Creative Caffeinated And Decaffeinated Alternatives To Coffee

Do you want a source of caffeine other than coffee? Maybe you don’t want caffeine at all, but you’re looking for foods and drinks that’ll energize you. Yes, non-caffeinated foods can wake you up, and many of these make a great alternative to coffee.

If you prefer a drink that tastes like a coffee, a decaffeinated root will wake you up. You can eat a fruit that tastes like coffee or chew some gum, and both will grant you more energy. Here are the best alternatives to coffee that you’ve probably never thought about.

Matcha, A Highly-Caffeinated Green Tea

Green tea matcha powder in ceramic bowl with traditional bamboo spoon
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All green tea has some caffeine. An 8 oz. cup of green tea includes between 25 mg and 50 mg of caffeine, depending on the type of tea. Of all the green teas, matcha has the most caffeine. One cup of this Japanese green tea powder contains about 70 mg of caffeine. In comparison, an average cup of coffee contains around 100 mg to 140 mg.

Along with the energy boost, matcha delivers an amino acid called L-Theanine, which provides a sense of calmness free from caffeine jitters. Flavored matcha powders are available, although the caffeine level varies.

Yerba Mate Is A Caffeinated Herbal Tea

woman pouring Guyaki Yerba Mate into a mug

You’ve probably seen Yerba Mate energy drinks in stores. These drinks are made from yerba mate tea, made from the leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant in South America. Unlike most herbal teas, yerba mate is naturally caffeinated. One cup contains around 70 mg – 85 mg of caffeine, depending on the tea bag and brewing time.

While some say that yerba mate contains mateine instead of caffeine, researchers at the Emory School of Medicine argue that this is a false interpretation. However, yerba mate’s moderate caffeine content causes fewer jitters than coffee.

Chicory Coffee, Despite The Name, Is Caffeine-Free

cup of brewed chicory coffee with a container of ground chicory

Chicory root can be roasted and brewed into a drink just like coffee beans. Although it has a similar taste to coffee, it’s caffeine-free. According to the 2011 issue of Phytotherapy Research, chicory root has anti-inflammatory effects that improve heart strength, which in turn wakes people up. The root removes oxidative stress as well, according to the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity journal.

If you want to lower your caffeine intake, you can brew ground chicory root in the same way as coffee. Despite its perks, chicory coffee may cause digestive problems for some people, and it should not be consumed while pregnant.

Water, With Or Without Lemon

woman holding a bottle full of lemon water
Pinterest/Lina Schatz
Pinterest/Lina Schatz

In the early morning, you’ve gone all night without water, so you’re probably dehydrated. In 2012, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that dehydrated women felt fatigued, irritated, and unable to focus. Dehydration thickens the blood, which makes the heart work harder to pump blood. The more your heart beats, the more energy you use. Drinking a glass of water in the morning will wake you up faster than coffee.

If you want to add flavor, try lemon water. A review of 40 studies in Psychoneuroendocrinology concludes that smelling lemon results in sharpened focus and elevated heart rate, which wakes you up.

Peppermint Tea, Gum, Or Essential Oil

Fresh mint leafs in vintage mortar and pestle on wooden table.
Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Have you ever felt more awake after brushing your teeth? That likely has to do with the peppermint content. This caffeine-free herb improves daytime energy levels. During a 2018 study in Nutrients, participants experienced less physical and cognitive fatigue after consuming capsules with peppermint and spearmint extracts.

An earlier study in the 2005 International Journal of Psychophysiology found that simply smelling peppermint reduces sleepiness. To wake up faster, you can diffuse peppermint oil, drink peppermint tea, chew minty gum, or eat foods with peppermint.

Coconut Water Invigorates Better Than Sports Drinks

two women drinking coconut water out of coconut containers

Coconut water is called “Mother Nature’s sports drink” for a reason. Research in the 2012 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that coconut water has more electrolytes than sports drinks, and it keeps you hydrated for longer than water.

In 2013, a study in The British Journal of Nutrition noted that dehydration directly impacted fatigue and concentration levels. Coconut water can replenish your body quickly. However, remember that an average bottle of coconut water contains around 60 calories, so don’t drink it all the time.

Carob: Not Chocolate, But Tastes Just Like It

Woman pushes plate full of chopped carob chips
YouTube/Nutriplanet Health Hub
YouTube/Nutriplanet Health Hub

Carob is a fruit shaped like a dark brown pea pod, and it has a similar sweet flavor to chocolate. You can eat carobs in the form of chips, syrup, gum, pills, or powder to wake up easier. Unlike chocolate, carob has zero caffeine. It also contributes to weight loss and energy levels at the same time.

A study in the 2006 Journal of Nutrition found that carob fiber increases fatty acid oxidation, the process in which fatty acids break down and release energy. Not only does that improve metabolism, but it also supports weight loss, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Add Some Chocolate To Your Caffeine

Four Seasons Beverage Manager Ben Yabrow attends the 2019 Maui Film Festival's Taste of Chocolate
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Maui Film Festival
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Maui Film Festival

If you didn’t have enough reasons to enjoy a chocolate drink, now you have one. A collaborative study by researchers from Clarkson University, Oregon Science University, and the University of Wisconsin found that combining chocolate and caffeine resulted in heightened motivation and cognitive performance.

While chocolate contains some caffeine, it also provides flavanols that encourage attention and problem-solving. The researchers created chocolate cocktails with caffeinated drinks, specifically avoiding added sugar. If you need an energy boost, make a cup of hot chocolate with raw cocoa powder, or drink a chocolate tea.

Black Teas, Including Breakfast Teas And Most Chais

woman holding a cup of black tea with saucer

Black tea is most peoples’ go-to for a coffee alternative. Compared to the 100mg – 200mg of caffeine in coffee, one cup of black tea has between 20 mg and 70 mg. However, research in Clinical Phytoscience demonstrates an added benefit to black tea: it stimulates cognitive function and helps people work faster.

Popular black teas include Earl Grey, English breakfast, Assam, Darjeeling, and Irish breakfast. Although chai tea isn’t always a black tea, it has commonly become a black tea in Western countries. Add some cream, honey, or sugar, and you’ll taste a full-bodied flavor similar to coffee.

Pomegranates Wake You Faster Than Other Fruits

A woman pealing a pomegranade.
Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture alliance via Getty Images
Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture alliance via Getty Images

Pomegranates provide two benefits that other fruit doesn’t: high carbohydrates and a low glycemic index. Carbohydrates are what transform into energy, and one cup of pomegranate juice contains 32.7 grams of carbs. In contrast, most fruit servings offer around 25 grams of carbs.

If you’re worried about the sugar spike, pomegranates don’t have one. Researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia discovered that pomegranates have a low glycemic index, which is the rate at which carbs turn into fuel. Instead of causing a sugar rush, pomegranates produce energy slowly that’ll last you through the morning.

Nuts And Nut Butters

Arcade restaurant waitress Julia Flowers holds a peanut butter and banana sandwich
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Nutritionist Angela Pifer recommends eating nut products–including almond milk, peanut butter, and nut-based protein powders–to wake up during a 3 p.m. slump. Why? Because nuts contain a type of fat that quickly transforms into energy.

Dietitian Kim Stinson-Burt says that oils in nuts like coconut consist “primarily of medium triglycerides, which are a type of fat that is turned into energy quickly and efficiently.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, protein also offers a slow energy release, meaning that high-protein nuts will keep you energized for longer.

Fatigued? Try Chinese Ginseng

A farmer clears the mud from a ginseng root
China Photos/Getty Images
China Photos/Getty Images

The herb ginseng grows in two varieties: American and Asian. While American ginseng relaxes people, Asian ginseng invigorates them. Several studies support ginseng’s ability to relieve fatigue, including 2010 research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, a 2014 study in the Archives of Pharmaceutical Research, and a 2016 review in Nutrients.

By lowering oxidative damage in cells, ginseng increases energy levels and even enhances physical activity. According to a study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, cancer survivors who consumed ginseng for eight weeks experienced significantly less fatigue. You can steam ginseng, eat it raw, grind it into smoothies, or brew it as a tea.

Golden Milk Can Wake You Up Without Caffeine

pouring turmeric milk into mugs

Golden milk, also called turmeric milk, is a hot drink from India that’s gaining international popularity. This caffeine-free beverage usually combines warm milk with turmeric and black pepper, with optional additives of cinnamon, vanilla, and honey. It also improves brain function to help you think clearly in the morning.

Research in the 2016 issue of Neuropeptides discovered that curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, enhances both brain function and mood. In the journal Neuron, scientists from the University of Cambridge said that high-protein foods (like milk) activate orexin neurons, which leads to increased wakefulness. Golden milk carries both of these benefits.

Drink Prune Juice To Advance Your Stamina

lady holding a cup of prune juice

Prune juice isn’t everyone’s go-to drink in the morning. But Dr. Staci Nix, author of Williams’ Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy, recommends it as an energizing beverage. She says that prune juice contains a lot of electrolytes, which hydrate and stimulate your leads, resulting in increased stamina.

Prune juice also contains a lot of iron; this vitamin helps create red blood cells, which can relieve fatigue in patients with anemia or similar disorders. Because of its high fiber content, prune juice can give some people stomach upset. Dilute it with another type of juice for the best effect.

A Shot Of Wheatgrass Juice May Help

Eric Wayne, a Lowell cop and raw food believer gets ready to shoot down a shot of wheatgrass juice.
Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Wheatgrass, harvested from the Triticum aestivum plant, is usually consumed as a juice. Among its many health benefits, wheatgrass energizes the body without using caffeine. A 2014 study in Pharmacognosy Research found that wheatgrass increased energy and mobility in patients with chronic fatigue disorder.

Researchers believe that wheatgrass’s bioflavonoid, apigenin, attacks pro-inflammatories that stick to brain and music tissue. “Because of its easy digestibility and rapid assimilation, it’s a natural energy supplement,” said natural health doctor Gloria Gilbère. While most people drink wheatgrass juice, you can also take it as a tablet.

Guayusa: Yerba Mate’s Lesser-Known Cousin

Guayusa tea with a bowl of chocolate

Guayusa is a naturally caffeinated herbal drink made from holly trees native to Ecuador. As a cousin to yerba mate, guayusa has a smoother taste with the same amount of caffeine (if not more). While it is technically not a tea, it is often brewed through the same method.

While guayusa has enough caffeine to make you feel alert, it does not induce jitters or a crash. A 2016 study in Clinical and Translational Science noted that guayusa produces less adrenaline than green tea or coffee, both of which can make you feel tired later. Many tea stores sell guayusa leaves and powders.

Reishi Mushrooms Help Your Energy And Mood

YouTuber found reishi mushrooms growing on a host tree
YouTube/Learn Your Land
YouTube/Learn Your Land

Reishi mushroom has been a staple in Japanese and Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Most studies surrounding reishi analyze how it benefits the immune system, but other research has indicated that it boosts energy.

One study in the Journal of Medicinal Food noted that neurasthenia patients who took reishi mushroom capsules for eight weeks experienced less fatigue. Another study in the 2012 Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine recorded that patients who ate reishi “reported less anxiety and depression.” Don’t eat reishi mushrooms it if you have low blood pressure, stomach disorders, blood disorders, liver disorders, or are pregnant.

Schisandra Berries Beat Stress And Fatigue

Medicinal tea made of Schisandra, magnolia vine, Schisandra sinensis.
Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Pinterest/Calm Botanicals

Schisandra chinensis is a fruit-bearing vine that produces sweet, salty, and sour berries. Schisandra berries are available to consume as dried powders, juices, etas, pills, and extracts. And, according to a 2010 review in Pharmaceuticals, they can lower fatigue and stress.

Throughout 13 clinical trials, researchers have found that taking schisandra pills improved alertness, assuaged stress, and counteracted fatigue over four weeks. The review also claims that schisandra is “effective in the treatment of general asthenia, exhaustion, and reduced physical and mental performance.” Ask your doctor about dosage, since too much schisandra can aggravate heartburn.

Dandelion Tea Reinforces Your Metabolism

Dandelion flowers next to dandelion tea
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Dandelion Tea has a similar taste to coffee, and while some people don’t like the strong flavor, others love this herbal coffee substitute. On top of that, dandelion soothes digestion ailments, which helps your metabolism operate more smoothly.

One Korean study in Nutrition Research and Practice noted the dandelion contains an enzyme similar to the weight loss drug Orlistat, which breaks down fat. As your fat breaks down, you’ll receive more energy. Like many herbs, dandelion tea can interact with certain medications, so ask your doctor about potential complications.

Apple Cider Vinegar Prevents Blood Sugar Spikes

Lindsey Christianson, the
Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

You may have seen the old wives’ remedy or drinking some apple cider vinegar in water every morning. Although little research has directly linked this vinegar to tiredness, scientists agree that it regulates blood sugar levels.

If you’re ever felt tired after eating, you know that digestion can zap your energy. That’s because your blood sugar rises and falls sharply after you eat. According to both Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vinegar reduces blood sugar levels after eating. This prevents the “crash” that many people feel a while after lunch.