Adequate sleep is always the best prescription for an energetic day, but if you do need a little boost to get your productivity humming, a great cup of coffee can be good for you. But since leadership and entrepreneurship is all about stepping out of the box and doing things a little differently, don't be afraid to perk up your cup and practice your creativity with add-ins other than creamer and sugar. These are some of your best options.
1. Coconut, flax, avocado or grapeseed oils
Ali Webster, PhD, RD, Associate Director of Nutrition Communications at the International Food Information Council (IFIC), says that, aside from contributing flavor and textural attributes, you shouldn't expect a ton of health benefits from adding these oils to your coffee. However, fat, like protein, is known to increase feelings of satiety. Companies like Starbucks routinely add fat to their products to balance the other flavors in the coffee and keep your taste buds wanting more (flavor layering). Some research also suggests a little fat can help you feel less sad.
2. Flavored extracts or essential oils
Alyssa Ardolino, RD, IFIC's Nutrition Communications Coordinator, says flavored extracts are good options if you're after a unique taste for your coffee. While vanilla, almond, hazelnut or coconut are great options that are easy to find, essential oils can work the same way and will give you more flavor choices. Research about essential oil's health affects is ongoing, but Ardolino says they might offer a good placebo effect.
Oats are associated with a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, obesity, colorectal cancer risk and high blood pressure. These benefits are thought to come mainly from the high level of dietary fiber oats have. While you can use coffee and oats together in a breakfast smoothie, you also can try making a "Cowboy"--use your coffee to make your oatmeal instead of water.
4. Blended fruits or fruit juice
While fruit you blend yourself is a little better than commercial fruit juice because of the extra fiber, both can serve as a natural, flavorful sweetener. The nutritional content will vary based on the specific fruits you choose, but most are loaded with antioxidants. If you're not sold on whipping up the mix yourself, consider that aptly-named Texas-based company Coffee Juice already offers several bottled juice-coffee combinations, known as joffee.
Be aware that, regardless of whether you use homemade or purchased combos, your body will process the sugar in the juice much faster than if it had to digest the solid fruit. Having this option with a meal or snack that has some fat and/or protein (e.g., eggs, nuts, cheese), or layering it with the oil option above, can help keep your blood sugar more stable so you don't get an unwanted energy crash.
As Ardolino explains, aquafaba is the liquid leftover when you cook beans, or the liquid you see in canned beans and legumes. Commonly used as an egg replacer among vegans, it's a good emulsifying, foaming, binding, gelatinizing and thickening agent. That makes it perfect as a homemade creamer ingredient.
Spices like cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and lavender can be ground individually or as your unique blend right with your coffee beans. They each have different nutritional profiles, but they are all thought to reduce inflammation and damage to cells.
This one's an old trick beloved of immigrants in the Midwest. You'll need to beat the egg, mix it into your grounds, add water and bring the mixture to a boil for just a few minutes. Then add some cold water and let the mix settle for about 10 minutes. The cold water helps clarify the coffee, as the water will fall to the bottom and carry the grounds with it. The egg, of course, gives you a small protein boost, but it also makes the coffee rich and void of bitterness.
8. Cocoa or cacoa nibs/powder
Cocoa and cacao, either as nibs or powder, both come from the same plant and can go into your coffee for as a sweetener. The two options are processed differently, however. Ardolino asserts that this translates to cacoa nibs and powder usually not having added sugar. Cacoa also has more antioxidants and flavonoids.
9. Coconut water
While you definitely shouldn't believe coconut water is a miracle liquid, if you're not in the mood for a banana, coconut water can give you a decent dose of potassium without loading your coffee with a ton of calories. You'll probably either love the taste or hate it.
10. Cactus water
Cactus water might be an even better low-calorie option than coconut water, although it deserves similar hype cautions. It contains taurine, a powerful antioxidant, and also has been shown to be effective as a diabetes treatment. Bonus? The other condition professionals have demonstrated cactus water works for is a hangover. (That work happy hour or night out might be doable after all, right?)