For roughly 200 million men and women in the US, once our feet touch the cold hard floor, our first thought turns to the morning coffee routine. As we shuffle-stumble into the kitchen, staying on autopilot to make the morning coffee is as easy as breathing. But perhaps your morning sugar intake has you hesitating as you put another scoop of sweetener into your mug.
There are lots of ways to take your coffee, ranging from bold and black to room temperature, two teaspoons of non-fat skim milk, a dash of nutmeg… you get the idea. As you know, anything that strays from a classic black coffee runs the risk of becoming unhealthy. If you take your coffee like an extra helping of the cardiac arrest special, there are healthier alternatives to sweeten the start to your day.
Before we proceed, it’s incredibly important to remember that “counting calories” should not be the only determining factor in what is considered healthy. Our bodies are in constant need of vitamins and minerals that don’t often show up on a food nutrition label. With that in mind, you’ll find some classic options below, as well as a few one-off oddballs that are worth your time.
You’re probably thinking: doesn’t honey have more calories in it than table or raw sugar? Yes, it does. However, honey does wonders for you in the blood sugar department. It provides you with magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins, as well as anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents that aid in digestion. The different flavors of honey will provide you with the desired options for taste, and allow you to mix up your routine from time to time. Keep in mind that this is raw honey, not processed honey.
Maple syrup also sounds like a sugar-coated trap, but it isn’t. Much like its close relative, raw honey, all-natural maple syrup offers many vitamins that we lose out on in our diets and has added digestive benefits. Also known as “nature’s syrup,” this healthy option targets heart health and the male reproductive system. Maple syrup also has a unique flavor, so it may take some getting used to in your coffee.
If you aren’t comfortable with sweeteners that have a higher calorie count than table sugar, perhaps Stevia is a better alternative. It’s extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant found in South America and has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. More importantly, it’s about two hundred times sweeter than sugar and still has zero calories. Many people are put off by Stevia’s aftertaste, but if you can adjust to it, it’s the right pick for you. Stevia is also very easy to find in your local grocery store and online.
Try not to be put off by the name, as erythritol has just as many health benefits as Stevia and other leading competitors. It’s essentially a sugar alcohol that’s extracted from various fruits, and is void of any specific fruity flavors. In fact, many reviewers have noted that the aftertaste is very mild compared to Stevia. If you aren’t looking to change your vitamin intake or your blood sugar, erythritol has virtually zero effect, positive or negative, on your health. We can consider it healthy because it doesn’t have the negative effects that regular sugar does.
Sometimes, when considering a healthier alternative to sugar, we neglect the idea of spices. Cinnamon will change the overall flavor of your coffee, but it has also been known to boost your immune system. This spice could be an easy way to get those extra antioxidants in where your daily nutrition is lacking, not to mention the taste!
Like cinnamon, nutmeg doesn’t usually get thought of as an alternative to sugar for a healthier cup of coffee. We often miss out on its spicy-sweet tang that is sure to wake you up in the morning. Nutmeg offers vitamin supplements, the largest of which is manganese. It may not be the sweetest alternative, but nutmeg should be on your list of options to try in the near future.
Cardamom may not usually make your grocery shopping list, but it should be a priority the next time you make a grocery run! It’s much more popular in the Middle East, but it can also be found in the spices or international section of your local food market. Cardamom is packed with fiber and other essential minerals that could improve poor circulation. If you’re a fan of ginger, try putting a pinch of this in your coffee instead of a couple of teaspoons of sugar. You won’t be disappointed.
Who says we need to be listening to Christmas carols to enjoy peppermint flavors? Not us! Peppermint oil, like many of the above alternatives, is much healthier for you than classic table sugar. Many of us shy away from mixing coffee and menthol flavors, but don’t knock this one until you try it. Peppermint oil has the longest list of health benefits and preventatives in this article, so it should not be overlooked. It can help relieve muscle pain, irritable bowel syndrome, common colds, and headaches.
Yacon syrup is a prebiotic that stems from the Yacon plant found in South America. It is far healthier for you than traditional sugar. Described as “crisp, [and] sweet-tasting,” Yacon syrup boosts bone strength, supports the digestive system, and elevates the immune system. Tests run on the Yacon plant extract indicate a strong correlation between weight loss and substituting it for traditional sugar. If you’re a fan of raw honey, this could be the switch you’re looking to make!
Coffee has become so ingrained into our lives that it has become a cornerstone of our societal construct. However, while it may have a center stage role, that doesn’t mean that how we doctor it is good for us. Choosing an alternative sweetening method can improve not only your health, but the flavor of your coffee. Allow yourself to make a subtle change to your morning coffee routine, and you’ll soon find that you are much better off for it.
We also recently published a post on “things in your home that can substitute your coffee filters“.
Featured image credit: falconp4, Pixabay
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