You’ve swapped your full-fat cappuccino for a matcha latte and switched out soy for almond 'mylk'. But are you best to go back to old-school basics? We asked Sydney-based nutritionist Teresa Boyce to decode the ‘healthy’ hot beverages dominating our cafe menus.
Soy Flat White
If you’ve got a dairy intolerance or are a vegie-loving vegan, soy is your saviour! It’s also relatively high in protein, which is a big bonus. But as soy lovers will know, there’s a big difference between brands.
“Unfortunately, soy milk is often high in added sugars and made with poor quality ingredients. But the big issue with soy milk comes down to a group of a naturally occurring chemicals found in soy beans called phytoestrogens,” says Boyce. “Research suggests excessive soy consumption maybe linked to fertility problems as phytoestrogens can produce an estrogenic effect within the body, disrupting an optimal balance of hormones in both men and women.”
Bevvie bottom line: Consume in moderation and seek out non-genetically modified, low-sugar soy milk, if you can.
Almond Milk Latte
The amount of almond milk options available are enough to give you a severe case of decision fatigue. Hello, coconut/vanilla/unsweetened/activated/organic almond milks… Oh my!
“Such variety brings varying nutritional value from brand to brand, product to product. As a snapshot, unsweetened almond milk will provide approximately 250kJ per 250ml whereas full cream milk provides 585kJ per 250ml, making unsweetened almond milk a great option for those trying to limit sugar and kilojoules,” explains Boyce. “The nutritional value of almond milk depends on the percentage of almonds, the higher the percentage of almonds (10 per cent is good), the higher the protein, healthy fats and calcium making it a healthy milk choice.”
Bevvie bottom line: If you’re trying to cut back on kJs from bevvies, unsweetened almond milk can be a healthy, low-energy option. However, if you can tolerate regular milk – you could also just ask for a small size, factor in the kJs and savour it!
A green latte – it’s got to be good, right? “Matcha powder is produced from stoneground steamed green tea leaves, so it provides the health benefits associated with green tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves. Matcha powder is packed with antioxidants (EGCg) vitamins and minerals, can boost your metabolism, enhance mood and concentration and protect against premature aging and chronic disease.” Hooray!
But FYI – it’s also a bitter brew, so it’s often mixed with sweetener. “A standard cafe-bought matcha latte can contain anywhere from three to eight teaspoons of sugar depending on the powder blend and size of the latte,” Boyce points out.
Bevvie bottom line: Drink up the goodness, but opt for a top quality, sugar-free powder.
Soy Chai Latte
A true winter warmer, chai tea blends give you the benefits of regular tea, plus the goodness of chai spices including ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, clove and black pepper. “However a cafe chai latte is most commonly made with a high-sugar chai powder or chai-flavoured syrup,” Boyce points out. “The good news is, you can make a healthy chai ‘latte’ using a chai tea bag, boiling water and hot unsweetened soy milk. You could also try a chai latte with coconut milk or almond milk to give your body a break from soy.”
Bevvie bottom line: When ordering, ask for leaves, not the powder or syrup, then just add a dash of honey if you need a sweet fix.
The classic skinny latte is the ‘healthy’ go-to for dairy lovers. But is it? “For years we thought we were doing the right thing by choosing ‘low fat’, but fat is not the problem, sugar and processed foods are the real culprits when it comes to health concerns and weight management,” says Boyce.
“You should be aiming to consume food in its most natural state – this includes dairy. When it comes to milk, the healthier option is organic full-fat, not skim. If you are watching your kilojoule-intake, simply choose a small coffee and factor in the kilojoules (a small full-fat coffee is equivalent to the kilojoules of a snack). Or you could choose a full-fat piccolo, for the coffee hit without the milk volume.”
Bevvie bottom line: Go full-fat for a health (and taste!) boost.
Teresa Boyce is a leading Sydney-based nutritionist. Find her at The Health Whisperer.