Have you ever heard of chicory coffee? I hadn't because I love coffee; I drink a few cups daily and have never sought out an alternative. There is nothing better than a warming cup on a cold day or an ice-cold one on a summer's morning. I once had a DNA test, and of all the things they test you for, the caffeine tolerance result was the one I feared most. Luckily I was totally tolerant of coffee, so there you have it: I love coffee, and it loves me. But things changed when I headed to the Yeotown Health & Fitness Retreat in Devon.
At the retreat, caffeine is off the menu; it's a banned stimulating substance. I love coffee (did I mention that?), so the shelves filled with various fruit and herbal teas did little to lift my caffeine-deprived spirits. Of course, like a coffee-obsessed sniffer dog, I noticed a jar filled with what looked much like my favorite instant brew. I asked the founder, Simon Sieff, what it was, and he told me it was chicory, a good alternative to coffee. Chicory is a herbaceous plant, part of the dandelion family, and it's the root that has a lot of the goodness that goes into this drink and, interestingly, weight-loss supplements.
Needless to say, I wasn't convinced. In fact, it took me a whole 24 hours to give it a try. My first chicory tipple was laden with hemp milk (well, I was at a retreat), but it tastes good with almond milk too. Great, I thought, at least this will get me through the next three days before I can drink coffee again. Only, it's been almost two weeks, and I doubt I'll ever drink coffee again, or at least if I do, it will most definitely be decaffeinated. The changes that came from switching from coffee to chicory have been so remarkable I don't ever think I'll look back.
Chicory Coffee and the Snooze Addict
Besides the love of coffee, I also snooze my alarm every single morning. I hate it. I want to be one of those people who jumps out of bed and is okay with that. I've tried everything—putting my alarm at the other side of the room, in another area of the house, setting it for the latest possible time before I have to get up, and yet I'll still find my way back into bed with my alarm going off every 10 minutes for at least half an hour, sometimes an hour. I waste a lot of time in that annoying half-sleep, going over my to-do list or having bizarre dreams.
My boyfriend can't understand why I would want to be in this sleepless slumber when I could have had more time actually, properly asleep. And he's right, of course. But I just can't not snooze. Until now that is. The first day back from the retreat, a Sunday, and I was up with the birds and sprang out of bed. Of course, it was just because I was rested. But then the next day it happened, and the next. It's been 10 days now, and I'm still waking to my alarm, switching it off and hopping into the shower.
Now, according to the DNA test I mentioned earlier, I can tolerate caffeine supposedly with no side effects, but it seems like it does affect me. After years of trying to find reasons why I can't just get up, I have found it and it's coffee. According to the National Sleep Foundation, "Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about six hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated." Not only that, but they also say caffeine can cause sleep disturbance; the thing is, I always thought that meant trouble falling asleep (which has never been my problem), not difficulty waking.
Of course, the habit of waking to a hot cup of coffee is a tough one to break, but the chicory coffee has really helped. It's roasted and some come blended with figs and barley to give it that rich, coffee-like, flavor. Plus, it looks like coffee and doesn't smell too dissimilar. If it doesn't float your boat, another good alternative is a turmeric latte that you can make at home, or you can buy a blend that you add to hot milk. But avoiding the snooze button isn't the only benefit of drinking chicory coffee.
Chicory Coffee and Appetite
The chicory root used to make this coffee alternative contains inulin, a soluble plant fiber, that's used in various weight-loss supplements on the market. Inulin is also a prebiotic (which is a food source for our gut's friendly bacteria to feed on and thrive). So it helps with our overall gut health, an area we're understanding is more and more crucial for overall health.
Various studies have also linked oligofructose, found in chicory, with a reduction in appetite. While totally anecdotal, on the days when I drink a chicory coffee mid-morning and mid-afternoon, I find the urge to snack is dampened.
Want to try chicory coffee or a turmeric latte? These are our picks of the best caffeine alternatives.
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