Friday, December 7, 2012

A better cuppa

My new favorite mug

If you are a coffee drinker, you probably already know that a little caffeine is not bad for you; in fact, studies show it can actually be good for you, what with the antioxidants and all. 

But here's a few tips to make your cuppa even better: 

1) Hold the cream and sugar. 

I know, I know. Black coffee? Blech. But here's the thing--coffee alone is not bad for you, but when you add dairy and sugar to your mug the whole chemical balance shifts, creating a beverage that is much more acidic when digested. 

Some studies have shown a link between chronic inflammation and disease and highly acidic diets which, unfortunately, most American diets are--highly acidic. A more alkaline diet is recommended for optimal health. 

Can't stomach the idea of black coffee? Skip the dairy and try using unsweetened almond milk instead. 

2) Sweeten your joe, naturally. 

Coffee and almond milk alone not going to cut it? By dumping spoonfuls of sugar or generous pours of flavored creamer into your coffee, you are not only upping the acidity level of your brew--you are adding extra calories and sugar. 

Try this: Use flavored coffee beans. Starbucks offers caramel and vanilla-flavored coffee beans. My favorite, "Coconut Crunch," is from a coffee shop in the Outer Banks. I bring home a few bags of the flavored beans every summer and even have a few bags shipped to me in the winter months. My husband was recently in Hawaii for a business trip and brought home a bag of Coconut Almond coffee, which rivaled my OBX cup.  

Another way to naturally sweeten your coffee is to sprinkle a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg on the grounds before brewing. I've heard coconut flakes work too. 

3) Limit your caffeine intake. 

Generally, 150-300 mg of caffeine per day, which is about 2-3 cups of brewed coffee, is considered safe for healthy adults. More than that and you may experience unwanted side-effects, such as tremors, nervousness, irritability, palpitations, headaches and upset stomach. 

Be aware that caffeine lurks in other places, like chocolate, tea and sodas, and that one venti-sized drink may blow your daily mg allotment. 

4) Skip decaf

If you want to enjoy a warm beverage without the caffeine, opt for herbal tea instead. Most roasters use a chemical process to strip the caffeine, and who wants a chemical residue in their cuppa? (Though I am told the Caribou company uses a water-based process for their decaf instead of chemicals. Starbucks, however, is said to be in the chemical camp.) 

5) Buy organic and Fair Trade

As with the chemicals noted in the decaf-ing process, who wants residual pesticides and other nastiness in their coffee? Go organic to drink a cleaner cup. And, while that steaming mug may perk you up in the morning and give you that "feel good feeling," you'll feel even better knowing that the people who grew, picked and harvested your beans were treated well and paid a fair wage for their efforts. 

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