The real reason people are adding vanilla extract to their coffee

Countless Americans start their day with a cup of coffee, and if you’ve ever made the morning coffee run for your office, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the myriad ways in which people prefer their cup of joe. In fact, a study from 2017 showed that two-thirds of coffee drinkers add something to their coffee, whether sugar, cream, flavor shots, or spices (via Illinois News Bureau). University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An who led the study said of these additions, “These add-in items are often dense in energy and fat but low in nutritional value.” So is there a way to add some flavor and sweetness to your morning energy jolt without packing on the calories or unnatrual flavorings and colorings?

Enter a stand-buy you almost certainly have in your kitchen cupboard: vanilla extract. Not only is it lower in sugar than a standard vanilla flavor shot, but real vanilla boasts some impressive health benefits.

The benefits of vanilla extract

Vanilla not only lends that sweet, familiar scent and flavor to your coffee, but it’s also high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are healthful compounds in food that help to scavenge free-radicals in your body that can do damage. Further, just the smell of vanilla can help alleviate stress and boost your mood, and some studies have shown vanilla can even be used as an antidepressant (via Livestrong). Lifestyle blogger Camille Styles suggests grinding up some vanilla beans along with your coffee beans to get these health benefits and more, like easing stomach aches and joint pain. But for those who don’t grind their own beans, adding some vanilla extract in the place of other flavorings can garner many of the same benefits while avoiding the calories and fat of creamers or sugar.

And before you worry about the alcohol content, no one is suggesting spiking your morning coffee with a whole bottle of the stuff. Vanilla extract is generally about 35% alcohol, and while, yes, that is comparable to some weaker liquors and spirits, recipes call for you to add just a teaspoon or less of the flavoring to your coffee, so you’ll hardly be showing up to work with an Irish coffee in your travel mug.

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