Ah, coffee... we either love it or hate it, or alternatively, base our ability to survive Mondays on it. I know there are some days where I feel like I need a coffee just to get through the day, and others where I feel perfectly fine without it. Whilst having a coffee a day or every once in awhile may not be the worst thing for you, I still think it is important to be aware of what you are putting in your body, especially if you drink it regularly.
So here are a few truths about coffee (both good and bad) that I think you ought to know:
It Can Increase Mental Awareness
One of the active ingredients in coffee that we all know (and love!) is caffeine, which is a stimulant. When we are tired and in need of sleep, our brain can release neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that tell our body that it’s time to rest. Stimulants, such as caffeine, often work by getting in the way of this process, allowing you to feel more alert and focussed.
Now before you run down to your closest coffee joint and order three takeaway coffees, do keep in mind that having too much coffee won’t turn you into Albert Einstein. In fact, drinking too much coffee can actually cause some people to experience heart palpitations, to feel jittery or find it difficult to focus. The key here is balance. Be aware of the amount of caffeine you are consuming so that you don’t go overboard and end up feeling worse.
You will have heard me say this a million times, but it is SO important that you listen to your body. It is important to understand that these neurotransmitters that your body releases are not the enemy, they are there to help you recognise that it is time to slow down. So if you’re constantly drowning out tiredness with coffee, then you’re essentially preventing your body from recognising that it needs to rest. This might eventually cause you to burn out and get sick - and nobody wants that!
It Can Be More Than Just a “Pick Me Up”
As well as caffeine, did you know that coffee actually contains other natural chemicals that can benefit the body?
An example of this is caffeic acid, which is a strong antioxidant that helps to combat free radicals. Simply speaking, “free radicals” are small chemical compounds that can react with our body’s cells and cause damage. It is this damage that can cause us to age and make us susceptible to a number of diseases. Some research also suggests that caffeic acid may also help to reduce inflammation. There’s a couple of perks I’m sure we can all get excited about!
It Can Be Addictive
I’m sure we’ve all experienced how good coffee is at pulling us out of an early morning or mid-afternoon slump!
If you are a frequent coffee drinker (someone that drinks it every single day or even multiple times per day), it is possible that over time your body will begin to rely on coffee to function normally. This can be a cause for concern because you may depend on drinking coffee to stay awake and alert. This “dependence” on coffee can also make quitting a very difficult process.
Being aware of how you feel before/after drinking it can be a good indicator on how much your body relies on it. It’s always good to be aware of your habits before they turn into ones that are hard to break.
It Can Influence Nutrient Absorption
Did you know that drinking coffee may actually have a negative impact on how your body absorbs other nutrients? This is something that not many people realise and is actually really interesting.
Research suggests that drinking coffee at the same time as eating a meal can actually interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron. Iron is an important mineral because it helps to transport oxygen to all of your body’s cells so that they can function. This is so relevant because iron deficiency is very common, especially in women. So to give your body the best chance of absorbing the iron in your food, it is generally recommended that you don’t drink coffee at meal times. Whilst this may not affect everyone, if you are someone with low iron levels already it could be a good thing to be aware of.
“Coffee” Isn’t JUST Coffee
I’m sure you agree that there are few people whose “cup of coffee” consists of JUST coffee. For most of us, this “cup of coffee” also includes a generous serving of milk, and maybe even a dash of sugar. This then takes it from being a “coffee” to being “coffee with….”
I know what you’re thinking - “milk is good for us, right?”
While milk can provide our body with important nutrients such as calcium and protein, it also naturally contains a small amount of saturated fat. As fat provides our body with lots of energy (9 calories per gram), if you are drinking multiple cups of coffee per day it can have a massive impact on the number of calories that you consume. Throw in that single teaspoon with each coffee that you have, then this can add up quite quickly. While I don’t necessarily encourage calorie counting, this is something to keep in mind if you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and achieve certain health and fitness goals.
Like all things, coffee is something that can be of benefit when consumed in the right amounts.
However, if you are someone who relies on coffee (or multiple coffees) to function every day, then take a look at other aspects of your lifestyle that cause you to feel like you need it. Remember to listen to your body and always do what feels right for you. I know how easy it can be to accept a coffee from a co-worker or to absentmindedly order one with breakfast “just because”. Try not to overdo it. If you are constantly feeling tired or lethargic, try to get more sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet.Love, Kayla xx