3 Sustainable Alternatives To Coffee
For many of us, coffee is a non-negotiable start to the day. We find it hard to imagine sustaining sufficient alertness to do our jobs without at least one cup, maybe more. Unfortunately, coffee usage is a double-edged sword. Research shows that while coffee in moderation does, in fact, improve mood and concentration, higher doses may adversely affect productivity. One study from 1997 demonstrated that a 250 mg dose of caffeine produced favorable effects of enhanced mood and cognitive performance, however those who received a 500 mg dose of caffeine experienced “performance disruption” as well as unpleasant side effects including anxiety, irritability, nausea, and palpitations.
One single 8 oz cup of brewed coffee contains approximately 80mg of caffeine, so it’s perilously easy for regular coffee drinkers to overshoot and consume more caffeine than is beneficial. If you’re looking to moderate your coffee consumption without completely giving up on your caffeine fix, there are several alternatives that offer a lower dose and a more sustainable way to enjoy its benefits without triggering its downsides. In this article, we’ll explore three of them.
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1) Black and green tea
Both black and green tea come from the same plant, called Camellia sinensis. Black tea is far more commonly consumed and comes from the fermented leaves of the plant, whereas green tea is made from unfermented leaves. Black tea contains about 50 mg of caffeine in the average brewed cup, so just like coffee, it should be consumed in moderation. Green tea contains 30-50mg of caffeine in the average cup. On the other hand, both green and black tea are high in antioxidants, making them popular choices for those seeking a boost of energy with a side of health-promoting properties.
Matcha is a powdered form of green tea. It too comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and is prepared in a way that makes it stronger than regular teas. Matcha is especially popular in Asian countries. It comes in the form of a finely ground powder and has several uses including giving soba noodles their flavor and green tea ice cream its color. When consumed as a tea it is suspended in water or milk, instead of steeping in a teabag.
Matcha has gained its popularity due to high concentrations of theanine, which is thought to reduce stress. It also contains high concentrations of catechins and polyphenols, antioxidants that have been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and may even fight against cancer and arthritis. An 8 oz cup of matcha tea has about 70 mg of caffeine. However, this can vary widely given the various grades of matcha (ceremonial, premium, and cooking grade) as well as ways of preparing it (“thick tea” or “thin tea”). Since matcha has relatively high concentrations of caffeine, the same safety precautions that apply to overconsumption of caffeine apply to matcha.
3) Yerba mate
An herbal tea with its roots in South America, namely Paraguay, yerba mate, or mate (pronounced “mah-tay”) for short, has gained popularity worldwide for its capacity to boost energy. It comes from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis tree and is traditionally served in a gourd with a special straw designed to filter out the tiny leaf fragments as it is consumed. You may recall the popular scene from the show Mozart in the Jungle where the maestro’s assistant diligently watches a video in order to learn how to prepare the maestro’s mate just right.
Yerba mate has approximately 40-50 mg of caffeine per cup. Less than coffee, but by no means a negligible quantity. It has been shown to provide a myriad of health benefits including reducing cholesterol, fighting obesity, and protecting against heart disease, although much more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions on these benefits.
Although mate is a more sustainable choice than coffee, it’s not without its drawbacks. Long-term consumption at high levels has been correlated with various forms of cancer, including cancer of the lungs, cervix, prostate, gastrointestinal tract, kidney, and bladder. While it’s important to note that this isn’t a definitive causal relationship, mate drinkers should take regular breaks from consumption, and restrict themselves to a maximum of three cups per day.
Different ways to consume caffeine
Caffeine is deeply embedded in our culture of high achievement. While it undoubtedly does have benefits, those benefits diminish at higher levels of consumption, to be replaced by considerable risks. As the most caffeine-rich beverage, coffee presents the highest level of risk. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to cut down your caffeine consumption, you may find it difficult or impossible to give it up completely.
In these circumstances, you may find that the alternatives described above allow you to retain the focus and mood-boosting effects of caffeine consumption, without incurring the negative effects.
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