On its own, coffee is packed with health-giving antioxidants, but it’s rarely the health drink it could be, thanks to the ways most people customize it. The same is true for tea.
There are many ways you can help ensure that your coffee habit is a healthy one. Here are 8 simple ways to make your coffee (or tea) a brain-healthy and planet-friendly option.
Choose organic coffee or tea.
Both crops tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides (sometimes ones that are banned in North America but legal in the countries where these crops are grown), so you may be getting more than just coffee or tea when you select anything but organic.
Choose fair trade for a healthy conscience.
Coffee is big business. According to the United Nations, it is the second most widely traded commodity (after oil). As such, its growth and harvesting are subjected to a wide variety of exploitive labor conditions, including child labor, in some countries.
Skip the sugar.
Or if you must have it, select a sweetener such as organic coconut sugar, which has fewer grams per teaspoon of sugar (3 grams) than white or brown sugar (4 grams). It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but over time that means you’ll have cut your coffee’s sugar content by 25% with almost no effort. Coconut sugar contains chromium and other natural minerals that aid sugar metabolism in your body. Better yet, use the natural herb stevia, which contains no sugar and is a brain-healthy option.
Pass on the flavored syrups.
Most are made with high fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to weight gain and obesity. They also contain artificial flavors and preservatives, such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Potassium sorbate has been shown in human studies to be both genotoxic and mutagenic. That means it damages genetic material and can cause mutations linked to disease. Sodium benzoate converts to the carcinogen benzene in your body.
Say goodbye to sugar-free syrups and artificial sweeteners, too.
If you’re thinking that you’re safe because you only use sugar-free syrups and artificial sweeteners, think again. Not only do these syrups usually contain the above-mentioned preservatives, but they also typically contain one of the following dangerous synthetic sweeteners: Splenda, Sweet’N Low, or AminoSweet. Contrary to claims that Splenda is a sugar substitute suitable for weight loss, it (sucralose) was shown by Duke University scientists to increase body weight, be absorbed by fat cells, and reduce beneficial intestinal flora by 50%, which further contributes to inflammatory illnesses—including brain diseases.
Sweet’N Low (saccharin) is a coal tar derivative that has been linked to breathing difficulties, headaches, skin eruptions, and diarrhea. AminoSweet (the new name for aspartame) has been linked to an enormous list of health conditions, including brain tumors, depression, headaches and migraines, joint pain, chronic fatigue, and more.
Skip the whip.
Adding whipped cream to your coffee adds about 100 calories to each drink. That’s an extra 36,500 calories a year if you only drink one a day.
Pick milk alternatives over cow’s milk.
If you’re going to add milk to your coffee, choose milk alternatives, and it’s best to pick almond, rice, or organic soy (other soy is genetically modified) milk. Cow’s milk is not the health food the dairy bureaus would have us believe it is.
Definitely skip the coffee whitener.
It is made from corn syrup solids, which are almost always genetically modified and which typically contain brain-damaging trans fats. The companies that make them are not required to report the trans fats because the serving size is so small, but it adds up to a lot of trans fats when you drink this stuff a few times a day, every day.