Trying to Quit Coffee? Try These 4 Healthy Energy-Boosting Alternatives
If a significant portion of your paycheck goes toward funding your coffee habit, you’re def not alone — but too much coffee (like any good thing) can be, well, just too much. If your morning cold brew habit is starting to make you feel more buggy than buzzy, it may be time to consider another option. “Caffeine can give you temporary physical and mental energy, but when the effects wear off, you feel more tired and want even more caffeine,” says Erin Stokes, ND, medical director at MegaFood. Turns out, a few of our fave adaptogenic herbs have natural energy-boosting qualities — sans cranky-making caffeine. Here’s the scoop on the caffeine-free alternatives that’ll still give you that required a.m. jumpstart (without the jitters).
1. Power up with Maca. Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) is an edible tuber sourced from Peru with powerful antioxidant and adaptogenic properties. A member of the cruciferous family, Maca is a well-known hormone balancer and can improve energy and stamina by acting on the adrenal glands. Animal studies have shown Maca may also improve memory and focus. Maca is also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin C, copper, and iron, which makes it a great addition to your post-workout routine. Start with one tablespoon of the powder form — try a scoop of the powdered form in your smoothie or your morning cuppa (habits are hard to break!) — and work up to 2-3 tablespoons. Alternatively, try a fun herbal coffee alternative:
2. Clear the fog with mucuna. A new wellness world favorite, Mucuna puriens is a magic, velvety bean (literally, it’s a legume!) that’s used as a coffee substitute in Central America. The bean extract contains high levels of the amino acid levodopa, a precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which bestows happy, blissed-out vibes. A true adaptogen, mucuna helps the body better adapt to stress, supports nervous system function, is neuroprotective and improves energy and endurance. A small daily dose works best: In Ayurveda, it’s traditionally combined with milk and honey as a nourishing tonic. Stir 1/8 teaspoon into your soup, smoothie or tea — mucuna’s neutral taste is nearly undetectable.
(Note that mucuna may interact with SSRIs or Parkinson’s meds — so ask your doc before consuming, as with any new supplement.)
3. Get elevated with Ashwagandha. Another Ayurvedic staple, ashwagandha root (Withania Somnifera) is a potent herb known for its energy-boosting and stress-relieving effects (a true one-two punch!). It’s revered in Ayurveda for providing “energy through calm,” and its stress benefits have been backed by research — ashwagandha is a key player in helping balance the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (AKA the HPA axis), which controls the body’s response to stress. It also has brain-supportive effects that are purported to reduce anxiety and nervousness while boosting memory and cognition. Caffeine tries to pull energy out of the body, says Stokes, when in fact “the secret to replenishing your energy tank is a more comprehensive approach, including adaptogens like ashwagandha that are nourishing and balancing to our bodies’ natural stress response.” Take a low dose daily and double it during high-stress times: The adaptogen-heavy Cosmic Cocoa from Moon Juice is a favorite for chocolate lovers.
Moon Juice Cosmic Cocoa ($30)
4. Feel invincible with reishi. A medicinal mushroom with over 2,000 years of history of use in China, reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is powerful medicine. Known to boost immunity, support the body’s detoxification process, and balance blood sugar, reishi has also been shown to boast antitumor and anticancer properties, all of which play into its long-revered powers of “enhancing vital energy” and “spiritual potency.” In terms of energy and focus, reishi has been shown to boost memory by increasing nerve growth factor and thereby stimulating brain neuronal activity. As an adaptogen, it also mediates the stress response and balances hormones. Get your hands on some mushroom chai, stat.
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