Are These Popular Coffee Alternatives Really Better For You?

Are Matcha lattes all they're cracked up to be?
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For many of us, nothing could replace our morning cup of coffee—yet, many drinks claim to do just that.

From Matcha lattes to raw cacao and adaptogen mushrooms, influencers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are starting their day with a wide array of ‘healthier’ coffee alternatives.

But is our favourite cup of joe really that bad? And are these alternatives really any better?

Below, we consulted dietitian and athlete for BSc, Mark Robinson, for his expert advice.

Is Coffee Bad For You?

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When it comes to coffee and health, there’s a lot of mixed messages.

While earlier studies of coffee suggested consumption could lead to health problems like heart disease, more recent research says otherwise.

 Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told Discover in 2021 that the “overall evidence has been pretty convincing that coffee has been more healthful than harmful in terms of health outcomes.”

“For most people, moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy diet.”

Hu explained that between 2-5 cups of coffee a day has actually been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

According to Hu, the participants in the early studies about coffee also smoked cigarette, which may account for the health problems coffee was originally connected to.

Robinson agrees, stating “Coffee is good for you! It’s a natural source of caffeine from coffee beans of course, and in moderation, does truly have scientifically researched health incentives, such as improving your ability to perform tasks requiring sustained vigilance whereby increased alertness is beneficial.

“An independent panel conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and concluded that caffeine, in doses of 100 mg or more could be used to maintain cognitive performance. It also seems to prevent a decline in alertness and cognitive capacity when consumed throughout the day, which can be beneficial for various types of brain and physical performance.

“Drinking coffee containing caffeine of 100 mg prior to a cognitive performance test actually improves reaction times in people with recent poor sleep quality, and in those with adequate sleep. Caffeine before a training or exercise session can also reduce the perceived feeling of pain during the session and even help buffer lactic acid and reduce fatigue.”

However, that doesn’t mean coffee is good for everyone. Some people have a lower tolerance for caffeine and experience jitters, anxiety and stress with their morning cup. Others simply don’t enjoy the taste.

For this reason, coffee alternatives can provide the same comforting feeling without the stress.

Is Matcha Good For You?

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Matcha is one of the most popular coffee alternatives out there.

Originating from Japan, it’s a type of powdered green tea that can be mixed into hot and cold lattes, smoothies and even deserts.

Matcha drinkers will be pleased to know that the beverage comes with the same health benefits as normal green tea.

This includes anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, according to study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

However, Robinson notes that the beverage does contain caffeine.

“Matcha does have a significant caffeine level per gram although in a typical drink not many grams are used so the ‘energy’ lift is lower,” Robinson says.

“There are potential health effects correlated with matcha such as antioxidant benefits and anti-inflammatory functions. These options are more Aru Vedic in nature rather than clinically scientific and those looking for more natural, naturopathic type drinks and ingredients may gravitate towards these options.”

Is Mushroom Coffee Better For You Than Coffee?

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Mushroom based drinks have become extremely popular in recent years.

Powdered mixtures of adaptogens, Chaga, Lion’s mane and Reishi seem to be all over social media and lauded as the healthier alternative to coffee.

While medicinal mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, we haven’t got enough evidence from clinical trials to know the facts yet.

What we do know is that adaptogens, which are the compounds extracted from medicinal mushrooms, may help with stress.

There’s also significant evidence pointing to some mushroom’s potential for improving immunity, preventing cancer and heart disease.

Is Raw Cacao Better For You Than Coffee?

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Raw cacao is essentially chocolate in its purest form.

While this doesn’t sound like the healthiest thing in the world, there actually are plenty of health benefits associated with the coffee alternative.

From being packed with antioxidants to being high in magnesium, raw cacao can help with things like cholesterol, blood pressure and nerve function.

Is A Tumeric Latte Good For You?

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Tumeric Lattes or Goldyn Milk, as they are sometimes called are probably one of the healthiest coffee alternatives.

Robinson explains, “turmeric is well known as a natural anti-inflammatory and used by many during times of joint pain recovery.”

The active component in turmeric, curcumin, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries because of its powerful antioxidant , anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Tumeric lattes also generally include ginger, which offers plenty of digestive benefits.

Are These Coffee Alternatives Better Than Drinking Coffee?

There’s no ‘right’ drink to have in the morning, and coffee along with it’s many alternatives can all offer different benefits to our health.

However, before drinking any coffee alternative, Robinson encourages drinkers to check the caffeine levels.

“I stress the importance of assessing the caffeine amount in mg, which should be shown in the nutrition panel or the ingredient list,” Robinson explains.

“A typical coffee mg amount of caffeine is 80mg to 100mg so use that as your indicative guide for caffeine level comparisons. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) legal level of caffeine is 32mg per 100ml for a ready to drink beverage.

“Excessive amounts can cause unwanted nervous system responses, which can be harmful. Like everything, moderation and timing are keys.”

While you don’t have to give up coffee, you’re bound to get some additional benefits from mixing up your daily brews from time to time.

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