If you rely on a cup (or a few) of coffee each day to help you get through your early mornings or mid-afternoon slumps, you’re certainly not alone. Sipping on this caffeinated beverage is a daily ritual for many—and luckily, it can even be part of a healthy diet. However, when you add the wrong ingredients to your coffee, you could be setting yourself up for a range of health issues, including an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria, which can take a toll on your digestive system. So, what are the ingredients you should avoid in your morning joe, and what’s the best way to drink it if you want a healthier gut?
To get the answer to these questions, we spoke to health experts Trista Best, dietitian for Balance One Supplements, and nutritionist Mary Sabat. They gave us their top tips for gut-healthy coffee, from leaving out the creamer to having food on hand. Find all of their expert insight below!
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Avoid sugar and dairy
First thing’s first: if you want to avoid irritating your gut as much as possible, leaving out sugar and dairy is always your best bet. In fact, Best tells us that choosing black coffee may not only prevent the negative effects that come with added ingredients; it could even help improve your gut health overall. “Coffee has been shown to improve the rate of good bacteria in the gut,” she says. “This, however, is contingent on the ingredients you use in your coffee. Refined sugar and dairy may promote the growth of bad bacteria, but black coffee has been shown to improve this area.” The more you know!
Sabat also warns against loading your coffee with ingredients, especially if you prefer dairy creamers, sugar, and flavoring. “It is also important to avoid sugary drinks and chemical additives that can upset the delicate balance of your digestive system,” she says.
Sabat says you may also want to skip the popular keto method of adding fats to the mix. If you really want to add a little something, go a natural, plant-based route: “I do not recommend adding high fat items such as butters or oils to coffee but rather using an organic cream or non-dairy organic nut milk. If you like your coffee sweet, adding a little bit of organic natural leaf stevia is another great option,” she suggests.
Choose low-acid coffee
In addition to leaving these harmful ingredients out of your cup, Sabat tells us there’s one other thing you should consider when it comes to coffee and gut health: the acidity level. “Organic, low-acid coffee is less likely to irritate the digestive tract and can help increase beneficial bacteria in the gut,” she explains. “Additionally, it is important to pay attention to your body’s reactions to coffee. If you find that you experience digestive discomfort after drinking coffee, it may be wise to reduce your intake or switch to decaf.” Noted!
Don’t forget food!
You should also keep in mind that it’s never a great idea—for your gut health and for other reasons—to drink coffee on an empty stomach. For this reason, Sabat suggests you “drink coffee with some food so that it is less likely to irritate the gut lining.” According to her, “Drinking coffee on an empty stomach might increase the incidence of reflux.”
Ensuring you get some food into your stomach while sipping on your coffee will also help prevent blood sugar spikes and jitteriness, so it’s a best practice all around.
The bottom line
Ultimately, the healthiest way to take your coffee, for your gut health or otherwise, is simply black. However, if you prefer a bit of flavor, choosing healthy, plant-based, low-sugar ingredients is a better route to take than loading your morning joe with sugar and dairy. You may be surprised by the difference these small, healthy changes can make; your gut will likely thank you!