Dear Diary of a Nutritionist…
“I am looking for a cost effective and healthy alternative to coffee. Then, let’s say I do drink coffee, what is the best way to enjoy it?” -Mary
Caffeine is quite possibly the most used and abused “drug” there is… and Coffee is the ringleader. A coffee-bean, which naturally contains caffeine, is roasted, ground, and then brewed with boiling water, in order to become one of America’s favorite stimulants. Caffeine is considered a drug, and it is a member of the class of methylxanthine chemicals. These are the same chemicals that are commonly used in medications that aid in breathing.
Where alcohol depresses the central nervous system, caffeine stimulates it. Which means it is responsible for increasing…
- heart rate,
- blood pressure,
- respiration (it can open tight airways),
- kidney function,
- amount of stomach acid produced,
- gastrointestinal activity (it can act as a mild laxative) and,
- brain activity.
Due to these metabolic effects, frequent consumption of caffeine can lead to heart problems, irritability, anxiety, acid indigestion, inflammation in the stomach and intestines, and insomnia. It is also responsible for the depletion of minerals, and it decreases the absorption of calcium and iron (which can than lead to osteoporosis, etc.). Unfortunately, the negative side effects of caffeine do not end there. An over-consumption of caffeine can lead to birth defects and miscarriages, adrenal exhaustion, etc. Enough of the depressing news…We will leave it at that.
So why do we drink coffee, and why has Starbucks been such a blazing success?
In a society where there is “never enough time” to get a full nights rest, and everyone is perpetually “on-the-go”… Coffee makes us “feel” awake.
In other words, coffee acts like a fake source of energy. I say fake, simply because it does not actually give us real energy, it only temporarily increases certain metabolic functions, like heart rate, that make us feel energized. No amount of coffee (which has highly-acid forming effects on the body’s pH) makes up for lack of sleep, which alkalizes and heals the body.
In addition to “energizing” the body. There are, of course, plenty of people who drink it merely for the taste, and opt for the decaffeinated versions. I cannot say that I agree with “decaffeinated” beverages, as in order to make something decaffeinated, it has to be treated (and something that is “treated” is not natural). Unfortunately, many decaffeinated coffees are treated with chemicals.
Here is the good news!
Occasional, and moderate consumption of coffee is “fine,” because a healthy diet is much more crucial to an overall healthy lifestyle, than to worry about moderate coffee consumption (Try to get the fresh stuff). Generally speaking, however, the more we come to rely on coffee (caffeine) as a source of “energy,” the more of it we need to consume, as our tolerance builds. But if you love the taste, and can stop at one cup, don’t beat yourself up over it.
Just as alcohol, pharmaceutical medication, and recreational drugs, etc. are acid-forming in the body, so is caffeine, and therefore coffee. If you are looking to detox, or increase your overall health and well-being, you will want to focus on more alkaline-forming foods, and thus decrease coffee consumption.
Luckily, unlike other drugs, withdrawal from caffeine tends not to be severe. The most common negative side effects are headaches and fatigue. (Which of course is relatively insignificant when compared to the withdrawal from other addictive substances).
If you like the taste of coffee, and are looking to drink something more alkaline-forming, I recommend substituting coffee beans, for carob. Carob is a member of the legume family. The pulp of these carob pods is sweet, and tastes remarkably similar to a mixture of cocoa and coffee, sans the caffeine. Raw Carob is also alkaline-forming, where as, coffee and cocoa are acid-forming. If you are a coffee drinker, try to ween yourself off of it by filling your mug up with a concoction of hot water and carob powder– fill it up half way, then fill the rest of your mug up with your normal coffee (whether it be regular, or decaf).
The store was out of RAW Carob, so I picked up Shiloh Farms Carob powder. It is roughly $4.00 for a 12 oz bag. Generally, I will try to use a RAW Cocoa powder, as it is less processed, but any unsweetened cocoa will do.
For a coffee with less caffeine (and thus more alkaline)…
TRY: 1 part coffee + 1 part “hot carob water” + sweetener + “milk”
If caffeine is really what your seeking…
TRY: 1 part “hot carob water” + 1 part “hot cocoa water” + sweetener + “milk”
For even more of a caffeine boost…
TRY: 1 part “hot cocoa water” + sweetener + “milk”
(Generally, 2 tsp, or 1 tbsp, of carob powder, mixed with 1 cup of hot water, will create a nice flavor. If a recipe calls for cocoa, 1 tbsp of raw cocoa powder, mixed with 1 cup of hot water, should be sufficient).
Cocoa, although acid-forming, contains less “caffeine-like” substances than coffee. It is a mild stimulant. Make sure you make your own cocoa from scratch, by mixing unsweetened cocoa powder with your own nut milk (and/or hot water), and sweetener. I prefer to use NuNaturals Brand, Vanilla NuStevia, to sweeten. If you use an instant packet of hot cocoa, you will be mixing in tons of additives and/or sugar. Generally, restaurants like to make their hot cocoa– “comforting,” by adding in tons of cream and sugar. Your hot cocoa will be delicious too, but it will be entirely more alkaline-forming, and thus, “healthier.” Check out this Real Hot Chocolate, article, and recipe!
“Milk”– if you have been reading Diary of a Nutritionist, you know how I feel about milk. Instead of dairy, try using an almond or nut milk. If you have to use milk, make sure it is Organic WHOLE milk. The milk fat is easier to digest than the milk protein.
Sweetener: As I mentioned earlier, I love NuNaturals Vanilla NuStevia. I also enjoy their NuStevia powdered packets. Sugar and sugar substitutes (i.e. splenda, nutrasweet, sweetnlo, etc.), are chemically treated, and are not processed by the body. Substitute stevia (a natural herb/root).
THE NEW COFFEE:
Carob (with a sprinkling of raw cocoa powder)+ Almond Milk + NuNaturals Vanilla NuStevia– great taste, without the side effects… (I use the Magic Bullet to mix the ingredients and give it its frothy top).
P.S. All of the above ingredients can be cost effective. Carob = $4.00 per 12 oz bag, Almond Milk is about $3-4, NuStevia is about $9.99 for a box of 100 packets. You will only need about 1, as they are much sweeter than sugar. You can make a lot of “coffee” with those ingredients. Oh! And improve your health. That has got to count for something ;) ~~~~~~
What do you drink as a pick-me-up? What drinks do you enjoy? Have you ever tried carob?