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Few daily rituals rival the satisfaction of pouring yourself a hot cup of coffee in the morning. And luckily, research points to several health benefits of coffee that justify your daily java obsession. But when it comes to coffee’s inherent health benefits, we’re talking about the plain stuff: a hot cup of coffee, black. It’s what you add to your coffee that can end up piling on the calories, sugar, and everything in between. Are you a fan of coffee shop concoctions that are loaded with artificial ingredients? Do you douse your daily cup of joe with loads of sugar? Trust us, we’ve been there—they taste really good!—but it’s time to learn some swaps that are just as tasty while keeping your coffee habit on the healthy side. Let’s explore 10 healthy ways to sweeten coffee that will still delight your taste buds.
Milk or cream is perhaps the most popular coffee add-in. And while pouring milk or half-and-half into your daily cup isn’t necessarily unhealthy, some people are either lactose intolerant or are simply trying to cut back on dairy. If you fall into either of these camps, almond milk is a great alternative. With a rich, nutty taste, almond milk has less fat than cow’s milk and also boasts more calcium. Some varieties—like honey or vanilla-sweetened options—will even give your coffee a bit more sweetness than regular milk would.
Though there has been some debate about the health benefits of coconut oil, the truth is, it’s still a healthy fat that boasts several benefits like raising your levels of good cholesterol and keeping you feeling full and satisfied. Plus, coconut oil is mostly made up of medium chain triglycerides or MCTs. MCTs can aid digestion, increase your metabolism, and stabilize your blood sugar. Not to mention that the fat of the oil will balance out the bitterness of coffee, leaving you with a dairy-free alternative to cream. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning cup to reap the benefits of coffee and healthy fats at the same time.
Some of the most popular healthy ways to sweeten coffee include spices, and cardamom ranks high among our favorites. Cardamom has been touted in Ayurvedic medicine as a way to neutralize caffeine’s stimulating effect while drinking coffee. It also boasts digestive benefits and calming properties: two features that nicely complement coffee’s acidic and energizing properties. This tasty spice will also give your daily cup a bit of an exotic flavor. Add ground cardamom to your brewed coffee or mix whole cardamom seeds in with coffee beans before you grind them.
If you regularly pour white, refined sugar into your coffee, here’s a swap that may be better for you: agave syrup. Agave syrup comes from the blue agave plant, and its fructose to glucose ratio gives it a lower glycemic index than normal refined sugar. This helps your blood sugar stay more stable as opposed to the typical crash-and-burn feeling of a sugar rush. Plus, agave adds a slight caramel taste, making it more flavorful than white sugar. Even though it’s natural, however, agave is still sugar—so stick to half a teaspoon in your morning cup of joe.
Who can resist the temptation of a mocha, all chocolatey goodness with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top? Unfortunately, just one of those beverages can have half of your day’s amount of saturated fat and up to 40 grams of sugar. If you’re still craving a little chocolate fix, why not go with cacao powder? Raw cacao contains nearly four times the antioxidant levels of dark chocolate. Add just a teaspoon of raw cacao powder to your cup before brewing to get an undeniably rich, chocolate fix without all the sugar and fat.
If you can’t find cacao, cocoa powder can also be a good option. (Cocoa is raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures, which decreases the nutritional value a bit. However, cocoa powder still contains flavanols that can help circulation and decrease inflammation in the body.)
We’ve touted the many benefits of collagen before: it can help your hair, skin and nails; it improves digestive health; and it’s good for your joints and bones. So why not add it to your coffee, along with some of the other suggestions listed here? Most collagen powders are tasteless, so adding some to your morning cup, along with a little coconut milk, for example, is a great way to get your daily dose of collagen while enjoying your coffee. Some brands even have specific collagen creamer – our fave is Vital Proteins Vanilla Collagen Creamer!
Peppermint oil might not be the first thing that pops into your mind when it comes to coffee add-ins, but when you think of that covetable peppermint mocha, it’s easy to see how a little taste of mint can provide a refreshing addition to your daily java. Plus, peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory properties and contains tons of important minerals like magnesium—not to mention it has invigorating properties that will give you an extra boost of natural energy. Add just a drop or two to your coffee and pair with a splash of coconut or almond milk for a creamy, flavorful treat.
Honey isn’t just for tea anymore; adding a bit to your morning cup of coffee will deliver a hint of sweetness with a nutritional kick. Raw honey contains several minerals as well as antioxidant vitamins E and C. It also can boost your immune system, aid your gut health, and soothe a sore throat. And, similar to agave nectar, honey has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, which will keep your blood sugar levels steadier throughout the day.
A vanilla latte at your local coffeeshop can contain as much sugar as a soda. Plus, the syrups they use aren’t just “natural vanilla,” they often have artificial flavoring and other hard-to-pronounce chemicals. If you crave a little dose of vanilla in your coffee, go straight to the pure, unprocessed source: vanilla extract. If you want to re-create that vanilla latte taste, try adding a bit of almond or coconut milk, too. Just keep the vanilla to a few drops per cup; too much can taste bitter.
Who doesn’t love a spicy-and-sweet coffee beverage around the holidays? Unfortunately, most of the coffee shop options available are laden with sugary syrups, whipped cream, and more. For an instant holiday flavor boost without extra calories, cinnamon is the perfect option. Add a dash to your morning cup or even brew your coffee with an actual cinnamon stick, so the spice has time to infuse. Cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant contents of any spice, making it one of several healthy ways to sweeten coffee with things found in your spice rack.
Healthy Coffee Recipes
Now that you’ve learned how to make healthy coffee, here are some of our favorite healthy coffee recipes that incorporate a little java:
Reap the nutritional benefits of your daily cup of coffee by finding healthy ways to sweeten coffee. Any of the above alternatives will help you flavor your favorite morning beverage while still giving it a sweet and satisfying taste.