Trade in your cup of Joe for some surprising health benefits
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Can't make it through the morning without your daily java? Try brewing some green tea, which has slightly less caffeine than a cup of Joe but enough to give you a boost without any of the coffee jitters. The refreshing drink is also packed with health benefits, says Nadine Taylor, registered dietitian and author of Green Tea: The Natural Secret to a Healthier Life. “Catechins are powerful antioxidants and potent disease fighters that are found primarily in green tea,” she says.
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Nuts, which are high in protein and fiber, make a healthy afternoon snack, but they're also nourishing whipped into a smoothie. According to certified nutritionist Angela Pifer, smoothies made using ingredients like cashew milk, protein powder, and nut butter help elevate your blood sugar levels. “A 3 p.m. slump is not innate to us,” Pifer says. “Since food gives us energy, it’s more of a problem with our blood sugar dropping.”
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Even if you didn’t like licorice candy as a child, you’ll appreciate the benefits of sweet, spicy licorice tea. The bold-tasting brew is actually caffeine-free, but supports overburdened adrenal glands, which are organs that respond to stress. “Licorice is an adrenal tonic and increases energy. It adds a pleasant taste to tea blends and can also be taken in tincture form,” explain Dr. Linda B. White and Steven Foster, authors of The Herbal Drugstore.
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This natural energizer is known as a liquid shot of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Some people don’t mind the taste and others do, but all agree that wheatgrass is one of the most nourishing juices. “Because of its easy digestibility and rapid assimilation, it’s a natural energy supplement, whether alone or added to a protein-type supplement drink,” says Gloria Gilbère, doctor of natural health.
Siberian Ginseng Tea
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Siberian ginseng tea gets its kick from the slightly bitter ginseng root, but if you can’t down the brew on its own, sweeten it with a dollop of honey. The herbal drink is supposed to stimulate your concentration, according to White and Foster. “This favorite, tried-and-true fatigue-buster is safe for long-term use in most people.'
Reishi Mushroom Tea
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You've devoured mushrooms enfolded in tasty omelets or sprinkled atop your favorite pastas, but if you’re looking for a unique coffee alternative, try mushrooms in the form of tea. A staple in traditional Chinese medicine, the soft, flat reishi mushroom makes for one invigorating (and healthy) libation. White and Foster recommend combining 1/3 ounce of chopped or powdered reishi mushroom with 3 cups of water, then bringing the tea to a boil and simmering for 30 minutes before drinking in doses.
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Native to India, this soothing beverage is commonly made with rich black tea, milk, and a variety of spices, like cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom. A steaming hot mug of chai tea will help you get over an afternoon hump. An added bonus? Though you're automatically cutting your caffeine intake by drinking chai, the tea’s smooth, creamy flavor tricks your mind into thinking that it’s coffee!
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If a post-lunch slump has you running to the nearest Starbucks for an espresso shot, you may want to think about keeping a stash of caffeine-free carob powder in your desk drawer. Similar to cocoa, naturally sweet carob powder tastes just as yummy mixed with warm milk and a touch of honey, and prevents you from experiencing a nasty energy crash later on.
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Creamy coffee drinks offer an instant jolt of energy, but you may find yourself feeling sluggish as the caffeine wears off later in the afternoon. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that will stimulate your senses. “I find that the best waker-upper is water with lemon zest and lemon juice,” says Lisa Rinna, television host and author of Rinnavation: Getting Your Best Life Ever. She suggests adding the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of freshly grated zest to your H2O.
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Sweet and tangy, pure pomegranate juice is a delicious energy booster and easily incorporated into other beverage recipes. Sip the juice on its own, or blend it with other fruit juices or in a smoothie. “Pomegranate juice is full of antioxidants and energizers,” Rinna says. For a tasty pick-me-up, Rinna’s super energy drink recipe calls for a fusion of pomegranate juice, soy milk, a banana, spirulina, berries, and yogurt.
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Introduce more greens into your diet with a fresh veggie and fruit smoothie. Experiment with different combinations of your favorites, like spinach, kale, mango, blueberries, and bananas, then put your blender to work. A chilled smoothie in the morning is a quick way to wake up! “Some people get a quick energy lift from nutrient-rich green drinks containing blue-green algae, spirulina, chlorella, or barley greens,” White and Foster say.
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The name may be difficult to pronounce, but schizandra herbal tea is an easy replacement for your daily java fix. Brimming with health benefits, the tea is brewed from schizandra berries, which are native to East Asia and popularly used in traditional Chinese medicine. “It has a subtle calming effect, improves sleep, balances blood sugar, is good for the liver, and may increase memory,” White and Foster say.
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Adding flaxseeds and flaxseed oil to a morning shake will have you up and running in the a.m. For an icy beverage both high in fiber and energy, blend flaxseeds with yogurt, soy milk, ice, and the frozen fruit of your choice. Subtly nutty flaxseeds also add a deliciously satisfying crunch to any smoothie.
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With sugar and cream stirred in, coffee is one enticing morning treat. But next time you reach for your thermos, fill it with prune juice! The thick, crisp juice helps regulate the proper level of electrolytes in your body, which in turn leads to increased stamina, according to Staci Nix, author of Williams’ Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy. If the flavor of prune juice is overpowering, try diluting it with water or apple juice for a thinner blend.
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Perk up with peppermint tea! As well as freshening your breath and calming your stomach after a meal, the cooling sensation of this minty drink is an instant revitalizer. “[Peppermint stimulates] the same nerve that’s activated when you revive someone with smelling salts,” says Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.