It used to typically be Americans who would wake up to a steaming cup of joe and we Brits would start the day with a nice cup of Tetley. However, times have changed. We now seem to have a Starbucks on every corner and coffee has become our daily habit too.
Personally I think there are pros and cons to the whole coffee topic. Let’s start by asking ourselves some of the following questions:
- Are you reaching for coffee to receive its antioxidant benefits? It is true that coffee contains some flavonoids but you could get those from a good diet containing fruit and veggies.
- Are you drinking skinny vanilla lattes, caramel macchiatos and the like? If so, then we’re not really discussing just coffee, we are talking about adding highly processed, calorific sugary syrups into the mix. Did you know that some of those Starbucks drinks have as many as 640 calories per serving? I know I wouldn’t want to be adding that into my life. I’d much rather have an espresso and munch on a chunk of goat’s cheese.
- Do you need a cup to get you out of bed in the morning? When we are at optimum health we should not need caffeine to wake up. We may want it, but that’s different. If you feel you need it just to function well there may be other factors at play, such as not getting the right amount of sleep, lack of physical exercise, food intolerances, hormonal issues, stress issues, not enough sunshine (we’ll blame England for that one). Another thing to bear in mind is that one becomes tolerant of caffeine very quickly and having the same amount every day is not going to do much. In order to get your tolerance back you have to go cold turkey before re-introducing it.
- Are you reaching for an afternoon pick-me-up? Again, perhaps take a look at what you’re eating for lunch; are you intolerant to any of these foods? Are they making you feel more sluggish than you should? Consider taking a walk in the fresh air during lunch or doing a workout instead of reaching for stimulants like caffeine.
The dark side
The downside of caffeine’s being a stimulant is that for some sensitive people or the high adrenal ‘type A’ sort of person, those temporary effects can cause just as many negative ones. These may include the jitters, insomnia, energy crashes and heart palpitations.
Take me, for example: I cannot have coffee past 9am or I will not be able to get to sleep that night. The after-effects of caffeine can last for up to 8 to 14 hours in some people.
Caffeine not only feels addictive but it is frequently overindulged-in for social purposes, out of habit or because we have built up a resistance to its effects and keep needing more for it to work.
On the bright side
Of course there are times when you have to catch that early flight or meet a deadline, and those are the times that coffee will be of help. Just try not to abuse the stuff and only use it when you really need the effects.
It does have other benefits, including antioxidants, as an appetite suppressant, for improved concentration and mood, for temporary heightened energy and memory, and of course it’s nice to meet up for socialising.
Which coffee should I drink if I do want to drink it?
I would always go organic where possible. Coffee plants are one of the most highly sprayed crops going. Imagine how many toxic chemicals and pesticides you are ingesting every time you drink a cup. YUCK.
If you make yours at home then it’s easy to buy organic and worth the few extra quid. However, if you’re grabbing on the go, Pret a Manger and more and more boutique coffee shops are serving organic coffee.
If you can, try to get used to less or no sugar in your coffee, or use a healthier type of sweetener such as xylitol or stevia—that would really help.
If you’re going to add cow’s milk, go for full-fat organic as opposed to skimmed or low-fat. There are more and more studies that indicate fat may in fact be better than skimmed, both for weight-gain and for nutrition. For those who are lactose-intolerant or vegan, try almond or coconut milk.
Five tips for making your own coffee
- It’s best to buy the full beans and grind them as needed.
- Kona and Sumatra coffee beans have the least amount of acidity, although they can be pricey! Whole Foods in Kensington do a nice organic Sumatra coffee bean.
- The Roast & Post Coffee Company also make some good organic beans.
- Always store in a cool, dry place—not in the freezer as this can encourage mould growth.
- Get a great little travel coffee maker and you can have fresh coffee on the go.
About the Author:
Jean Claude Vacassin, is a father of one and the owner as well as a personal trainer at W10 Performance in Notting Hill—a fitness facility that takes a holistic approach to getting you long lasting results.
photo credit: Matt_Weibo