Some of the most ubiquitous sights we see in our daily lives are coffee shops on every corner, a steady stream in and out of these coffee shops, people walking and sitting just about everywhere you go with cups of coffee. Coffee is a connector, we gather over steaming cups and for some it's a nice morning ritual. But it's incredibly stimulating and very addictive and when you're doing a cleanse or trying to bring your body back into balance and optimal health, coffee's place in the world drops on the list of good things.
Here's what's up with the beverage we love/hate. . .
What Coffee is Good For:
It's a short list but coffee does have some benefits. Coffee can be a great social connector, going out with friends or having a quiet cup in the morning can be both soul satisfying and grounding. When used in moderation it can help with headaches as it has analgesic properties (pain relieving). It has been reported to help remove plaque in the brain which is good news for preventing Alzheimer's disease, and it can open up airways to helps with chronic breathing issues. It could possibly prevent some forms of cancer, can increase alertness, regulate blood pressure and intestinal function, is high in antioxidants and could possibly ease depression symptoms without going on prescription medication.
What Coffee Isn't Good For:
Those benefits listed above all come with the caveat that it should be used in small amounts and doesn't become something the body depends on for stimulation or normal function and energy. Here's what's not so great about coffee. . .
- highly acidic
- taxing on the detox organs (liver and kidneys)
- linked to infertility
- leaches calcium from the bones (increasing risk of osteoporosis)
- long term consumption causes weight gain since it stimulates stress hormones
- can cause low blood sugar and imbalanced insulin levels
- causes anxiety
- triggers heartburn
Also, when your body needs a substance to get going in the morning and you experience severe pain without it, that's a sure sign your adrenals are being taxed which is really harmful for your overall health. So the few days of headaches and possible irritability that arise when you're withdrawing from caffeine is worth stopping the addiction now, we promise! And the part about coffee being connecting and grounding also holds true with any of these drinks below, and anything coffee does in the list above, these do as well, if not better. . .
- The overall best thing that will remineralize and hydrate the body while also giving you the coffee kick is 8-16 oz of fresh green vegetable juice daily (either made at home or from your local juice bar). Try a base of cucumber and celery with a generous amount of dark leafy greens (kale, parsley, chard, romaine, etc.) with a little apple or carrot for sweetness, and as much ginger and lemon as you like.
- Water (warm or chilled) with lemon and a bit of stevia for added sweetness, this is incredibly energizing and detoxifying and stimulates peristalsis action, since it's important to start the day with healthy elimination and hydration.
- A drink made with raw cacao powder (unprocessed chocolate free of dairy or sugar) is incredibly soul satisfying, gives you a great energy kick, as well as an antioxidant and mineral rich boost. There are endless possibilities, but an easy favourite of ours is to brew some of this in a french press with water, add some coconut (or almond) milk, a dash of stevia and a pinch of cinnamon. If you have a little milk frother (or an espresso machine), you can make your very own mocha latte! You can also use carob powder; delicious and nutritious as well.
- Two delicious herbal coffees that you can make in a variety of ways are Dandy Blend and Teccino.
- Try a cup (or two!) of green tea or yerba mate (add nut or coconut milk with cinnamon like the chocolate drink above), hot or chilled.
- Ginseng. Start taking a daily tincture or capsules now, as it's a cumulative herb which means it takes awhile of daily use to kick in but when it does, watch out! It increases dopamine, which is the energizing chemical in our bodies that promote muscle coordination, speed of thoughts, alertness and feeling awake.~ "Ginseng is rejuvenating, restorative, boosts energy and vitality and is tonic to the brain. Antidepressant, adaptogenic, an excellent ally for anyone under physical, emotional, mental or spiritual stress. Promotes strong nerves, sound sleep, improves memory, clear thinking and enhances concentration." (Gail Faith Edwards, the rest of her great article is here)
- A protein filled shake, something with nuts and coconut milk and cinnamon will keep you satiated and energized (but not weighed down). It's easily digestible and adding cinnamon will slow the insulin response down so blood sugar remains stable. Try this one!
- Reishi Mushroom tea. The immune supporting and earthy, bitter taste is really similar to coffee, and is easily made into a latte as suggested above.
- Rooibos Chai. Instead of the usual chai (no black tea while cleansing), try it made with rooibos (red) tea. There are already mixed blends available out there, but here's a recipe to make your on your own:
1 tablespoon fennel or anise seed
6 green cardamom pods
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 inch piece ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
7 cups water
2 tablespoons loose rooibos tea, or 4 tea bagsBring everything to a boil in a medium pot, let simmer for 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat, cover and let it steep for 7-10 minutes.Strain into mugs and add to taste:
Coconut nectar (or raw honey if you're not cleansing)
Nut or coconut milk
A generous dash of cinnamon
Overall, coffee may have some health benefits depending on the person and situation but it should never be relied on as a way to wake up and if you do feel that you "need" it every morning, it would be a great time to quit cold turkey. Then you can reintroduce it occasionally as you like. Remember to use your dollars wisely and tell coffee distributors that you support fair trade, shade grown and locally roasted blends! Better for you and better for the world. Let us know your thoughts on coffee and all the delicious coffee substitutes that you've tried and love (or didn't love)!
Jenny Nelson is a Wellness Coach and Chef for Dr. Junger's Clean Program. She is also the blog coordinator and team photographer while currently studying herbal medicine and sustainable and hands-on education. She lives in Portland, Maine and feels incredibly grateful that she can combine her interests and passions with her "work". She loves tea, yerba mate and raw cacao, as well as coffee, especially bulletproof and the local wood-roasted Chickadee Blend (mostly for the name).