Who doesn’t look forward to the first cup of coffee in the morning? Or maybe it’s a glass of orange juice. But the statistics say that coffee leads the list of favorites, as you may well have guessed.
Coffee has always been a good and bad luxury. Some would say coffee has some great health benefits like its rich in antioxidants. And some studies show it may promote insulin sensitivity or have protective effects on the brain. But on the flipside there are those who say coffee could possibly do more harm than good.
Medical reports have indicated that coffee can put you at risk for heart disease or high blood pressure. These same studies show that people who have high blood pressure and who regularly drink coffee can have stiffer arteries than those who do not drink coffee.
If the cells lining your arteries become stiff, they can’t relax and open the arteries for proper blood flow. This means blood clots are more likely to become lodged, cutting off the flow of blood and triggering a heart attack or stroke.
Folks at risk for heart disease or who have high blood pressure may then be tempted to switch to decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated is certainly a better option but not one I recommend for many patients.
The process of decaffeination typically uses chemicals that may be dangerous to the body. Safer methods increase the acidity of the coffee and can lead to stomach upset and discomfort. Decaffeinated coffee won’t reduce the risks to your heart either. In one study, switching from regular coffee to decaf actually increased LDL cholesterol levels.
A Morning Beverage You Can Enjoy Without Worry
There are several enjoyable alternatives to coffee that you can try.
Roasted Soy Coffee: One alternative you may not have heard of is soy beans roasted to brew like coffee. Roasted soy coffee brews just like regular coffee and has a pleasing taste for most people. It provides a good caffeine-free option that’s not acidic and won’t damage your heart. When I first heard about soy coffee, I was unsure about the taste but it’s really quite good.
Steamed Milk: This is a great alternative for having a cup of coffee, this warm and comforting drink can get your morning off to a good start. Just warm some milk on the stove or use your espresso steamer. Be careful not to bring it to a boil. Once it’s warm, you can add a little sugar or stevia and a bit of vanilla or hazelnut extract. Then enjoy.
Herbal Tea: Herbal teas are an excellent drink for anyone who wants to kick their coffee habit. Most herbal teas are rich in antioxidants. There are also dozens of varieties. My favorite for the morning is ginseng tea—it gives you a natural boost to start your day off right.
If you are addicted to caffeine, there will be a period of adjustment as you switch to a heart-healthier morning drink—expect some mild headaches for the first week. But once, those pass, you’ll have a tasty alternative and the peace of mind that comes with taking good care of your heart.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.