How do you take your coffee? I prefer mine black, but in New York City, where I live, ordering a “regular coffee” at a bodega (that’s a corner deli, for non-New Yorkers), will get you a coffee with milk and two sugars. When it comes to the drink with which 84 percent of Americans start their day, there are plenty of strong opinions about the best way to doctor it up — or not. Speaking of doctors, however, at least one says we should be adding salt, not sugar, to our morning cup of joe.
Sound strange? I thought so, too. I’ve heard of adding hot sauce to coffee, but salt? Turns out, people have been preaching the gospel of salt in coffee for a while. TV chef Alton Brown recommends adding salt to coffee to cut the bitterness, putting a quarter teaspoon of good old-fashioned kosher salt right in with his grounds before brewing.
That hack doesn’t have anything to with health, though — it’s just meant to make your coffee taste better. Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a nutritionist, expert on wellness and longevity, and author of Get Off Your Acid (Buy from Amazon, $12) and Get Off Your Sugar (Buy from Amazon, $16), has a much more compelling reason for us to break out the salt shaker when we’re preparing our morning mug.
The Problem with Coffee
“How you drink your coffee makes a big difference in its effect on your health,” Gioffre tells Woman’s World. “There are a lot of benefits to drinking coffee, but there’s one huge downside: It’s loaded with acid.”
Most of us know that acidic food and drinks can be rough on our digestive systems, especially if we have sensitive stomachs or are prone to reflux and heartburn. But Gioffre says there’s more to it than that. “When we’re acidic, it drives up inflammation, makes us retain and store fat, and can lead to other significant health issues such as fatigue, digestive problems, sleep issues, compromised immunity, and even chronic degenerative disease.”
That list of ailments is almost enough to make me swear off coffee completely, but Gioffre says there’s no need for that. “Coffee itself has many health benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants and is chock full of substances and other healthy active ingredients that may help guard against conditions more common in women, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and heart disease.”
How Putting Salt in Coffee Helps
“If we do everything we can to neutralize the acidity in coffee, than we can enjoy all of the upside that coffee has to offer,” says Gioffre. That’s where salt comes in. “Salt helps neutralize the acids that cause inflammation,” he explains.
Cutting the acid in our coffee isn’t the only good thing salt does for us, either, according to Gioffre. For women of a certain age, getting enough salt is critical for keeping our bones strong. “Getting more of the right salt is critical as we age, especially for women who are having challenges with osteoporosis or osteopenia,” says Gioffre. He believes that, contrary to common medical wisdom, it’s not calcium deficiency that causes bone weakness. “On the contrary, the average woman over the age of 45 has ten times the amount of calcium that they should.”
Then what’s behind brittle bones? It’s acid, says Gioffre. “When we are acidic, especially in our blood, the body will literally ‘rob Peter to pay Paul,’ stealing the calcium and magnesium from the bones and muscles to neutralize the damaging acids in our body.” Adding salt to our coffee is one way to neutralize the acid and replace the minerals we need.
The Right Way to Add Salt to Coffee
So, should we grab our salt shakers and start sprinkling table salt into our coffee every morning? Not so fast, says Dr. Gioffre. “There are salts that heal, and salts that kill. You want to avoid table salt, otherwise known as sodium chloride, as it is heavily processed and refined. It’s bleached, devoid of minerals, and loaded with toxicity that increases blood pressure and adds stress to your nervous system.” Yikes.
“You want to add healthy salts that kick the acid and alkalize your body, such as Himalayan salt, Celtic Sea Salt, or my favorite, sodium bicarbonate — a high-alkaline mineral salt that most people know as baking soda,” Gioffre advises. “I suggest adding a quarter teaspoon or a generous pinch of Himalayan salt or baking soda to your coffee right after brewing, because when your coffee is hot, it will make the salt dissolve faster and easier.” (Gioffree likes Redmond Real Salt — Buy from Amazon, $9, and Bob’s Red Mill baking soda — Buy from Amazon, $12.)
Adding salt or baking soda to coffee has the added benefit of enhancing your coffee’s flavor, as well, says Gioffre. “It cuts back the bitterness by neutralizing the acids, giving you more of the true taste of the specific coffee blend you are drinking.” (Just like Alton Brown said!)
Trying it Out for Myself
Naturally, I had to try this hack for myself. Would adding salt (or baking soda) to my coffee improve the flavor and make me healthier? I was skeptical, but willing to be won over. I brewed my usual cup of dark roast in my Keurig single-serve coffee maker and, when it was still steaming hot, added a quarter teaspoon of the pink Himalayan sea salt I keep on my counter for daily use. I stirred, sipped, and… borderline ocean water. I could definitely taste the salt.
I made a fresh cup and tried the baking soda (a quarter teaspoon of Arm and Hammer). This time, my coffee tasted metallic — and still salty.
Like I said before, I usually drink my coffee black. Maybe that’s the problem? Wondering if adding milk and sugar would help, I asked Gioffre if making it light and sweet cancels out the health benefits of adding salt to coffee.
How to Make Your Coffee Delicious
“If you take your coffee like dessert, with lots of sugar and cream, you’re consuming a lot more acid than if you just drink it black,” says Gioffre. “You want to avoid all sugars, including coconut sugars, and the worst offenders, artificial sweeteners.” He does, however, give the okay to stevia and monk fruit, which are both plant-derived sugar substitutes. So, sweetening your coffee is okay — as long as you use the right add-in.
To make your coffee creamy, Gioffre recommends coconut oil or MCT oil (that stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides), which are plant-based, keto-friendly fats. “The MCT oil will give your coffee a nice creamy texture if that’s what you’re after, but you can also add some unsweetened almond or coconut milk, or some full-fat coconut milk.” Note that he’s not a fan of oat milk, since it’s made from grains. “All grains will drive up inflammation, spike blood sugar, and promote leaky gut,” he warns.
Another option? Keep it simple (and less salty tasting) and add Gioffre’s Acid-Kicking Coffee Alkalizer to your coffee. (Buy from Alkamind, starting at $39.99) It contains both coconut and MCT oils, along with Himalayan salt. But whatever you put in your coffee, don’t nurse it all morning long, repeatedly re-heating it as it gets cold. (I may or may not be in the habit of doing this.) “The longer coffee sits, the more acidic it becomes,” says Gioffre. “So enjoy your sacred morning ritual, but also drink it right away to avoid unnecessary acid.”
So while I haven’t tried it yet, I’m adding monk fruit, stevia, MCT oil, and Dr. Gioffre’s Acid-Kicking Coffee Alkalizer to my grocery list — just to cover all my bases. The promised benefits are just too good to pass up!
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