10 Drinks to Replace Your Morning Coffee That Will Help You Stay Awake

Drinking too much coffee can be detrimental because of its high caffeine content. "Too much caffeine may pose a danger to your health," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns. There are several other drinks that can help you stay awake in the morning aside from coffee.

Americans are drinking "more coffee than ever," according to a March 2020 report by the National Coffee Association. The average American coffee drinker has just over three cups per day, according to the report.

For healthy adults, the FDA says 400 mg of caffeine a day (about four or five cups of coffee) is "an amount not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects." An 8-oz. cup of coffee contains around 80 to 100 mg of caffeine.

"However, there is wide variation in both how sensitive people are to the effects of caffeine and how fast they metabolize it (break it down)," the FDA warns.

Here are some morning coffee alternatives that can help keep you awake.

Hot cacao

Brewed cacao is a low caffeine drink that is rich in theobromine, a mild central nervous system stimulant. It offers all the "decadent flavors of dark chocolate, without any of the sugar and fat, and virtually no calories," licensed dietitian/nutritionist Monica Reinagel wrote in an article for Food & Nutrition.

"Although an afternoon cup of tea or coffee often feels incomplete without a little something to go with it, a cup of brewed cacao, with or without a splash of milk, feels completely satisfying.

"Brewed cacao actually is nothing new. It was enjoyed by native Central Americans as early as 1,500 BC," she added.

Black tea

Black tea can give coffee lovers their caffeine fix plus other health benefits. An 8-oz. cup of black tea has around half as much caffeine as that in an 8-oz. cup of coffee, according to the FDA.

"Keep in mind that the actual caffeine content of a cup of coffee or tea can vary quite a bit. Factors such as processing and brewing time affect the caffeine level," the Mayo Clinic, the American academic center says.

Registered dietitian Marie Spano told the American Council on Exercise (ACE): "The combination of caffeine and naturally occurring L-theanine produces a dose-dependent alert, yet relaxed state, though a few cups may be needed to notice an effect.

"Those who drink three or more cups of black tea daily have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, and there is also research to suggest that tea may help prevent some types of cancers in some individuals," Spano added.

Green tea

Green tea is another healthy alternative to coffee in the morning. A cup of green tea also has roughly half the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, according to the FDA.

Dr. Anthony Kouri from the University of Toledo Medical Center told Bustle: "The caffeine in green tea helps to improve mental acuity as well as [increased] metabolism.

"Multiple studies have shown that people who drink green tea are much less likely to get bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers. In addition, research indicates that green tea helps reduce type 2 diabetes and heart disease," Kouri said.

Matcha is a type of green tea that is more nutrient-dense than standard green tea because "unlike normal teas, you're actually drinking the entire matcha leaf, not just the tea water," according to registered dietitian McKel Hill, the author of Nutrition Stripped: 100 Whole-Food Recipes Made Deliciously Simple.

Matcha's "subtle caffeine content helps with focus, which could be because theanine increases serotonin, dopamine, GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid] and glycine levels in the brain," Hill told ACE.

Chicory coffee

Chicory is a flowering plant from the dandelion family whose leaves are often used in salads. Its roots, which are naturally caffeine free, are roasted, ground and brewed to make chicory coffee. With a slightly woody and nutty flavor, the chicory-based drink has a similar taste to coffee, according Rachael Link, a registered dietitian based in New York City.

Chicory coffee is believed to have originated in the 1800s in France during a coffee shortage. "Desperate for a similar substitute, people began mixing chicory roots into their coffee to get their coffee fix.

"Years later during the Civil War, it also became popular in New Orleans when the city experienced a coffee shortage after Union naval blockades cut off one of their ports," Link wrote in an article for Healthline.

Yerba mate tea

Yerba mate is another herbal tea and its caffeine content has been shown to enhance mental focus and energy levels. Some advocates say mate tea doesn't give drinkers the jittery feeling associated with coffee, according to a Healthline article reviewed by Dr. Debra Rose, a health psychologist and nurse.

While mate has nutrients known for their anti-inflammatory and stimulant effects, drinking mate tea also comes with some health risks.

Registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky from the Mayo Clinic warns: "Yerba mate isn't likely to pose a risk for healthy adults who occasionally drink it. However, some studies indicate that people who drink large amounts of yerba mate over long periods may be at increased risk of some types of cancer, such as cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs.

"Drinking very hot yerba mate—149 F (65 C) or hotter—is associated with a higher risk of cancer than is drinking yerba mate at cooler temperatures," she adds.

Kombucha

Willow Jarosh, a registered dietician-nutritionist and health expert for Health-Ade Kombucha drink brand, told Bustle: "Kombucha uses tea as its fermentation medium, so drinkers get the benefits of L-theanine working along with the caffeine to create a more even energy without jitters.

"But, kombucha contains less caffeine per cup than a plain old cup of tea, so for people who want a mild and gentle caffeine boost, kombucha is great. In addition, it delivers probiotic bacteria as well as a wake-you-up fizziness," she adds.

Golden milk

Made with several spices including ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper, this caffeine-free traditional Indian drink is a comforting yet invigorating concoction that's sure to wake your senses in the morning. Cardamom, vanilla and honey can also be added to the mix.

Dr. Kouri told Bustle: "The spices making up golden milk have strong anti-inflammatory properties due to the chemical curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. Some studies have demonstrated that consuming 500 mg of curcumin is equivalent to 50 mg of arthritis (anti-inflammatory) medication."

Nut and seed milk

This milk drink keeps your blood sugar levels balanced in the morning and gives you a nutrient boost to start your day.

Made from almonds as well as pumpkin and poppy seeds, and spices including cardamom and fresh ginger, the drink "contains magnesium, iron, calcium, protein and fiber," Indu Arora, a yoga and Ayurveda medicine therapist, told ACE.

"The nourishment it provides makes it an ideal morning beverage to keep blood sugar levels balanced, while also reducing inflammation and supporting the nervous system," she added.

Apple cider vinegar

The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar (ACV), which is made by fermenting crushed apples using yeast and bacteria, may also help balance blood sugar levels, according to some studies, says Makayla Meixner, a registered dietitian based in Colorado.

"For example, one study found that when people with insulin resistance drank 20 grams (0.5 tablespoons) of ACV before a meal, their rise in blood sugar levels was reduced by 64 percent. However, this effect was not seen in people with type 2 diabetes," Meixner wrote in a Healthline article.

For a morning drink, combine one or two tablespoons of raw or unfiltered apple cider vinegar with a cup of cold water. You can also add one or two tablespoons of honey or another sweetener. But the tangy taste also helps to wake you up in the morning.

Meixner warns: "Do not drink ACV without diluting it first. ACV contains 4–6 percent of acetic acid which may burn your mouth and throat. It can also wear away tooth enamel if used regularly, so swishing water before and after drinking ACV is recommended."

Lemon water

Squeeze half a lemon into a glass of water for a quick but potent vitamin C boost to start your day. At six calories, this virtually calorie-free zesty drink provides the refreshing energy kick you need (minus the caffeine) to help wake you up in the morning.

Internal medicine specialist Roxanne B. Sukol told the Cleveland Clinic, an academic medical center in Ohio: "Most of us don't drink enough water. A daily lemon water habit is an easy way to get your day off on the right foot.

"Plus you'll get more than a sixth of your daily vitamin C, which is needed to protect us from cell damage and repair injury," she added.

Smoothies

Create your own healthy concoction with all your favorite fruits and vegetables for a satisfying, energy-boosting morning drink to replace your coffee.

Natalie Allen, a registered dietitian and biomedical sciences instructor at Missouri State University, told Bustle: "Adding a protein, such as yogurt, will help fill you up. Smoothies are a great start to the day with carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants and protein."

Coffee cup
A woman pouring an espresso into a cup at a coffee shop in Cardiff, U.K. in October 2018. Matthew Horwood/Getty

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