If you're like me, you rely on a cup of coffee to help you get started first thing in the morning. A warm, steamy brew with an aroma that whiffs by gently as you take your first sip—just imagining it is enough to awaken the senses.
For centuries, we've been enchanted by this drug for its miraculous effects on our bodies. Since the early discovery of caffeine's stimulant effect, studies have since linked the drug to reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. But that caffeine also has a dark side. Drinking numerous cups in a day can leave you feeling jittery during the day and restless at night. Of course, caffeine tolerance varies by person, but four cups of coffee seems to be within the safe zone for healthy adults.
But what if it's midafternoon and you still crave that much-needed energy boost, minus the caffeine crash?
Here are seven alternatives you should try the next time you need a pick-me-up:
1. Chai teaChai is a combination of black tea and numerous spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. With its soothing, calming quality, it's no wonder this tea is practically India's national drink. Serve with a dash of milk and a teaspoon of the sweetener of your choice.
2. Hot carobCarob has been cultivated for thousands of years in the Mediterranean. Although it tastes similar to chocolate, carob is caffeine-free and has only one-third the calories. For these reasons, carob is a popular ingredient in health recipes. Hot carob makes a delicious substitute for coffee and hot chocolate. Just mix a tablespoon of carob powder into a cup of warm milk and add a bit of honey.
3. Lemon waterIt might not seem like it, but a glass of warm lemon water will help you feel alert and energized by hydrating you. The combination of lemon juice and water also helps digestion and promotes healthy skin. There've been a number of times when I felt like drinking coffee, but a lemon wedge squeezed into warm water did the trick.
4. Yerba mateNamed the "drink of the gods" by indigenous South Americans, this popular brew provides a gentle and calm energy buzz without the negative effects of coffee. Yerba mate is rich with metabolism-boosting nutrients and antioxidants. You can prepare yerba mate in a variety of ways—using the traditional mate cup, a coffeepot, or a French press, either hot or chilled.