Many of us rely on our morning coffee — or “cup of ambition,” as Dolly Parton calls it — to wake up and start the day. But what about the creams and sugars and syrups we add to that cup? Not only do they pack a caloric punch; they increase your grocery bill, too. So what do you do if the bitterness of black coffee isn’t your cup of tea? (Pun intended.) Fortunately, there’s a great alternative: Add spices to your grounds to improve the taste and health quotient of your coffee.
Health Do’s and Don’ts of Coffee
If you’re drinking coffee every day, and multiple cups of it at that, you might wonder what effect it has on your body. Luckily, coffee has myriad health benefits. Among these are reducing the risk of diseases like Cirrhosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer; and supporting weight and diabetes management. Coffee also contains vitamin B2, magnesium, and heart-healthy antioxidants; in fact, some studies state that “coffee is a primary source of dietary antioxidants for many Americans.”
Because coffee is good for you, it’s fine that we’re drinking so much of it — right? Well, that depends on what you’re putting into your cup. Dairy creamers are a decadent treat, but if you’re adding them every day, you may not be getting the full health benefits of coffee. Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Pegan Diet, tells Katie Couric Media that “many coffee creamers are made of junk dairy from conventional cows that have been pumped full of antibiotics, which is then added to artificial flavorings, inflammatory oils, and sweeteners. You absolutely want to avoid this. It’s the worst way to start your day.” He continues by claiming that coffee creamer “sets you up for a blood sugar roller coaster, cravings, weight gain, and mood swings.” If you’re willing to give up sugary creamer but can’t stand the taste of coffee on its own, you could consider adding milk; however, some studies have also shown that adding milk to coffee can decrease its antioxidant load.
Without sugar or milk, what’s a health-conscious, non-plain-coffee lover to do? Try seasoning your coffee grounds with these five options before brewing to give your cup a flavorful kick without the added calories. As an added bonus, you probably have most of these in your pantry already.
Okay, okay. Salt is not a spice; it’s a mineral. But since spices and minerals are both organic materials — and because most people use salt to flavor their food, just like you would a spice — it’s on the list. Also, putting salt in coffee is a common practice in numerous cultures. While this may seem counterintuitive, studies show that salt reduces coffee’s bitterness. Sara Marquart of The Coffee Excellence Center explains that “salt naturally brings out the sweetness of coffee and maintains pleasant aromas. If people are sensitive to bitterness … adding salt is a good alternative to using milk and sugar.” Cooking Light recommends putting about ⅛ teaspoon of salt directly into your coffee grounds before brewing for optimal results.
Aside from making your kitchen smell amazing, there are many pros to putting a pinch of cinnamon in your coffee grounds. Cinnamon may help with everything from allergies to diabetes management to the prevention of diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. It also tastes delicious — bringing out a subtle sweetness sans sugar. Just take care not to consume too much cinnamon, since some products contain coumarin, a chemical compound which may be harmful in large amounts. Ceylon cinnamon (Buy now on Amazon, $5.80), which is one of the two main kinds of cinnamon (along with Cassia) found commercially, contains less of this compound, making it a safer option.
You’ve probably heard of ginger tea — but did you know that ginger pairs well with coffee, too? It’s warming, zesty, and perfect for the cozy transition from summer to fall. It’s also packed with antioxidants and can support healthy aging. Additionally, if coffee upsets your stomach, sprinkling some ginger into your coffee grounds may help combat your symptoms, due to ginger’s natural ability to ease nausea.
4. Cocoa Powder
If your morning go-to is a mocha but you want to kick your sugar habit, consider cocoa. Adding a sprinkle of cocoa powder to your coffee grounds infuses your java with chocolatey goodness and some health advantages to boot. Cocoa powder reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system, promotes brain health, and helps you maintain a healthy weight, among other benefits. Keep in mind that in order to reap the most rewards, the powder you use should be at least 72 percent cocoa (Buy from Walmart, $9.99).
Time to wake up and smell the lavender. This purple flower is packed with health benefits: It can help prevent hair loss, ease pain and digestive issues, and combat anxiety (so if your third cup of coffee is giving you the jitters, lavender may come to the rescue). Lavender is one of the few things in life that tastes as good as it smells, so sprinkle some culinary-grade stuff (Buy from Walmart, $9.45) into your coffee grounds for a sweet kick to your cup.
No matter your flavor preferences, you will undoubtedly find a spice that takes your morning cup of coffee to the next level — and because it’s healthy, you can even pour yourself another cup, guilt-free. I can raise a mug to that.
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