Should You Give Up Coffee? |

Should You Give Up Coffee?

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A morning cup of coffee is a staple part of the daily routine for millions across the UK and – proof that our love is ever increasing – last year, Brits spent nearly £3bn in coffee shops, with the number of standalone coffee stores up more than 12%. But despite dozens of studies purportedly demonstrating the positives of caffeine, its health benefits remain controversial. From energy-boosting effects and improved cognitive function to overstimulation and increased anxiety – here’s what your coffee habit is really doing to your body…

First things first – let’s clarify exactly what caffeine does:

Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and coffee. It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system, helping you to stay alert. Once consumed, caffeine is quickly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream; it then travels to the liver and is broken down into compounds that affect the function of various organs. However, the brain is the organ most affected by caffeine.

On average, how much caffeine is in coffee, tea, and chocolate?

When it comes to coffee, the amount of caffeine varies widely across brand and size. Take, for example, a regular cappuccino at Costa, which contains 185mg of caffeine; Caffe Nero’s equivalent contains 80mg and Starbucks’ 75mg. Generally, a single espresso will contain around 80g (note many coffee shops sell a double as standard), a can of Diet Coke 46mg, a cup of tea 40mg and a serving of green tea around 25mg. Dark chocolate can contain up to 45mg per 100g, meaning a square can contain around 15mg.

How much caffeine should you have on a daily basis?

Most people can tolerate up to 400mg per day, which is equivalent to around four cups of coffee. However, last year, research uncovered a gene that appears to wield influence over the amount of coffee people can drink. In short, how much coffee your body can tolerate without getting the jitters may depend on your genetic make-up – so there's no hard and fast rule.

On a Similar Note

Does drinking coffee have any benefits?

Small to moderate doses of caffeine (20 to 200mg) can make you feel more alert, focused, energetic and upbeat. Coffee’s neuroprotective benefits have also been proven – it can improve mood, memory and general cognitive function in a short space of time, and even prevent the onset of dementia. Remarkably, coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than non-coffee drinkers. Similarly, it has been suggested consuming caffeine on a regular basis can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 67%. Caffeine has also been proven to boost metabolism by up to 11% and can even increase exercise performance by 12%. However, these effects are short term and drinking coffee every day will build a tolerance, with any metabolic effects minimised over time.

And the disadvantages?

Many nutritionists say that while there are fewer reasons why coffee may be detrimental to your health, these can outweigh any of the potential benefits. Firstly, studies show caffeine can wreak havoc on your entire hormonal system for up to 24 hours by triggering a blood sugar rollercoaster. Caffeine can also cause a rise in cortisol – the stress hormone – and excessive levels of cortisol can inhibit brain function, slow metabolism, break down muscle and increase blood pressure. Similarly, caffeine can cause anxiety, disrupt sleep (it effectively resets the body clock by delaying a rise in melatonin, the sleep hormone) and can harm an unborn baby.

So, should you take a break from coffee?

Unless you're pregnant or have anxiety issues, high blood pressure or insomnia (cases in which caffeine should be avoided), try to be wary of your caffeine consumption and be aware of how it makes you feel. If you find yourself struggling to switch off and are constantly anxious and irritated as well as struggling to sleep, you may benefit from cutting back. Coffee is one of the first substances nutritionist Jessica Sepel advises her clients to ditch from their diet (more so than gluten), saying it can affect everything from weight to gut health. So if you’re struggling to lose weight around your mid-section and struggle with stress levels, think about cutting back.

Is there any way to make your coffee habit healthier?

There’s a reason nutritionists advise you to take your coffee black – adding milk actually decreases your body’s absorption of polyphenols, the antioxidants found in abundance in coffee. Plus, adding sugar may encourage cravings as well as adding unwanted calories. If you’re looking to make your daily cup of coffee a little healthier, keep it organic and black; and if you do like it sweet, add a touch of stevia, which is a 100% natural sugar alternative that can potentially lower blood sugar. For comparison, a regular latte at Pret a Manger has 118 calories and a flat white 80 calories, while a black Americano has just one calorie. Always make sure your coffee is organic and fresh, as coffee can be one of the most pesticide and mould-ridden foods.

Upgrade your daily cup of coffee with our pick of the best alternatives...

 Biomalt Organic Grain Instant Coffee, £2.99 | Biona

Mushroom Coffee With Lion's Mane & Chaga, £10.99 | Four Sigma Foods

Organic No Caffeine Coffee, £2.69 | Whole Earth


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