How to do you take your coffee in the morning? A teaspoon of sugar or even a lump of butter perhaps? The early energy booster of many, we each have our go-to ways for getting the best out of our brews however, many of us are becoming increasingly more creative with our cuppas by swapping sugar and a splash of milk for a sprinkling of ‘superfoods’ and other interesting extras instead.
Saves for ‘healthy coffees’ on Pinterest are up by a whopping 218 per cent, with wider benefits and a longer-lasting energy boost rather than a ‘crash and burn’ caffeine kick piquing the interests of many (particularly younger millennial coffee drinkers*). It’s a trend that's gathered momentum in recent years following the buzz surrounding high-fat coffee - a method of preparation that involves adding grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil or MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil, try T iana High Strength 100% Pure MCT Oil, £17.99 ) to your morning mug for a performance-enhancing boost. Popularised by Bulletproof coffee , the Paleo-friendly technique is commonly used by those doing intermittent fasting as a useful way to extend an overnight fast and maintain the body’s fat-burning state by encouraging it to continue using fat rather than carbohydrates as fuel.
However, while the trend to ‘pimp’ our coffee is picking up pace, there’s a lot to be said for the health benefits of coffee in its pure form. Interestingly, a recent study carried out by Imperial College London and the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that coffee drinkers could live longer than non-coffee drinkers suggesting, that if part of an otherwise healthy lifestyle, it could provide more far-reaching benefits than a quick energy boost. “Coffee in itself isn’t unhealthy,” says nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik, a coffee fan herself. "On the contrary, since it provides a good source of antioxidant polyphenols and fibre that helps to support gut health. Obviously, if you drink a lot and are sensitive to caffeine then you may have to pass.”
In her opinion, the same benefits stand whether it’s in its instant form (as in dried) or fresh from beans however, taste and flavour do tend to be better in the latter and there are some who might argue antioxidants are higher too.
With this in mind, there’s no huge need to part ways from your regular cuppa just yet - but if you’re craving something that could help reduce Java-induced jitteriness, a protein fix or a way to boost your Bulletproof coffee, try these add-ons recommended by nutritionists who know and love their coffee.
1. Medicinal mushrooms
With their roots in ancient Chinese and ayurvedic medicine, adaptogenic herbs and ingredients are still being used today as a way of fighting fatigue. “The addition of cordyceps (a type of medicinal mushroom) to coffee is rather interesting and can help reduce the jittery effects of coffee,” says Eve. “It helps to balance and manage the release of cortisol that supports many processes in the body including the stress response.”
Her go-to is Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee Mix , £8.75, which can be drunk with or without milk. Taste-wise, expect it be a little more ‘earthy’ than your usual cup, and due to the fact that it doesn’t cause cortisol levels to spike as much as regular caffeinated coffee, it won’t be as detrimental to sleep if drunk later on in the day.
2. Collagen powder
“Not only is collagen a protein fix, but it can also help skin, joints and digestive health,” says nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shaughnessy . “It also helps balance blood sugar and to prevent spikes,” he adds which can be useful in counteracting feelings of overstimulation or the inevitable slump that can occur after drinking regular coffee ( cinnamon is also great in this regard).
Collagen is tasteless and doesn't change the texture of your drink when you stir or blend it in. Daniel recommends Great Lakes Gelatin Co. Collagen Hydrolysate , £39.99, which contains a hydrolyzed form of beef collagen which can be easily absorbed by the digestive tract. A 10g serving of collagen also works well as a boost to a cup of Bulletproof coffee too. If you're not a meat eater try Zenii Pro Collagen Powder, £65 which is made from hydrolysed marine (ie fish) collagen. Marine collage tends to be more expensive than bovine.
3. Maca root powder
Another adaptogen, this Peruvian herb’s recent surge in popularity stems from its abilities to boost energy in both the short and long term. Daniel recommends adding it to either freshly brewed coffee or again, high-fat Bulletproof-style coffee, to help support the adrenal glands and regulate cortisol levels. It provides slow-releasing energy and some studies have shown that it can help with endurance sports such as cycling, improve cognitive function and even help with depression. Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Raw Maca Powder , £8.99, is a favourite of Daniel’s and is Soil Association certified.
4. Vitamin Coffee
This subscription box service delivers a serving of caffeine, vitamins and minerals in one fell swoop. Comprising of three blends of roasted beans sourced from Asia, Africa and Central America, the three variations from the line each address a specific concern. ‘Defence’ contains a dose of vitamins C and D to help boost immunity, ‘Energy’ contains extra caffeine in addition to B vitamins for those in need a morning workout pick-me-up and ‘Complete’ contains 14 different vitamins and minerals to act as the all-rounder of the group. Coming in at £5.95 for 14 servings and with mild, medium and strong dark roasts to choose from, it provides a fresh take on the concept of convenience coffees.
5. Coffee and cacao with collagen and adaptogens
Sustainability is at the heart of Ancient and Brave, co-founded by a stuntwoman-turned naturopath who suffered an accident and found her injuries healed rapidly thanks to collagen, which is now integrated into A&B's delicious coffee and cacao powders. You can drink these simply with hot water or make them 'Bulletproof' by adding MCT oil, butter or coconut oil and, if you like, extra collagen to up the protein.
Fans of intermittent fasting will be particularly interested in this range as it doesn't produce an insulin response and keeps you full but still in the fasted state. And if you like the idea of fasting, but simply get too hungry or light-headed, this is the perfect compromise. The coffee powder is made with adaptogens and a small amount of collagen, which you can top up with extra collagen powder. Dermatologist Stefanie Williams recommends 10g of collagen per day for skin benefits.
GTG Editorial Director Victoria as swapped her traditional breakfast for this method for the past two years and it has completely stabilised her energy levels (plus she swears the gut-healing powers of collagen are the reason she doesn't seem to get ill). "I'm not a huge coffee drinker, so I prefer the Cacao and Collagen powder, which I mix with grass-fed butter such as Kerrygold and two tablespoons of collagen, ie 10g, every day. You need to use a blender to make it nice and creamy, but only blend a small amount with cold water and then top up with hot to avoid scalding spillages." The coffee/cacao and collagen powders cost £25. Shop the full range of Ancient and Brave here .