Coffee: Kick the Habit or Keep It?

It’s 6am and your alarm is blaring in your ears. The thought of a steaming hot cup of coffee is the only motivator for you to leave your warm, cozy bed. Sound familiar? It does to me. Do you ever wonder if you are, in fact, addicted to coffee? And with all the information out there is it good for you or bad for you? If you have ever tried quitting caffeine, you are acutely aware of the brain fog and pounding headaches that accompany withdrawal. The age-old debate surrounding the health effects of coffee can be overwhelming and conflicting. Healthy consumption of coffee can be beneficial, but it is important to consider all the facts before determining if it may be time to cut back.

The buzz around coffee can be traced back to ancient times. The beverage spread from Ethiopia to the Arabian peninsula where it was being consumed in the home, and at coffee houses, central to social rituals. Once the aromatic beverage reached the Americas, the demand only continued to grow. Today, new trends are constantly emerging from cold brew to Bulletproof coffee and it leaves us asking: Do consumers need to tame their caffeine consumption?

Coffee: Nutritional Benefits

The process of brewing that delicious cup of joe begins with harvesting the coffee berries and roasting the green bean to achieve the rich flavor consumers know and love. Similar to chocolate, coffee is packed full of antioxidants and may make up as much as 50-70% of the total antioxidant intake of the average American. A healthy adult can typically consume 300-400 milligrams of caffeine a day (about 3-4 cups) without experiencing adverse effects. However, everyone metabolizes caffeine differently, and it is important to observe how you feel after consumption to best determine what is right for you. Drinking coffee can improve concentration, memory and increase performance at the gym when consumed safely pre workout. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory effects of the beloved beverage have been linked to an overall decreased risk of cancer including breast and colon and decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Coffee: Risks

As mentioned above, everyone metabolizes caffeine differently. For some, the anxious and jittery feelings associated with consuming caffeine can last up to nine hours. These people are referred to as “slow metabolizers” of caffeine.  They do not process caffeine effectively and may experience adverse side effects. In fact, The Mayo Clinic states that consuming more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day may lead to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat and even muscle tremors.  

If this sounds familiar, you may be extra sensitive to caffeine and want to consider cutting back. These individuals are also at a higher risk of disrupted sleep, increased blood pressure, and even heart attacks. If you are experiencing difficulties falling asleep at night or struggling with jitters and anxiety you may want to decrease or eliminate coffee from your routine. Some people can become physically dependent on caffeine, with absence or reduction of coffee consumption in these individuals resulting in caffeine withdrawal. This can trigger symptoms such as headache, fatigue, drowsiness, depression, irritability, concentration difficulties, nausea and vomiting. Lastly, one must consider if your daily coffee run includes sugar, fat, and calories galore. Many coffee drinks contain high sugar syrups, creamers, added sugars and can be more calories than your breakfast and lunch combined. Be sure to skip the whip and go easy on the sweetened frapps.

How about the kids strolling into elementary and middle school with a Starbucks latte in hand? High school students making coffee runs in between finals and tests?In kids and adolescents, caffeine can interfere with sleep, and sleep plays a critical role in learning. Some lab research suggests that caffeine interferes with sleep and learning among adolescent rodents, which, in turn, hinders normal neurological development that is noticeable into adulthood.

Rather than quitting cold turkey, slowly decrease your intake and ease the withdrawals by substituting green tea or matcha for your morning latte and drinking plenty of water. Alternate cups of coffee with decaf or go half caf. Another option to consider is fermented coffee, gaining popularity today. When coffee is fermented, the bitter, heartburn-causing notes, are removed due to a secondary fermentation process.

Coffee can be a fantastic part of your day, as it is mine. Yet, it is time to evaluate and take a close look into the bottom of your cup. Are you drinking too much coffee or is your intake right on par? Are you packing on the extra pounds because of your morning ritual? Are you having any of the symptoms mentioned above suggesting excess caffeine intake? Before you take your next sip…take a few minutes to mindfully study your java habit.

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