Is your daily coffee habit healthy?

  • Watch your intake: a little caffeine is OK for most people

    Watch your intake: a little caffeine is OK for most people

Once upon a time I was so tired I put the iron away in the fridge. I arrived at work with no shoes on, I misspelt my own name, I signed off an e-mail ďbest retardsĒ (horror). I left water running into the tank until it overflowed; I forgot to pay Belco and came home in July to a dark house and warm fridge ó I was eight months pregnant and had a toddler, it was approximately nine thousand degrees that night.

Parenting, whether you work or not, introduces you to a whole new level of exhaustion. But would we switch it? Nah. Well maybe just the occasional day. But like all things, it does get better ó and thereís caffeine to power you through.

Most busy people I know fuel their day with a caffeine injection, parents more than any other breed. A little caffeine is probably OK for most people. In fact, for some people itís even protective. But you need to be careful. Iíve seen people totally undermine all their good intentions with a bad caffeine habit, so hereís what to look out for:

1, Avoid the creamers, syrups and sweeteners

Coffee does contain some antioxidants, pretty powerful ones at that. But if you load it with synthetic creamers, extra-sweet syrup or spoonfuls of sugar, then itís one step forward and ten steps back.

If you need to add flavour try a little natural vanilla, cinnamon or cocoa. If you want sweetness, try the SweetLeaf stevia drops from Supermart (the only brand I like, the others are cut with dextrose or other less ideal options). Instead of creamer, just have a little real cream or milk ó make it grass-fed and organic and itís even better. But ideally, and for maximum antioxidant absorption, ditch the creamer altogether.

2, Donít let it interfere with your sleep

By all means, if you need a kick-start, have some coffee in the morning. But if you have a hard time sleeping, avoid caffeine after about 2pm.

If youíre tired, try an electrolyte drink such as Ultima Replenisher (Supermart) or Naturally Nuun (most pharmacies). If youíre just after the ritual, switch to rooibos tea for the afternoon instead. Itís caffeine-free but antioxidant-rich and itís super relaxing.

, Donít let it replace your water intake

I canít tell you how many clients Iíve had that drink six coffees a day and next to no water. That volume of caffeine is diuretic and can induce nutrient loss (especially minerals like calcium, which is not good news for bone density). Also, the primary cause of fatigue is dehydration, so if youíre dehydrated, youíll just feel more fatigued. Nip the cycle in the bud by drinking more water than caffeine.

4, Careful of the keto coffee

This is a big subject and hard to cover quickly! However, the long and the short of it is this: Yes, thereís evidence to suggest that some people, as part of a keto diet, find keto coffee excellent for fat burning, boosting mental clarity and increasing energy and satiety (feeling full).

However, it can nudge out other more nutrient-dense and equally efficient keto breakfasts (such as a veggie omelette and berries). Also, pumped full of butter and coconut/MCT oil, one coffee can pack a whopping 400 to 500 calories, so if youíre not fully keto, itís not a sensible addition. Also, whether keto is good for you or not depends on three things, in my opinion: 1, is it sustainable? 2, is it a good fit based on your genetics? Some people are biologically suited to a high saturated fat/high protein diet, but others are not; and 3, are you a hyper-responder to cholesterol? Good quality saturated fats donít (as a rule) increase your risk of heart disease but some people hyper-respond to dietary cholesterol and if youíre drinking butter-loaded coffee it could elevate your LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides significantly. So have your GP monitor your stats.

5, Careful of the volume in general

Research outcomes vary in their assessment of the impact that caffeine has on blood pressure. Weíre understanding now that this is likely to do with genetics playing a role in how you metabolise caffeine ó and this hasnít previously been factored in. Fast metabolisers can usually consume up to 400mg caffeine before their risk of high blood pressure increases. And in fact, for fast metabolisers, one cup of coffee has been shown to be protective from a cardiovascular perspective.

Fast metabolisers should also see an improvement in their sports performance with moderate amounts of caffeine. However, slow metabolisers can only safely consume 200mg caffeine (one ďshotĒ has about 115mg) and the caffeine wonít improve sports performance. We do have a test in the clinic that can help you determine this (and other elements) of your genetics. Itís fascinating!

If you roll out of bed, have a big coffee and donít have breakfast until youíre at your desk, then youíre missing a trick. Caffeine on an empty stomach can elevate your blood sugar and send it crashing down rather quickly. That will just make you crave more caffeine (and sometimes sugar too). If you have it with a protein-rich breakfast, eg a veggie omelette, then youíll mitigate that risk.

7, If you go decaf, go organic (or water-processed)

Commercially decaffeinated coffee uses a chemical process, which leaves undesirables in your coffee. The water method is slower but more natural and also gives you a much better flavour. I absolutely love the Devilís Isle decaf for that reason. Supermart sell a Newmanís Own organic decaf, which is delicious too.

ē Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details:, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda

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Published Apr 26, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 26, 2019 at 8:56 am)

Is your daily coffee habit healthy?

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