Best Coffee Alternatives – 5 Drinks for Energy without Jitters

In our highly caffeinated world, coffee is king. Americans consume more coffee than any other non-alcoholic beverage besides water, according to 2020 statistics, with about 60 percent of people reportedly drinking it on a daily basis.

Love it or hate it—and many of us do both, at the same time—there’s no denying that we simply can’t quit the stuff. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In the past, some researchers worried that coffee and caffeine increased the risk of health problems like cancer and heart disease—and that led many people to fear that coffee was bad for their health.

As it turned out, that hype was overstated, says Chris Mohr, Ph.D. “The truth is, coffee is one piece of the entire diet,” he says. “And most studies show, within reason, it has many, many health benefits.”

In fact, drinking 3 to 5 standard cups of coffee each day has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases, according to a review published in July 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine, The researchers found that coffee consumption was linked to a lower risk of melanoma, prostate cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Plus, coffee also contains antioxidants, which help fight off harmful free radicals, and may also improve your gut health.

The downside, of course, is that caffeine can leave you feeling jittery, especially if you’re sensitive to the stuff. That’s where coffee alternatives come in. These brews—made from mushrooms, chicory root, or other ingredients—”have little to no caffeine in them, along with some other beneficial ingredients,” says Mohr.

It’s important to keep your expectations in check, though: “Sure, they can be great, but they aren’t cure-all superfoods that we need to go all in in,” he says. Remember: One cup of coffee is…just one cup of coffee—a few shreds of dandelion here and extract of chaga mushrooms there isn’t likely to radically overhaul your health.

Whether you’re looking to kick your caffeine habit or are just tired of waking up to the same old drip brew, we’ve rounded up five coffee alternatives to jump start your morning—minus the afternoon crash.

1

Yerba Mate Variety Pack

If you aren’t ready to cut out caffeine completely, Yerba Mate—a brew made from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, from South America—is a good alternative.

Yerba Mate contains caffeine—one serving contains 43 milligrams, less than half the amount in a standard 8-ounce cup of coffee—as well as vitamins B2 and C; iron; calcium; and other antioxidants.

“Yerba Mate shows promise as an ‘energy’ replacement,” says Mohr. One 2021 review in the journal Nutrients reported that people who drank Yerba Mate noted feeling energized, but not jumpy.

Yerba Mate is a tea-like drink that can taste slightly bitter. Kiss Me Organics offers a variety pack with four flavors: roasted mate, green mate, green mate with mint, and green mate with lemon, which can help temper the bitter flavor for Yerba Mate newbies.

2

Instant Mushroom Coffee

There’s a reason why mushrooms are such a popular alternative to coffee—their earthy, bitter flavor makes them a natural substitute for coffee beans. Plus, they offer some health benefits of their own—mushrooms are a source of vitamin D and B12, and may also boost satiety levels, according to a review published in November 2021.

This ultra-popular brew, from Four Sigmatic, combines organic coffee beans with the extract from chaga mushrooms and lion’s mane mushroom. The result: about half the amount of caffeine that’s in a regular cup of coffee (50 milligrams)—which makes this a good option for people who trying to cut back on coffee, but not cut it out altogether.

3

French Roast Chicory Herbal Coffee

If you love the taste of coffee, but want to kick your caffeine habit, chicory root brew might be your best bet.

Chicory root has a long history of acting as a substitute for coffee—it has a naturally bitter flavor, so much so that during the Civil War, people living in New Orleans added roasted, ground chicory root to bulk up their dwindling coffee supplies.

The tradition continues to this day.

Now, chicory root coffee has spread beyond the borders of NOLA; The brew imparts a strong coffee-like flavor, but doesn’t contain any caffeine. “Caffeine itself is a drug, whereas if you’re trying to avoid that, then this could offer a similar flavor without the caffeine,” says Mohr. Chicory root also contains inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that may help boost the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

The Teeccino French Roast blend—made with chicory, carob, barley, and ramon seeds—is organic and has all the deep, rich notes of your favorite morning brew, minus the caffeine

You may recognize the cacao bean as the main ingredient in chocolate. In its natural form—read: not submerged in butter in sugar—cacao is packed with antioxidants and flavanols (antioxidant-like molecules), which lend it that characteristically bitter flavor.

Drinking your cacao in the form of a coffee alternative can be a healthier way to consume it than eating it in chocolate bar-form. Plus, the flavor is delicious—similar to that of hot cocoa.

This double chocolate blend, from Crio Bru, should satisfy your sweet tooth—it’s made from 100 percent cacao grounds, with hints of with chocolate and vanilla flavors. And, while it’s 99.9 percent caffeine free, it does contain a natural stimulant called theobromine, which may be just enough to take the edge off.

Yes, that dandelion. The weed that no one wants in their lawns is now suddenly on every supplement shelf: in capsules, teas, and liquid extracts. Proponents of dandelions say the plant is rich in vitamins A, C, and K as well as minerals like potassium, but Mohr isnt overly impressed with the plant’s status as superfood.

Still, there’s no denying it can make a good coffee alternative—particularly if you still crave at least a mild-coffee flavor. This option, from Dandy Blend, is made of roasted dandelion root extract, along with roasted extracts of barley, rye, roasted sugar beet, and chicory root.

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