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Is Your Caffeine Addiction Healthy?

When it comes to coffee, people have extreme stances on the matter. Whether in the “don’t talk to me until I have my coffee” camp, or “I’ve been off coffee for 2 years”, opinions tend to be strong. Before we let you know which team’s jersey we’re wearing, let’s start by separating fact from fiction.

The Good

Coffee has recently gotten a lot of good press. Studies have focused on the various health benefits from brain function to fat burning. Coffee is loaded with antioxidants that prevent damage to the body’s cells and improve cognitive function by boosting the effect of neurotransmitters that regulate memory, mood, energy levels and reaction times. Caffeine in general increases epinephrine (Adrenaline) levels in the blood, making some people more effective overall. Epinephrine is that “fight or flight” hormone that will make your body ready to take on rigorous physical exertion while working out or focusing on any task at hand. Not only can coffee help you function optimally today, but studies have also shown that coffee can lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease down the road. Now let’s talk about coffee’s effects on your waistline. Coffee is actually one of the few natural fat burning substances. Caffeine can boost metabolic rate, breaking down fat cells and releasing them into the blood to be used as fuel. That’s right, the right dose of caffeine can aid your body in converting stored fat to usable energy.

The Bad

Unfortunately, coffee does have some potential risks. That burst of energy that many of us rely on can cause anxious jitters for others. Caffeine speeds up nerve cell activity causing blood vessels to constrict and leaving you with a buzz - but not always in a good way. Of course, if you caffeinate daily, you’ll start to build up a tolerance and the amount necessary to reach your ideal alertness will creep up over time. If you get used to having daily caffeine, your body will react to withdrawal with symptoms like fatigue and headaches. We recommend taking at least a day or two each week off from having any type of caffeine to avoid becoming reliant. Another warning sign that you are over-caffeinating is if you are having trouble sleeping on a consistent basis. It takes about 6 hours for caffeine to clear out of your system, so that late afternoon cup of Joe can rob you of sleep later in the night. Avoid creating this vicious cycle by caffeinating earlier in the day. We cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of adequate sleep. A bad night of sleep will erase all of the benefits discussed above and instead can cause lethargy and food cravings that will not only sabotage your mood but your ultimate health goals. Besides addiction, a single cup of coffee comes with its own side effects. Most coffee beans are contaminated with mycotoxins, compounds created by molds that grow on the beans. Mycotoxins are associated with a wide array of health problems and some coffees have significantly more mycotoxins than others. The amount can vary by batch but tend to be higher in low-quality coffee brands that mix beans from several estates. Lower your chances of sipping moldy coffee by buying high-quality coffee beans from a single estate. That said, there are strict regulations surrounding the safe level of mycotoxins and most coffee brewers fall below that level. Roasting coffee almost always kills the mold.

The Truth

Knowing what coffee does to the body is important, but knowing how coffee affects YOUR body is the most important part. If you are someone who needs that morning cup of coffee to function, then pour it, sip it, and enjoy it! If you are someone whose heart feels like it’s about to burst out of your chest midway through, skip it. If you are somewhere in between, dabble when you get the hankering for it, and otherwise enjoy refreshing herbal teas. If you do decide to wear that coffee badge loud and proud, promise us you'll go organic and ditch the flavored creamers, syrups and sweeteners. Check out our other tips to turn your morning coffee into a healthy habit here! This post is written by Molly Rieger, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Tovita Nutrition, a virtual counseling and concierge service. Tovita's sessions take place via video conference as her goal is to maximize convenience for clients by providing individualized meal plans and around the clock nutrition support. Molly believes that food should make you feel good!

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