition! 

About the Author: Jodie Pappas

You can work with Jodie in her Holistic Nutrition practice, where she focuses on working with women ages 35+ to help resolve skin issues such as acne, eczema, and healthy aging skin using a non-restrictive approach that incorporates natural skincare, healthy lifestyle habits and movement through yoga and pilates. 

Jodie is the Founder and Skincare Formulator of the Canadian-made, small batch, plant-based skincare brand Clean Kiss. Jodie creates clean, natural skincare products for women to feel confident and glowing in their skin, without the use of any harmful toxins.

Jodie is a Certified Organic Skincare Formulator, a Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner (CNAP), a Registered Yoga Teacher and is also presently studying to be Holistic Nutritionist. She believes that beautiful pro-aging skin is available for every woman and uses a holistic lifestyle approach to educate and inspire. 

Jodie has been featured on Global TV Morning, CHCH Morning, CityTV's Breakfast Television, Rogers TV and various radio stations across the country. 

Want to work with Jodie on your Skin Health & Nutrition? Apply now! 

You can follow Clean Kiss and Jodie here: 

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