More than 50% of Americans drink coffee daily. And we all know that if you drink coffee, it is unlikely that you just have one cup. Many people use coffee as their fuel to get them through each day; a cup in the morning to wake you up, refills throughout the day at the office, and Latte on the way home. On our campuses, there is always a line at the coffee shop. In cities, there is a Starbucks on every corner.
But caffeine is not the godsend that we think it is. Studies have shown that caffeine has a variety of damaging effects on the body. For example, coffee causes the blood vessels to constrict. This forces the heart to work harder and significantly raises blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic). Caffeine also damages the endothelial lining of our blood vessels; just a single cup of coffee can be enough to harden a person’s arteries for several hours afterward. Furthermore, caffeine has been found to raise cholesterol levels by an average of 10% (and up to 23% if you make your coffee without a filter!). Your morning cup of coffee might be boosting your energy level, but it also boosts your chance of a heart attack. In addition, studies also link caffeine to rheumatoid arthritis, incontinence in women, and insulin sensitivity.
There are a number of reasons that people choose to drink coffee. But no matter what the motive, caffeine is not the best answer. Caffeine is often the band-aid used to cover up the symptoms when we should really be paying attention to, and fixing, the bigger problem. If you can’t get through the day without a dose of caffeine, then you should be listening to your body, not shutting it up. Maybe you’re not giving your body enough recuperating sleep at night, or perhaps you’re not feeding it well. And if you’re drinking coffee so that you can stay up until 3am doing work, stop! Go to bed, let your body reboot overnight, and wake up early to get things done. Your body knows how to rejuvenate itself better than any drug or substance.
Using coffee to help cope with stress isn’t a great idea either. Caffeine doesn’t help stress in the least. In fact, it magnifies it, increasing the internal wear and tear on the body that a stressful life causes.
So rethink your caffeine crush. It’s been cheating on you, and you’re better than that.
Sleep well, and eat whole, plant-based foods to keep you energized throughout the day. And if you do need a quick pick-me-up, grab an apple. Fruit is a great source of quick energy. Its simple carbohydrates are easy to digest, and it is filled with nutrients and fiber to fuel and re-energize your body. Or, take a short walk outside to breathe in some fresh air and clear your mind. But you don’t need caffeine, and don’t let it trick you into thinking that you do.
Plant-powering through finals week,
The College Greens
PS- In case you were wondering, decaf coffee is definitely the better choice, but the best choice is skipping coffee altogether. For more information on any of the issues discussed above, check out the following resources:
Buscemi, et al. “Acute effects of coffee on endothelial function in healthy subjects.”
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 64: 483-89, 2010.