You won’t even miss your morning cup of coffee.
If you’re addicted to that morning cup of coffee, you’re not alone—but there are plenty of healthy alternatives to caffeine that can get us just as energized in the morning.
While there are notable health benefits of coffee, there can be downsides to your AM habit, too. “Caffeine drains your body of minerals and ultimately creates an energy crash,” says Dr. Daryl Gioffre, Kelly Ripa’s longtime nutritionist and author of Get Off Your Acid. He adds that some of the additional downsides of caffeine can include low energy, mineral deficiency (especially magnesium) sugar cravings, poor sleep, digestive inflammation, and weight gain and bloat around the belly area.
This is where simple (and delicious) swaps come in: Starting your day with healthy alternatives to caffeine can still provide you with the energy you’re looking for, and may even come with an added slew of health benefits, like detoxification, the consumption of different types of superfoods, and more.
If you’re looking for caffeine alternatives, there are tons to choose from. We talked to a handful of nutritionists to find out what we should be drinking instead (or when we just need a once-in-a-while break from caffeine).
Teeccino is an herbal blend made with chicory root, cocoa, herbs, berries and other plants that give it a similar flavor to coffee, but it contains no caffeine. “It isn’t actually made with coffee beans, so it’s not the same as decaf coffee,” explains clinical nutrition specialist and founder of Ancient Nutrition, Dr. Josh Axe. Because it’s made with some nutrient-dense ingredients, Axe notes that this alternative to coffee contains antioxidants that can help to fight oxidative stress/free radical damage.
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“The healthiest caffeine alternatives come from easy swaps,” explains Gioffre. “If you want a cleansing and filling beverage, go for a green juice or a smoothie packed with veggies and fruits low in sugar,” he said. This will give you a dose of sustained energy without the caffeine crash.
Gioffre swears by homemade tonics like this Golden Coconut Mylk recipe. “Theres’s nothing like a warm beverage to soothe,” Gioffre says, noting that this Golden Coconut Mylk is loaded with turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and highly alkalizing.
Homemade hot cocoa
“Hot chocolate is simple to make at home. All you need is 1 tablespoon 100% cacao powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup plant-based milk of choice, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup (more or less depending on sweetness),” says is Jazz Leaf, a private chef for NBA athletes. Cacao powder, she explains, is high in antioxidants, magnesium (for healthy muscle function), and provides fiber to stimulate the body’s digestive enzymes. She added that cacao powder is a natural way to provide energy to your body when feeling fatigue, thus making it a healthy alternative to caffeine from beverages like coffee.
If you’re trying to kick the caffeine habit, Gioffre suggests trying this Acid-Kicking Detox Tea every morning by chopping a 1-inch piece of ginger and turmeric, pinch of black pepper, adding it to water, and steeping for 15 minutes. Add a fresh lemon slice to your mug before serving. “This healing tonic is the triple A for your health—anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and alkaline,” he added. The Acid-Kicking Detox Tea, he explains, “will give you instant energy to begin your day, and because it lowers inflammation by reducing acidity, and you’ll experience less bloating and better digestion.
MUD/WTR is a coffee alternative that contains black tea powder, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cacao, Himalayan salt, cinnamon, and mushrooms like lion’s mane, cordyceps, chaga, and reishi.
The small amount of black tea powder the mix contains does have a bit of caffeine, but Axe says MUD/WTR may give you a bit of a boost in energy due to its antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content. “It’s made with a blend of superfood ingredients like medicinal mushrooms, spices, and cocoa, which are high in antioxidants and may help your body deal with stressors better,” he explains. “Cocoa is not only high in antioxidants but also naturally has some caffeine, potentially helping you focus and supporting higher energy levels.”
“Dandy blend is for those who love the taste of coffee, but not the caffeine,” explains Molly Knauer, a registered dietitian and Love Wellness advisor. This healthy alternative to caffeine is made of the water-soluble extracts of dandelion root, chicory and beets and the extracts of barley and rye grains. “This blend has no acidity, another reason people make the switch from coffee,” she explains. In addition, dandy blend has detoxification benefits, is high in antioxidants and contains low acidity, which makes it a healthy alternative to caffeine.
Herbal tea like rooibos and chai tea can be great healthy alternatives to caffeine. “Most herbal teas are caffeine-free, although it depends on the exact kind,” says Axe. “They may help to support your energy levels by keeping you calm and aiding in sleep quality, and by supporting digestive/gut health,” he explains.
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When her body needs a pick me up, registered dietitian Pam Nisevich Bede, turns to high-quality protein. “It’s a healthy swap for caffeine and I find it can help keep my energy levels up throughout even the busiest of days,” she says.
Bede notes that not consuming enough protein during the day can be a primary reason for fatigue, as protein sources provide the body with fuel to repair and build muscles, tissues, bones and antibodies, which in turn, helps increase your strength and stamina. To get an adequate dose, she recommends fueling up in the morning with a ready-to-go protein shake like Ensure Max Protein. Or you can make your own. Add a scoop of your favorite whey or plant-based protein powder to a banana and some almond milk and you’ll be energized in no time.
A glass of water
Sounds too simple to be true, right? But research shows that even mild dehydration can affect mood and cause fatigue, so the next time you’re feeling sluggish in the morning or afternoon, try drinking a glass of water.
“One sign of dehydration is lack of energy or sleepiness. So, anytime you feel tired, drink a glass of water and reassess your fatigue in 30 minutes,” Amanda A. Kostro Miller, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist with Fitter Living. “You may find that you perked up with some fluid!”
Hot lemon water
“For those who enjoy a hot drink in the morning but don’t want the caffeine, I recommend starting your day with hot lemon water,” explains Knauer. She explains that when we wake up, our body is dehydrated and that the hot lemon water rehydrates our bodies along with providing the vitamin C from the lemon. “Vitamin C boosts immunity as well as collagen production, which keeps our skin looking youthful and glowing. The polyphenol antioxidants found in lemons have also been found to reduce weight gain in studies done on mice as well as improve insulin resistance,” she says.
Related: 32 Refreshing Detox Water Recipes
Pomegranate juice, per certified nutritionist Ashley Reinke, is a great caffeine alternative, as it will also leave you feeling more hydrated and its natural sugar will give you a refreshing boost. “This potent juice has been shown to improve blood circulation, flow, and help with muscle recovery,” she says. “These qualities make a it a great swap to your pre-workout caffeine routine as it is also high in vitamin C, E, and folate, which helps with cellular repair and regrowth,” she adds.
“Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, as well as other probiotic drinks are great for supporting gut health since they provide you with healthy bacteria that help inhabit your microbiome/gut,” says Axe. He cites Kevita, a sparkling probiotic beverage, as another example of a healthy alternative to caffeine. “Good bacteria in your gut can have many benefits such as supporting nutrient absorption, aiding in immunity and helping to control your appetite,” he explains.
Related: Should You Try Kombucha?
Hot apple cider
“Cider made with real apple cider vinegar is great for supporting digestion, since apple cider vinegar contains enzymes that can help balance blood sugar levels, control your appetite, and potentially ward off issues like heartburn and indigestion,” says Axe. Upon waking up in the morning, Leaf suggests adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 1/2-teaspoon honey (more or less depending on your sweetness preference) and hot water to a mug. “Sip on it (with a straw to protect your enamel) first thing to feel your digestive system begin to work,” she suggests.
“For someone trying to avoid caffeine completely but looking for an energy boost, I’d recommend tea made from energizing, adaptogenic herbs such as Siberian ginseng (also known as eleuthero), ashwaganda root powder and/or rhodiola,” says Maggie Jones, a certified holistic nutritionist. These herbs, she says, are long recognized for their ability to improve energy and mood, boost the immune system, and improve stress management. “Many adaptogens have added benefits such as reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar, improving brain function, and managing anxiety and depression,” Jones adds.
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