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Functional Food
|personal story

I Ditched Coffee For This Caffeine-Free Energizing Herb & It Totally Changed My Life

October 9, 2018

For as long as I can remember, starting my morning with a hot cup of coffee has been, dare I say, a spiritual experience. However, as a healthy lifestyle expert, I am well aware of the fact that coffee isn't for everyone, and there are even potential health issues associated with drinking coffee. For one, many coffee beans contain mycotoxins and mold1, toxic secondary metabolites produced by organisms of the fungus kingdom that can cause sickness. Caffeine also increases cortisol2, the famous stress hormone, and depletes our body of magnesium and B vitamins that are essential for balancing hormones. So what's a coffee-loving girl to do?

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Meet dandelion tea.

After much research, I stumbled upon a drink that made giving up my morning coffee a breeze: dandelion tea. While the name might make you think of that pesky spring weed that pops up in the most random of places, this tea is exotic and full of powerful health benefits. This vibrant and colorful yellow weed has roots and leaves that have been used in teas throughout the northern hemisphere for centuries. Brought to the New World in the 17th century by European settlers, dandelion tea was used medicinally3 to treat fevers, boils, eye problems, diarrhea, fluid retention, liver congestion, heartburn, and skin ailments, and it helped support digestion.

According to a 2013 study, 74 percent of Americans suffer from some form of digestive issue. What makes dandelion root tea healing for our digestive fire is the bitter taste that stimulates gastric juices to improve bile flow. Like my beloved coffee, dandelion tea has a similar diuretic effect on the body4.

But does it taste good?

If you've ever bought dandelion leaves at your local health store and attempted to put them in a salad, you're aware of their incredibly bitter and spicy flavor. Americans are not partial to this taste, since bitter and pungent foods are not commonly found in our diets.

While I knew I wanted to make the shift from my delicious warm cup of coffee in the morning to this superfood tea, would I have to sacrifice taste? Upon trying my first cup of dandelion tea, I recoiled. The taste was pungent and earthy, and I may or may not have had to plug my nose to finish the rest of the cup. But I was not a quitter! After several weeks of trying the tea, I realized that I wasn't applying the same creativity to my tea that I had to my sacred morning coffee. I was not a black coffee kind of girl and always rotated a mix of ingredients like coconut butter, ghee, cinnamon, and homemade nut milks to my morning coffee. And I also realized that I had to try many coffee brands until I found a blend that I liked. Thus, I realized I needed to step up my morning tea game.

After much trial and error, I found several brands that have created rich and flavorful blends to satisfy my relatively simple American palate. My favorite is The Republic of Tea's Dandelion Blend, which is spiked with French vanilla. I love adding a steamed cup of homemade vanilla walnut milk and monk fruit for a very sweet morning experience.

For my die-hard coffee fans, I highly recommend Teeccino's Dandelion Caramel Nut Tea. This tea has a smooth and rich finish due to the French chicory that is commonly added to coffee. As fall approaches, this is a great base for a homemade Pumpkin Spiced Latte, with coconut whipped cream, pumpkin spice, and Ceylon cinnamon.

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But what if you need your caffeine fix?

Dandelion tea is caffeine-free—but hear me out. I know that, to morning coffee drinkers, getting that burst of energy is what makes coffee so appealing; however, you might actually experience more energy by reducing your caffeine intake altogether. "Caffeine prevents the neurotransmitter called adenosine from signaling to your body that you are tired. However, your brain begins to anticipate when these effects are coming, especially if you drink coffee daily around the same time," says Mariza Snyder, D.C. By consuming a morning drink that is caffeine-free, your body will learn to make its own energy rather than rely on your daily dose of coffee to stimulate your nervous system.

Intrigued? Play around and experiment. Make your morning tea in your own delicious, creative way. Add different spices and flavors like cinnamon or vanilla extract. Try it iced, or enjoy it warm. And mix it up! Incorporate the tea a few days a week and have your cup of joe on the others. Life is all about balance.

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Alexandra Catalano
Alexandra Catalano
mbg Food Contributor

Alexandra Catalano, based in Van Nuys, California, is a holistic nutritionist, author, TEDx speaker, healthy lifestyle expert, and creator of the popular lifestyle brand Eat Cute. She received her bachelor's in music and communication from the University of Southern California and her Health Coach certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Traveling the country, Catalano lectures at colleges and corporate events, providing nutritional counseling, meal plans, cooking demonstrations, and cleanse programs. She has appeared on the Hallmark Channel's Home and Family, FOX Good Day LA, Lifetime Network's Supermarket Superstar, WGN Chicago News, The CW, San Diego Living, Comedy Central, and The Elite Daily Show. She has written health articles for publications like Oxygen, Muscle & Fitness, FOX News magazine, Brit Co., Paleo magazine, and more.