The woman next to me at my workout class had on a tee shirt on that read, “But First, Coffee.” It’s a sentiment shared by many of us, who start each and every day clutching a hot cup of caffeine, either in the form of coffee or tea. Both are rich sources of antioxidants, and in moderation, are healthy—some researchers even say these beverages are as healthy as eating vegetables. But what are we stirring into our teacups and travel mugs? Oftentimes, it’s scoop of something processed, like bleached sugar or a chemical sweetener from a packet. Is there a better way? For this week’s healthy habit, try stirring a natural sweetener in your morning cuppa.
1. If you’re going low-calorie, try Stevia
You’ll find this as a granulated powder. It’s made from the leaf of an herb, Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni. It’s increasingly popular in the U.S., so much so that this summer, there’s a new soda, Coco-Cola Life, sweetened with stevia leaf, which shows just how mainstream it’s getting. Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, so use it sparingly.
2. If you’re avoiding table sugar, try Coconut Sugar
The attraction here is a lower glycemic index than white table sugar, with 35 on the index, compared with regular sugar’s 60 to 75, according to LiveStrong.com. This helps keep your insulin levels steadier. It also has some nutrients, including zinc, iron, calcium and potassium. Calorically, it’s the same as regular sugar, however.
3. If you’re a trend seeker, try Yacon Syrup
This low-glycemic sweetener is made from the tubers of the Yacon plant—they look like sweet potatoes. The juice is extracted and made into a rich syrup like molasses.
4. If you’re avoiding processed foods, try Rapadura Sugar
Sugar isn’t a health food by any stretch, but rapadura, an unrefined cane sugar, at least contains some goodies like vitamins and minerals—A, B-1, B-2, B-6, and niacin—as well as iron.
5. If you’re a tea sipper, try honey
Not only is honey sweet, early research suggests it may improve memory in women going through menopause, reports the Mayo Clinic. And for tea lovers, tea and honey are a classic pairing, as the flavors are complementary. The website Benefits of Honey had some suggestions for what blends the best:
- Avocado honey with Earl Grey tea
- Clover honey with lemon or mint tea
- Tupelo honey with jasmine tea
- Eucalyptus honey with Irish Breakfast tea
- Orange blossom honey with black tea, such as Ceylon and Darjeeling
- Sage honey with intense tea flavors, such as orange spice, lemon, and mint.
For more on tea, see the special insert “Tea: Handheld Meditation” in our September issue.
Let us know how you like to keep your mornings sweet? Tell us in the comments section, below.