Personally, I’ll never understand why people add sugar to a beautiful cup of joe. It is simply impossible to improve on perfection. However, I know that many people don’t have the stomach for unsweetened coffee — which is why they add milk, sugar and a host of powders and syrups.
However, if you’re trying to lose weight, or if you have a condition such as diabetes, this extra sugar every time you want a cup of coffee could be damaging your health.
What are you really putting in your coffee?
The average teaspoon of sugar weighs about five grams, and that equates to around 20 calories. Not a lot, I hear you say? Well, if you’re like me and enjoy four cups a day, that’s 80 calories. Over a week, that’s 560 calories just on sugar for your coffee. Let me put that into some perspective for you: it’s about number of calories as a juicy burger.
Of course, ditching the sugar is easier said than done. Unsugared joe is a completely different drink, and is just too big a leap for some people. If you’re one of those people, and you’re looking to drastically reduce your sugar intake, weaning yourself gradually could be the worst way to go about things.
Cold turkey or a gradual process?
A recent study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that the cold turkey approach to is better than weaning when it comes to ditching the sugar in coffee. The research involved more than 120 people, who were assigned to one of three groups.
Over the course of two weeks, one group gradually decreased the amount of sugar in their coffee every day. The second group took the cold turkey approach, and the final group were told to taste coffee “mindfully”.
What does “mindfully” mean in this context? Well, imagine you’re drinking a cup of coffee right now. Save for the first sip, there’s a good chance that you’re not truly thinking about the flavour characteristics of each mouthful. This approach involves focusing on every mouthful, and trying to identify key characteristics, including aftertaste, the coating left in the mouth, acidity, body and sweetness.
During the six months that followed the initial trial, the subjects’ coffee habits were monitored. Thankfully, all three groups drank significantly more sugar-free coffee than before the trial started. Interestingly, it was the group that were taught to drink coffee mindfully that reduced their reliance on sugar the most. The biggest surprise, however, was the fact that the group that was weaned off sugar gradually performed worst. It would appear that going cold turkey is a more effective way to cut the sugar in your coffee than weaning.
Let coffee be the star of the show
For me, this is fantastic news, and vindication of my approach to tasting coffee. All too often, I hear people who try black coffee talk about bitterness and strength. However, these are relative terms. If coffee drinkers are used to a mountain of sugar in every cup of joe they drink, of course the real flavour is going to be a shock to the palate. But get past that shock, and there are some wonderful flavours and aromas to explore.
These research findings back up claims from nutritionists and dieticians that mindful consumption of food and drink actually makes us less likely to overdo things.
So the next time you go to pour the fourth teaspoon of sugar into your joe, sit back and taste the coffee — you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!