6 New Ways To Flavor Your Coffee (Without Added Sugar!)
National Coffee Day is September 29, just in time for the early tinges of autumn that make a hot cup of java all the more appealing. But as you prepare for sweater weather, it may be worth reconsidering what you add to your mug.
Pumpkin spice lattes may taste delicious, but they’re loaded with sugar (mostly added sugars from syrups and sweeteners), and end up spiking your blood glucose levels. When that blood sugar comes crashing down, you'll be even more tired than you were pre-latte. Even worse, the American Heart Association says added sugars can increase your risk of dying from heart disease. (Keep in mind that even honey, agave nectar, and molasses are considered added sugars. As for naturally occurring sugars in produce and milk products, you typically don't need to worry about those unless you're limiting your calorie intake.)
(Ditch processed foods and try the naturally sweet, salty, and satisfying meals from Prevention’s !)
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy coffee—for many of us, it’s a nonnegotiable!—or even sweetened coffee, for that matter. The trick is to boost flavor without added sugars or too much cream so you can enjoy the health perks of your brew: Research shows regular coffee drinkers have less risk of heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Power through your day without crashing using one of these six tasty coffee flavorings:
Let’s start with a classic swap: Nix that packet of sugar for a teaspoon of cinnamon to flavor your java and distract from its bitterness—without added sugar and calories. Make sure you’re using pure powdered cinnamon (not cinnamon sugar), or consider storing your coffee beans with a few sticks of cinnamon to infuse them with flavor.
MORE: Which Is Healthier: Ginger Or Cinnamon?
Natural cinnamon does even more than elevate your brew: A study from the Human Nutrition Research Center found that just ½ teaspoon of the spice every day can increase your cells’ sensitivity to insulin. This is the opposite effect of added sugar, which can contribute to insulin resistance.
This is your body on sugar:
Unsweetened cacao powder
Stirring cacao powder into your coffee is one of the easiest ways to reap the benefits of chocolate’s flavanoids, which are antioxidants that can help ward off environmental damage to the cells and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. Even more, it lends your coffee the rich flavor of pure chocolate without added sugar—unlike a syrupy mocha. Look for a product that’s unsweetened and 100% cacao powder. One to try: Navitas Organics Cacao Powder (Buy now: , ).
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If you’re an avid vanilla latte drinker, you don’t have to give up your favorite flavor to keep sugar in check. Remember that vanilla is just that—a flavor—not a sugar, so get down to its root with a few drops of vanilla extract in your coffee. Vanilla extract has 0 calories and 0 sugars (compare that to the 80 calories and 20 g of sugar in a serving of vanilla syrup flavoring). Start with one drop and add to taste; a little goes a long way. (This one tweak to your coffee order can prevent weight gain.)
Just 1/2 teaspoon of this autumnal staple will give you all those warm-and-cozy fall vibes you love in your brew, especially if you pair with a touch of cinnamon or cardamom. To make a spiced coffee, drop a pod of green cardamom into your coffee beans before grinding and sprinkle your brewed coffee with nutmeg and cinnamon (or just stir ground cardamom right in with the other spices).
Keep in mind, a teensy bit of nutmeg is all you need: As little as two teaspoons to two tablespoons can actually produce a high similar to that of marijuana, with potential side effects like nausea, heart palpitations, and hallucinations, according to Columbia University.
MORE: Cold Brew Coffee Isn't Just For Drinking: Try These 7 Delicious Recipes
Ground coconut flakes
Hang on to summer vibes with the tropical flavor of unsweetened coconut flakes in your coffee (One to try: Let’s Do Organic Shredded Coconut Unsweetened, .49, ). Shake them into your coffee beans when grinding—think 1 tsp per cup—for delicious flavor minus the unhealthy sugars. (Love iced coffee? Here are 6 surprisingly tasty ways to upgrade your favorite drink.)
Coconut flakes are also a good alternative to pouring coconut oil in your mug—we’re looking at you, bulletproof coffee lovers. The American Heart Association advises limiting coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat.
Thank the state of Arizona for this wacky but refreshing combo. Orange juice topped with espresso exploded in popularity in Phoenix last year (possibly because AZ grows many citrus fruits). This odd mix goes by a variety of names at coffee shops, from “Good Morning” to “Sunrise,” but is particularly popular with Instagrammers thanks to its orange and brown gradient.
MORE: 9 Foods That Have More Vitamin C Than An Orange
Here's why it's worth a sip: Orange juice has natural sugars and sweetness that brighten up an espresso, plus just ¾ cup of orange juice gives you 155% of your daily dose of vitamin C. (Not to mention, it’s an easy way to avoid dirtying two glasses on your breakfast table—convenience at its best!) If you’re not quite ready to mix OJ with espresso, simply rub an orange peel around your coffee cup rim or add just a few drops of juice to your coffee for a taste test.
Video: Healthy ways to add flavor to coffee
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