Legal or not, coffee is an addictive drug that affects your body’s and brain’s chemistry. Anyone who drinks coffee regularly and cannot go more than a couple of days without ‘feeling like’ (needing) a cup is very likely addicted to it.
I was. I drank a cup or two a day most days of the week for many years. In researching this and the previous page on coffee and digestion, I simply came up with too many reasons not to drink coffee to continue drinking it.
There were two things that particularly surprised me in replacing coffee.
The first was how much calmer I felt, even only a couple of days after my last cup. The tension I’d often felt in my shoulders in the past, and would usually take breaks from writing for, was diminishing (and it seems to be continuing to do so even more, now caffeine free for several months since I first wrote this).
The second was how easy it was.
I don’t mean to lessen how difficult it can be for some people, particularly heavier users of coffee, to give it up. Medical literature has a long list of reported caffeine withdrawal symptoms. These include fatigue and low energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness, tension and muscle stiffness, caffeine withdrawal headaches, and I’m sure there’s many more ways of saying – “I don’t feel that good without my caffeine hit”.
The next few posts are about how to diminish and even avoid as many of the symptoms of withdrawal as possible. If you’re ready to replace coffee with healthier alternatives, I’d suggest there are three things that can help to make it happen with a minimum of stress or withdrawal symptoms.
Three Steps to Replacing Coffee
1. Admit that you are addicted to a drug called caffeine. That this drug is legal and socially acceptable in our society isn’t really relevant. Heroin hydrochloride was once legal and sold as cough medicine and the very destructive drug nicotine is still legal and making people cough.
I’m not suggesting of course that caffeine is as bad as heroin or nicotine, just that its addictive nature makes it, by definition, a drug. And a drug that may be having more serious consequences for many people than they currently realize.
If a person chooses not to use a substance like caffeine and yet they feel compelled to use it again in a short time regardless, then they are addicted to it. I don’t know about you but I don’t like any substance having that much control over me.
If you don’t believe you’re addicted to coffee and the caffeine in it then why not try the upcoming 10 Steps to Giving Up Coffee for a week or two and see if it improves your energy and well being. If you choose you can always go back. At least you will have proven to yourself that you actually have a choice.
As for being a legal and socially acceptable drug, this really doesn’t change the nature of the drug and the effects it may be having on you. We are fortunate that more and more people are demanding healthier alternatives to drink and the caffeine-free options at restaurants and cafes are extensive. Additionally, most of the coffee alternatives I’ll suggest ahead are easy to take to work and when traveling.
2. Get some momentum on yourself and motivation as to why you want to replace coffee. This was key for me. Having a strong enough reason why.
At some level I probably knew that coffee wasn’t that good for me. But when I really looked deeply into just how damaging it can be, I found I just didn’t want to drink it anymore.
If you haven’t read the previous post on the 7 Digestive Problems with Coffee it’s worth taking a few minutes now for some extra motivation.
3. Plan a time to start and have your coffee replacements and Caffeine Withdrawal Remedies ready.
The physiological effects of the caffeine in coffee are well-documented, but in any addiction it’s also worth remembering the psychological power of habit and ritual. If you know that you drink coffee at a certain time and in certain situations it’s very important to have your replacements ready.
Starting on a weekend or other time away from work is a good idea too, as many of us are on autopilot at the start of the working day. Given this, you may find a cup of coffee in your hand at the same time as usual without even realizing what you’ve done.
On the other hand, if you start on a Saturday when most people are usually more aware of their day, you have two days of retraining the habit and for most people any withdrawal symptoms will be greatly diminished by Monday.
5 Healthier Coffee Alternatives
For people who want to replace coffee but really like the taste of it, Teeccino has been a godsend. There have been coffee alternatives in the past but it seems that the taste has never really been up to scratch.
Teeccino is a rare thing, being a direct, tastes like coffee substitute, where most people who try it seem to really like the taste of it. Even better, it’s ingredients include organic carob, barley and chicory root with inulin and could actually be good for your digestive health. Additionally, drinking Teeccino may have an alkalizing effect on the body. That’s very different to the acidity of coffee.
My favorite flavors are Java and Maya Chocolate but there are around a dozen flavors in the Teeccino range at Amazon and some sound really good. The best value seems to be in the three packs. You keep the bags in the fridge and make them up as you would regular coffee grounds in a filter or french press.
There is a special method for using Teeccino to give up coffee slowly and minimize caffeine withdrawal symptoms in the post on Extra Tips for Coffee Substitution. This would have to be one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to replace coffee.
2. Peppermint Tea
My favorite coffee replacement is a good peppermint tea. It has no caffeine but peppermint tea has a refreshing and invigorating energy to it that is perhaps more subtle, but definitely more easy to work with, than the jittery jolt of the strong caffeine in coffee.
A warm cup of peppermint tea can be a great way to replace coffee for people who need something to get them going in the morning. There is much more on the digestive benefits of peppermint tea in this previous page.
My favorite brand, with a much better strength than most, is Heather’s tummy tea also available in both extra strong organic peppermint teabags and loose organic peppermint tea which is probably better value if you have a french press.
3. Ginger Tea
Like peppermint tea, ginger tea is both energizing and great for improving digestion. If you like ginger, a good strong ginger tea can really wake you up if you’re tired and improve your mood if the day isn’t going that well. If you haven’t been a fan in the past try a blend with lemon for a refreshing taste.
My favorite brand with a real zing to it is Triple Leaf ginger tea. Another good blend for digestion in particular is Yogi ginger herbal tea. Ginger tea has traditionally been used to settle an upset stomach and can also help reduce bloating and flatulence making it a great drink to replace coffee with.
While I think these teas above taste great as they are, some people may like a bit of sweetness in them. Stevia, a plant-extract originally from South America, is a far healthier alternative to sugar or artificial sweeteners. A few drops of liquid stevia will sweeten your tea without the calories of sugar or the questionable compounds in artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Green tea does have some caffeine in it, but it is much less than in coffee and various compounds in green tea can be beneficial to our health. For some people, reducing their caffeine intake down by switching to organic green tea and its lower caffeine content can be a real help in replacing coffee.
Once you’ve made the switch to green tea and have got through the initial caffeine withdrawal symptoms, there are healthy decaffeinated green tea options. These don’t appear to have same issues normally associated with decaffeinated coffee as the decaffeination process is done in a different way.
Unfortunately, decaffeinated coffee can’t be recommended as the caffeine is only part of the problem. For some reason decaf coffee seems to provoke acidity in the stomach even more than regular coffee. More on this in a previous post on coffee and digestion.
5. Chamomile Tea
For anyone feeling a little tense as coffee lets go of its grip on them, chamomile tea can be a relaxing and soothing drink. Caffeine-free like ginger and peppermint tea, chamomile tea has been shown to help relaxation, reduce tension and improve sleep.
This tea is perhaps not the best for getting going first thing in the morning, but should you find yourself a bit stressed out later in the day, chamomile is a good tea to go for. Though there is no research I know of on this, it also seems to be good for caffeine withdrawal headaches.
Celestial Seasonings make a great chamomile tea with a subtly sweet, almost apple flavor. I also like the organic Yogi chamomile tea. You can also find some blends available, with herbs like lavender and passionflower, designed specifically for helping sleep that would be great to have in the evening before bed.
These are my favorite healthy coffee alternatives and I believe switching to them can be an effective way to replace coffee. To make the whole process much easier though, combine them with the Caffeine Withdrawal Remedies on the next page and the 10 Steps to Giving Up Coffee ahead.