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Is Flavored Coffee Bad for You? 6 Healthier Alternatives

hot and fresh cinnamon coffee on a cup

For some coffee connoisseurs, flavored coffee is frowned upon, but for others, it is a great way to mask the bitterness in a strong cup of coffee. Delicious flavors are common on most coffee shop menus, and their sweet addition can be hard to resist.

If you are a friend of the hazelnut latte or a cappuccino drizzled in caramel, you may wonder if this tasty treat is bad for you?

Flavored coffee is prepared in two different ways: flavored coffee beans or adding flavor to your coffee. We will look at the differences, some health concerns, and possible alternatives to flavoring your coffee so that you can enjoy your regular tasty treat with peace of mind. The short answer is that it depends on what kind of flavored coffee you drink.

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Flavored Coffee Beans vs Added Flavor?

Flavored Coffee: It takes skill to flavor coffee beans. Chemists create the flavors in a laboratory using natural and artificial ingredients, and it can sometimes take up to 80 ingredients to achieve the desired taste. Once the taste has been fine-tuned, it must be diluted and applied to the roasted beans. This is done using a spraying technique, which accounts for the bean’s lustrous coating. It’s important to consider the bean quality when choosing flavored coffee. Sometimes flavor is added to coffee to hide the bean’s quality, which could lead to a strong and overpowering taste.

Added Flavor: When the flavor is added to coffee, it alters the taste after it’s brewed. The flavors can be found in powder or syrup form and mixed with coffee to achieve the desired taste.

Coffee syrups are a thick, viscous liquid containing flavor-infused sugar or sugar replacement. Flavors include vanilla, lavender, and caramel, to name a few.

Almond Milk Cold Brew Coffee Latte in glass jar
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kondratova, Shutterstock

Health Concerns with Flavored Coffee

Flavored Coffee: Many coffee flavors contain up to 85% of the chemical solvent carrier known as propylene glycol, which is used as a binding agent so that the flavor sticks to the beans. It’s no wonder coffee drinkers are concerned about the health risks of this solvent, as it is used in antifreeze, beauty products, and liquid detergents. The production process is far riskier than actually consuming the flavored coffee because this solvent is known to cause respiratory issues. That’s why workers who mix this chemical have to wear protective masks and gloves.

Added Flavor: Flavored syrups don’t undergo the same chemical process in their production, but they do contain a high amount of sugar. An average bottle of flavored syrup contains around a third of your daily sugar intake per serving.

Who Should Avoid Flavored Coffee?

If you are avoiding a diet that contains inflammatory foods, then coffee with added flavor should be avoided or consumed minimally. Artificial flavors are typically found in processed foods and drinks that contain other ingredients that can cause inflammation.

Anyone who experiences rare food allergies should also be cautious when drinking coffee with added flavor. These flavorings can include chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction.

If you are avoiding sugar or are diabetic and need to watch your sugar intake, it is advised to keep flavored coffee to a minimum. While coffee beans are not usually sweetened, the sweet caramel or chocolate syrup is jam-packed with sugar.

person avoiding coffee
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

What Alternatives Can Be Used?

Many healthy alternatives can be used to flavor your coffee and allow you to get creative with your morning brew. Once you have experimented with these options, you may find yourself wondering why you never tried them earlier.

Cinnamon: Adding cinnamon to your coffee will give it a tasty chai taste and provide some health benefits. Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory that lowers blood sugar levels, fights infection, and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Vanilla Extract: Vanilla is always a great flavor combination with coffee. If you enjoy the taste of vanilla, try vanilla extract instead of the artificial essence. Too much pure vanilla can be overpowering, but a vanilla pod can also be a great way to add some flavor. Vanilla extract can lower cholesterol and reduce appetite!

Ginger: Ginger is not for everyone, but it can be a great way to flavor your coffee and try something different. You can use ginger powder or add a small slice of ginger root to your coffee to enhance the taste while calming the stomach and reducing inflammation.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg is a popular ingredient in baked goods, and adding it to your coffee, along with cinnamon, will provide a healthy and tasty spiced chai taste. Nutmeg may improve your mood and aid in better sleep.

Cacao Powder: Cacao powder is a much healthier alternative to processed chocolate and contains a plethora of health benefits which include lower blood pressure, reduced risk of diabetes, and reduced risk of heart disease. You can add a flat teaspoon to your coffee or even drink it on its own with milk and honey for a healthy coffee alternative.

Almond Extract: If you love your hazelnut latte, adding almond extract can be a great alternative. It contains vitamins, minerals, and protein. It is also a healthy fat that is great for skin!

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Final Thoughts

Flavored coffee is tasty and sometimes hard to resist. It’s a nice way to change up your regular beverage now and then and indulge in some caramel-flavored goodness. If you are avoiding sugar, limit your flavored coffee to once a week or try a healthy alternative. If you pride yourself as an avid coffee drinker, remember that artificial flavors tend to be added to low-quality beans, so purchase a high-quality roast.

Featured Image Credit: Alimanuel, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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