Coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, chai, espresso, CHOCOLATE!
We love our caffeine, don’t we? I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love my chocolate and tea, and I was surprised how many caffeine drinks there are in the world! There are more than 50 types of coffee alone, and that doesn’t count the flavors at Starbucks.
But, why? Why do we love these drinks and why are they so ubiquitous around the world?
WHAT IS CAFFEINE AND HOW IT AFFECTS THE BODY
Caffeine is a stimulant in the methylxanthine class of chemicals that directly stimulates the central nervous system. In other words, it makes us hyper.
Throughout history, the coffee bean, chocolate, and tea were so valuable, they were used as currency. China, Rome, and the Aztec and Mayan cultures prized their caffeinated beverages and foods as gifts of the gods.
Here’s the reason: When you eat chocolate or drink coffee, the caffeine gets absorbed almost instantly and it reaches the brain within the hour. In the brain, it blocks the adenosine receptors, the trigger that makes us sleepy and tired, and enhances the connections in your memory and thought processes.
Within the hour (or minutes for some of us), caffeine clears our head of the fogginess of sleep.
After the brain boost, it stimulates our metabolism and can help us lose weight. That’s why it’s put into dietary supplements. If you exercise, this is the perfect time to do it since you can lose more weight with caffeine. We have a great article here (add link) on how to get exercise in and make it work for you.
But wait, that’s not all: caffeine has also been linked in some studies to reducing the risk of
- Alzheimer’s disease
- colon cancer
- hair loss (put it on your head, not in it)
- kidney stones and bladder infections
- slightly reduces depression and suicide risk
- and may reduce inflammation.
All in 1-2 cups (8-16oz or 250 to 500ml) of coffee. Or eat some 1-2oz of chocolate.
And just as there is an upside, there is a down side. In people with blood pressure issues, it could cause your pressure to go up too high and make your heart beat too hard. Don’t drink it at night because it will keep up and not let you rest properly. And do talk to your doctor about your medications – caffeine can cause some medications to work too well and others not enough.
Then, there is the addiction. Caffeine is a highly addictive substance. Even healthy uses can develop addictions. Here is what we recommend: Skip your caffeine fix totally for at least 1 day per week. This allows your body to flush out the waste products and reset its needs. Not only will you avoid addiction, but your coffee and brain will work better and faster.
Because the withdrawal isn’t fun:
Headaches – Exhaustion – Depression – Lack of concentration – Constipation.
WHERE CAN I GET MY CAFFEINE SAFELY?
Safely is the big word of the day. Coffee, tea, and chocolate are safe and long used sources of caffeine. You have smaller amounts of caffeine plus other healthy components in these foods. Healthy amounts of caffeine are 150mg to 300mg per day broken into 1-2 servings.
- Coffee 100-200mg
- Expressos and specialty coffee drinks often have more caffeine
- Black tea 40-120mg
- Green tea 5-40mg
- Herbal teas 0mg
- 1oz dark chocolate 5-35mg
- 4oz coffee ice cream 25-40mg
- Typical hot chocolate 4-10mg
The dark side of caffeine is the supplements. People have died drinking energy drinks and using supplements. Cancer, diabetes, and obesity are linked to sodas and sugary coffee drinks.
- Starbucks coffee 20oz (a typical order) 475mg
- Chai latte 100mg
- Bottled iced tea 45mg with 40g of sugar – 2/3 a whole day’s worth
- Mountain Dew 90mg with 35g sugar
- Diet Coke 76mg (the FDA limit on soda caffeine is 71mg)
- Various energy drinks 200mg to 400mg
- Energy bars & stimulated chocolates 50mg
- Supplements 200-400mg
As you can see, good sources of caffeine are pure and uncomplicated. Bad sources are overly processed and have lots of sugar. Stick to coffee, tea, and chocolate, just like our ancestors.
At 1-2 cups of coffee or tea per day, you can enjoy the benefits of caffeine. Toss in a bit of chocolate and you can actually be healthy. Yes, coffee and chocolate can be healthy.
Avoid getting addicted or overdosing on caffeine. The easiest way to do that is to avoid drinking coffee or tea in the evening and avoid any energy drink, soda, supplement, or sugary caffeine drink.