Every morning, before we start our day at school or at work, it’s not uncommon to stop for a cup of coffee. Coffee contains caffeine, which can help make you feel more energized, alert and focused throughout the day, especially if you didn’t get a good night’s rest the evening prior. While these are some upsides to consuming caffeine, it also has its downsides.
First, Dr. Ali Ghahary will take a look at the pros of caffeine consumption. In addition to feeling more focused, some studies have suggested that moderate coffee consumption can reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, this due to the antioxidants found in caffeine that boost our cognitive function. Those who drink 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day were also found to have a decreased risk of developing type II diabetes, as the antioxidant compound found in coffee known as chlorogenic acid can boost how our cells respond to insulin, which can regular your blood sugar levels as a result. Those who drink coffee in comparison to those who do not are also said to have less of a risk of developing a stroke, as caffeine can reduce the damaging effects that inflammation has on our arteries and boost a substance known as nitric oxide, which is responsible for widening the blood vessels and keeping our blood pressure low.
Keeping those things in mind, it’s also important to remember that too much caffeine can sometimes have harmful effects – such as sabotaging the effects of the antioxidants. Individuals who drink more than 5 cups of coffee per day may also be at risk of developing heart disease. Caffeine can also be addicting – as the more coffee we drink, the more our bodies become used to it and use to that energized, alert feeling, leaving us wanting more. Some individuals can also be quite sensitive to caffeine, which can cause anxiety and irritability. If you are a frequent caffeine drinker and also like to have a cup of coffee in the evening, you may also develop insomnia. The best way to prevent yourself from having a restless night is to make sure you only drink coffee early in the day, as it can take up to 6 hours before the effects of caffeine completely leave your system.
In some cases caffeine may trigger things like acid reflux; therefore coffee is something you’ll want to avoid drinking if possible. Unfortunately, if you have been a long-time coffee drinker, it’s not something you’ll want to quit cold turkey, as you may develop withdrawal symptoms such as severe headaches (that will oftentimes turn into a migraine), muscle pain and stiffness, and even depression. Instead, if you can, slowly decrease the amount of caffeine you consume. Rather than getting a normal cup of coffee, ask your barista for half-caf – that’s half caffeinated and half decaffeinated, until you’re able to make the switch to completely decaffeinated coffee, followed by cutting coffee from your diet all together. Some great alternatives to coffee include herbal tea, energy drinks (such as Gatorade), and probiotic beverages – but the healthiest drink of all is water.